Damascus

Rojin Namer 

Kamishli, Syria

 

How shall I describe Damascus?
How shall I describe paradise to those who do not know it?
Syria’s heart.
My soul.
Others’ hope.
That is Damascus.

Where there are wars.
Where bombs fall every day.
Where people are afraid.
That is Damascus.

What I dream of every day.
Where my roots are.
That is Damascus.

Where I ask the guilty one who is guilty.
Where no medicine stems the blood.
That is Damascus.

Where tourists went everywhere.
Where the streets are destroyed.
Where blood now flows.
My Damascus.

I miss your streets.
I miss your lights.
I miss your music,
which we hear every morning.
I miss your nights,
which are warm and full of life.
That is Damascus.

A city full of love.
A city full of blood.
Paradise
turned into a battle.

Where people shed tears of disappointment.
Of fear.
Not of joy.
That is Damascus.

My Damascus.
I want you back.
Back to me.

 

 

The Poetry Project, Foto © Rottkay

Rojin Namer (*2002)

fled alone from Damascus three years ago. She originally comes from Kamishli, a Kurdish town. She came as an unaccompanied minor to Berlin, where she attended the Friedrich Ebert High School. Her parents, brothers and sisters are living in Iraq as refugees. Rojin is a successful participant in debating contests, loves photography and wants to study philosophy. Foto © Rottkay

Back

Hour Luy

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

 

I can’t cry but my heart is bleeding
Laughter sticks in my throat
They have said I must go home
I don’t want to.

How can I go back?
There is no one in my home
If I can’t decide
They will send me back
And I can’t turn back
What shall I do?
They have ordered me,
Forced me.

I am not sure if
I can find my parents
I can’t sleep, I can’t eat
Although I was at school, it was only my body
I feel ill-at-ease and empty.

No one helps me.
Everyone says I have to go back.
Inwardly I don’t want to go.

 

Hour Luy (18)

comes from Cambodia. With his brothers and sisters he was brought to Germany by a gang of people smugglers in a large group. They were told not to speak in Germany about the background to their journey, which is a great burden for the siblings. In August 2018 they were taken back by air, under pressure, according to the official statement voluntarily.

Silent questions

Emma Defty

Berlin, Germany

 

When they wait at the bus stop,
I see the refugees
who live in a home
so far out on the edge of Berlin
that signs warn of horse riders.

I cycle past.
I have to go to piano lessons or the doctor.
Sometimes I wonder
whether it disturbs women with headscarves,
long sleeves and skirts
to see me with naked legs and arms.
I don’t ask them.

2016. My mother and I go to the home.
We ask the porter at the gate
whether we can help, give support or make a contribution,
and are turned away in an unfriendly manner.

In a context
where the rules are clear,
it is easy for me
to speak and listen.
The more difficult step –
to approach someone –
does not happen.

Mother and I did not go back to the home,
although it is not far away.
I cycle past
and pose questions –
to myself.

 

Emma Defty (19)

grew up in an American-German family, attended the international John F. Kennedy School in Berlin and is now a student in Scotland. Her theme is overcoming inhibitions when addressing people outside a protected environment.

Refugees Welcome

Emma Defty

Berlin, Germany

 

2015, summer, Berlin.
We collect our receipts in the ice-cream parlour
to reclaim the money.
The EU pays for our ice-cream, too.
Genoa, Italy.
At the harbour sit people from the TV.
Some have nothing,
some have pillowcases stuffed full.
Some are alone.
Refugees Welcome.

Later that year.
A friend and I are making our intermediate school certificate presentation
about the civil war in Syria.
The news reports tell not only of overcrowded boats,
but also of people who have “made it”.
And are now standing in queues.
For hours.
People talk about what will happen
when winter comes.
Whether people will freeze to death.
Then it goes on to football and lottery results.
“We’ll manage it.”

It continues with armchair arsonists and the AfD party.
At our school parents whose children are on the waiting list
are taking legal action against the “welcome class”.
A refugee boy who was supposed to graduate with us
is rejected by the school.
Refugees Welcome.

 

Emma Defty (19)

grew up in an American-German family, attended the international John F. Kennedy School in Berlin and is now a student in Scotland. Her theme is overcoming inhibitions when addressing people outside a protected environment.

Misunderstanding

Bashar Abdalli

Damascus, Syria

 

I am often with Germans.
But I think we don’t understand each other well.
Perhaps because my German is not yet very good.
But often they talk about things
That I am not interested in.
And I often feel that
They think quite differently.

That’s why I like being with other Arabs,
Because I can have fun with them
And know I am not insulting them.
When I pull the chair away from a German at school,
He stops talking to me.

I think,
To understand each other better,
We have to like the same thing.
Or have known each other a very long time.
I think
All people can understand each other.
Because in the end
We are all people.

 

Bashar Abdalli (15)

fled from Damascus with his uncle and has been living in Germany for two years. His heart belongs to football, but in retrospect he says that the football nation Germany cannot take the place of memories of his homeland. Bashar attends the Gustav Eiffel School in Berlin.

Turn back the clock

Bashar Abdalli

Damascus, Syria

 

Everything was planned
Two months in advance, I knew I was going to Germany
Friends of my father had already sent their children ahead of us
At first I was very happy
Because I like football and Germany has a fantastic football team.

My mother did not want me to go
She was very afraid for me, as the route is dangerous
I was unsure and told my friends nothing at first
Because perhaps it would not work out.

My family came to say good-bye
I had prepared everything
Had bought all the things I needed for the journey
I could not sleep.

I set off with my uncle
My cousin was supposed to come too
But the money
Was too little.

I did not take my favourite things with me
And now
If I could turn back the clock
I would take photos of everything.

 

Bashar Abdalli (15)

fled from Damascus with his uncle and has been living in Germany for two years. His heart belongs to football, but in retrospect he says that the football nation Germany cannot take the place of memories of his homeland. Bashar attends the Gustav Eiffel School in Berlin.

Being a woman

Amira Gudegast

Berlin, Germany

 

Being a woman is not always fair.
Much is expected,
and you grow up
yourself knowing only one way.
You should be beautiful and not uptight.
But natural, not sluttish, not too much make-up.
You should have children but go to work too, of course.
You should marry a man, but definitely be independent.

Women don’t talk about sex like men,
because women should seem innocent.
I think women and men in Germany
have progressed enough to know that they should have equal rights.
But that slight whiff of clichés and expectations
still hovers in the air and does not disappear.

I was lucky to have a very open-minded mother.
I could wear what I wanted.
And she never made me feel
that I could or couldn’t do something
because I am a girl.

When I was old enough,
she made me strong against the external pressure on women.
I feel good to be a woman.
I do not see being a woman as a role.
It does not mean:
I like pink,
I like children,
I love men.
It means:
I was born a girl
and feel good to be a woman.
Nothing more.

 

Amira Gudegast (17),

the daughter of an Arab family, grew up in Germany. As her father died young and her mother cannot take care of her adequately, Amira lives in a charity-run home in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. Later she would like to be a nursery teacher.

The Germans

Amira Gudegast

Berlin, Germany

The Germans are punctual, orderly and reliable.
They work for society.
They work a lot and with pleasure.
That gives them strength.
They are open and direct.
Germans accept a lot,
but they also demand
what they think they have earned.
Their money, their liberty, their tradition.

For my mother, being German meant
being able to separate yourself from the family,
weighing out the food for guests
and going to work on time
the day after your mother’s death.

But I
see the Germans differently.
Germans do much for the common good,
even if their own families first have to wait.
The Germans are not frugal.
They just don’t want to waste anything.
And Germans don’t love less.
They simply grieve differently.
They are not only the ones
who were born here,
but everyone
who is pleased to be here.

 

Amira Gudegast (17),

the daughter of an Arab family, grew up in Germany. As her father died young and her mother cannot take care of her adequately, Amira lives in a charity-run home in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. Later she would like to be a nursery teacher.

Where I belong

Lotta-Marie Titze

Berlin, Germany

 

A large decorated door
Behind it
A very specific smell
It is almost empty, but I sense that a lot happens here
Many rows of velvet-covered chairs
Behind a curtain
A place where not many may come
I feel a bit special

The smell of sweat
Magnesium
Deodorant
Leather
Costumes
And make-up
Many different people
There is always something happening here
Before and after the show
And during it, too
Things are hectic
But cosy
Excitement and tension are in the air
Yet I feel as relaxed and at ease as nowhere else

It makes me proud to see her putting on make-up
She looks different afterwards, but still like herself
She is an artist
Is admired
For what she does on stage
I am proud
That I belong to her and therefore belong here
But still the thought exists that
Without her
I might not belong here
And one day
Have to find my own way

 

Lotta-Marie Titze (18)

comes from Berlin and has enjoyed writing stories since she was at primary school. She graduated from high school in Friedrichshagen and today is a member of “LesArtigen” in Berlin, the youth jury for the German Youth Literature Award. Alongside literature she also loves art, music and her two little sisters. Later she would like to work in the theatre as a costume designer, but, as she says herself, you never know what will happen in life.

Flight

Rojin Namer

Kamishli, Syria

 

I travelled for a long time.
For days I walked.
For days I sat on the floor of a train.
For days I sat in prison.
For days I slept in the street.
I had nothing to eat.
My clothes were thrown away by the smugglers.
My shoes were torn.
I did not recognise myself.
I did not look like myself.
I had reached the zero point in my life.
I had reached the point where nothing can make you happy anymore.
I felt I had forgotten what living is.
All of it was all too much.
And endlessly exhausting.
I thought for a moment that I could no longer keep going.
But once you’re on the road and you do not know
Where the end will be, you have to go on.
There is no turning back.

 

Rojin (15)

travelled with her uncle for 47 days across Iraq and on to Greece, where she was arrested.

At last

Moritz Palma

Berlin, Germany

 

It happened at last.
He spoke to me.
A stream of joy pervaded me.
His voice enfolded us.
And this moment
Could have lasted for ever.

 

Moritz Palma (*2002)

is a Berliner who grew up in the Charlottenburg and Mitte districts. He is interested in gender issues and feminism, vegan living and music. At the moment he is listening to ‪Beyoncé, ‪Lana Del Rey and ‪Seeed, among others. He first came into contact with refugees when he was involved in the integration of »welcome pupils«, as a reading helper and at cultural evenings. Moritz is in year 11 at the Friedrich Ebert High School.

Responsibility

Jamal Abasi

Herat, Afghanistan

 

Teachers can bear great responsibility
With a few words they can shape you to be an important personality
Or an unimportant person whom no one will listen to
They are the ones who teach us to read and write
In a book I read that “Everyone is worth as much as he knows.”

I had a teacher in the 4th and 5th school year
Who had no financial problems
He travelled out to the furthest schools and villages
To teach there
I asked him: Why?
He answered:
For rich people’s children a teacher can always be found
There are other children who cannot go to school because they are poor
They more than anyone need schooling
Because they experience so much hardship at a young age
These are the children who need school
Because there is no philosopher or scientist
Who can bear toothache

 

Jamal Abasi (16)

came to Germany from Afghanistan four years ago. He likes poems because they communicate a lot and can express feelings that sometimes don’t fit into sentences. Apart from writing, in his spare time he takes an interest in literature, music and drama.

On the nature of freedom

Jamal Abasi

Herat, Afghanistan

 

Freedom is a fine word
For which much has been sacrificed
And which can harbour many dangers
But that does not mean
That we have no freedom at all
We have just not understood it properly
We have not understood that it has limits
We have not understood that untamed freedom
Can lead to folly.

Yet we are not always
Responsible for it ourselves
People who could not taste freedom
Their whole lives long
And then suddenly come to a world
In which it is highly valued
Do not understand freedom
They follow their image of freedom and in this lose
Their own way
No spot on this earth can be completely unfree
Because a person’s thoughts
And the way
A person experiences the world
Are a universe of their own

It would be good to know
Where the roots of unfreedom lie
So that one’s own freedom
Is not suddenly in a cage.

 

Jamal Abasi (16)

came to Germany from Afghanistan four years ago. He likes poems because they communicate a lot and can express feelings that sometimes don’t fit into sentences. Apart from writing, in his spare time he takes an interest in literature, music and drama.

A man can

Pipa Kläy

Zurich, Switzerland

 

A man can
And a woman can’t
Maybe from your point of view
Everything and always
(arsehole)

 

Pipa Kläy (*1997),

grew up in Zurich/Switzerland and moved to Berlin in 2018 because she feels better among four million than among 400,000. She likes poetry, prose, and white wine too.

»Good foreigners«

Pipa Kläy

Zurich, Switzerland

 

Grew up in an area
Where I was the only one at school
Whose mother tongue was Swiss German.
Grew up in an area
Where the Swiss People’s Party
Gets more votes than anywhere else.
Where they talk of “good foreigners”.
Italians.
And of those who steal state benefits.
Albanians, Turks.
Grew up in an area full of fear.
Fear of poverty.
Fear of foreignness.
Fear of headscarves.
I feel sorry for you.

 

Pipa Kläy (*1997),

grew up in Zurich/Switzerland and moved to Berlin in 2018 because she feels better among four million than among 400,000. She likes poetry, prose, and white wine too.

MovingOutMovingOnMovingIn

Jette Albrecht

Berlin, Germany

 

Moving out

At last
Because I can and want to and may
And a little bit I have to
Get away from my mother
From Fulda Cathedral, which forbids so much
From the bus-free Sundays
And the far-too-familiar faces
That have all undressed me some time

Moving on

With you, to you
But first of all with me
To find new buses, to miss them
Then leave it and loathe it
It stinks, you are too noisy and you want too much
Yet you don’t need me, and when
I’m in-between again, you don’t miss me one bit

Moving in

To you, to all of you
Move to me
I feel almost good till I want to move out again
Want to change myself
And want to get involved again

 

Jette Albrecht (*1995)

was born in Fulda, in Hessen in the middle of Germany. Since she was 15 she has been writing poems motionlessly about places, spaces and encounters – for preference about her own.

For the children of my homeland

Elyas Balkhi

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan

 

Early in the morning,
I go to school.
Children play in the park, they have teachers.
They all look happy.
One of them
Looks me in the eye.
He is not afraid
Of ever being hit by a bomb.
He has never seen blood,
Never seen a dead body.
Tears wet my cheeks.
And I murmur, very quietly:
That is what I wish
For the children of my homeland, too.

 

Elyas Balkhi (18)

His flight from Iran lasted almost three months; by car and partly on foot, his route first took him through Turkey, then by boat to Greece, and finally by train and on foot again to Berlin, where he has now lived for three years.

River of tears

Elyas Balkhi

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan

 

Water can have many meanings
Water can take many forms
Waves of the sea
Bend of the river
River of tears
Sometimes
A drop can move a whole world
Without a word
Miracle of water

 

Elyas Balkhi (18)

His flight from Iran lasted almost three months; by car and partly on foot, his route first took him through Turkey, then by boat to Greece, and finally by train and on foot again to Berlin, where he has now lived for three years.

War

Rama Janina

Damascus, Syria

 

the war has begun
it was fine before
but no one escapes destiny
fight or flee are the only choices
some decide to stay
and take responsibility for it
others decide to flee
and start a new future
others choose death

a war needs men who fight
it is not important whether they stay alive or not
it is only about fighting to the end
when you talk about war
you think of enemies who occupy the country
but when there are more and more soldiers in the field
and you see that your enemy is your brother
then it is no longer a war
to defend your homeland
then it is a civil war
in which only the stronger survives

then the time of fleeing begins
to escape from it all
then a new battle begins
that is quite different
in which weapons play no part
but only the human wish
to find safety

 

Rama Janina (17)

came to Germany from Syria a year and a half ago and is now in year nine at the Tiergarten High School. She wants to become a doctor. Her wish for the future is that her children will be able to lead a better life than hers.

Returning

Anonymous

Damascus, Syria

 

at the airport a young man
waited for his flight, saw the people around him
and their encounters
after 21 years away he wished
his country were a person
that he could tell about his feelings

he feared his homeland
might not recognise him
he feared his little brothers and sisters
might no longer recognise him
any more than his friends

he thought all of these things at the last call
for passengers to damascus
he was happy and afraid
he was undecided and feared
that his mother’s last wish
to see him
might not be fulfilled
perhaps she too would not recognise him

when he arrived he saw only strangers
who greeted him
then he saw his mother in a wheelchair
she spoke to him,
light of my life
he ran to her, embraced her
and everything started to sing

yet nothing moved him as much
as seeing his homeland again
and at that moment he wished,
he could tell it how much he had missed it
and how hard it was
to be parted from it

 

Anonymous (17)

from Damascus in Syria, attends the Leopold Ullstein School in Berlin.

Adopted home

Constanze Magnolia Shuruq Josting

Berlin, Deutschland

 

When the plane lands
The warm embrace
Of your cold winter air greets me

I only understand one of two languages
Much is new to me
The walls of snow
The huge supermarkets
The big cups
So much sugar in the coffee

Two years later, I return
It’s stormy (again)
I arrive (again)
I leave (again)

Montreal, love it all, second call

 

Constanze Magnolia Shuruq Josting (17)

attended the Bertha von Suttner High School. She is now teaching German in Palestine and learning Arabic there. She would like to take African and Asian Regional Studies at university. Her wish is that getting involved should not be seen as optional, but as a responsibility.

The Germans, the others

Constanze Magnolia Shuruq Josting

Berlin, Germany

 

A Nazi – ∑ – a terrorist

> Hey, tell me
I have
A question < > Your grandad
Must have been a terrorist! < > Your grandad
Must have been a Nazi! < Wasn’t he? :|| Well, actually I don’t really know I don’t know what you’re asking What you’re you saying A doctor and a seller of wine A pair of swine? Both fled From the country to the village From their own to their very own land And now you won‘t Even shake their hand Hey, tell me I have A question About your land Your rejected hand Your thoughts full of prejudices > How should we remain? <

 

Constanze Magnolia Shuruq Josting (17)

attended the Bertha von Suttner High School. She is now teaching German in Palestine and learning Arabic there. She would like to take African and Asian Regional Studies at university. Her wish is that getting involved should not be seen as optional, but as a responsibility.

Guilty feelings

Rojin Namer 

Kamishli, Syria

 

Daddy, Mummy,

do you really think I would not help if I could?
Do you really think that I am happy now because I can still be outside after 6 pm without being afraid?
Do you really think that I get 300 euros pocket money, as my cousins claim?
Do you really think that I forgot you because I lead a better life here?
How much money have you spent on me? 5,000 Euros?
That you sold our house to get passports?
Do you think it is my fault that you still haven’t been able to move here?
Do you really think that I do not want you here?

Shall I tell you something!
I get 50 Euros for pocket money. Not 300.

I feel at fault when I hear that you are not doing well.
I feel guilty when I know that I can not help you.
But the important question for me is:
Do you really think I would not help you if I could?

 

 

The Poetry Project, Foto © Rottkay

Rojin Namer (*2002)

whose family fled to Iraq before the war and who was sent to Germany three years ago, in the hope that her parents and five siblings could join her as soon as possible. Foto © Rottkay

Traces

Yasser Niksada

Panshir, Afghanistan, raised in Iran


Be next to me and see
What has happened to me.
It is over, the trace still in my heart.
No room for me to sleep on this bus.
Withered feet, the dream sunk into the eye.
The police said stop.
Go back, go back.
All then in the train car, just me alone on the tracks.
The rubber boat sank and my heart, hot for Europe, turned cold.
The world slept, only we were awake,
Hungry, thirsty, tired.
We left; it will be more difficult to return.
All this tearing oneself up for a little bit of rest.
Not my rest.
The rest of my family.

 

Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foto © Rottkay

Yasser Niksada (*2002)

Yasser Niksada comes from the Panshir valley in Afghanistan. Ten years ago, the Niksadas fled to Teheran, where the family live as refugees. But that's no life, says Yasser. That's why the family sent him on a journey to Europe. In Germany, Yasser misses his family. Photo © Rottkay

Without You

Shahzamir Hataki

Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan


Living my life here without you
Is difficult, father.
I am thirsty for your tears.
And to cry here among these people is difficult, father.
When you stride there and walk over thorns, father,
I feel the pain of your feet.
I wish to throw myself into your arms.
To kiss you from this distance is difficult, father.
I would tear my lips off to do it,
But to mourn without lips is difficult, father.

You are the most beautiful flower in a field of flowers.
You are the color of the sun, which bows at night.
You shine like the stars, my father,
And you are light as the moon.

 

Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foto © Rottkay

Shahzamir Hataki (*2000)

Shahzamir Hataki from Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, is his parents’ only son. They wanted to secure his survival and his future and therefore sent him away. On the passage to Greece, the boat sank and Shahzamir barely escaped death. Photo © Rottkay

Women

Samiullah Rasouli

Ghazni, Afghanistan

 

When I say women, I mean real women,
Those with eyebrows, real noses, and shoulders.
Who belong only to themselves from the beginning,
Who are not selfish but proud of their gifts,
Who love themselves in their simplicity,
And want to be only themselves
And not resemble another.
These are the women I mean when I say women.

The light in her gaze is like the scent of Kobeko*
Her tender hand is incomparably precious.
Her wisdom shines forth from beneath her make-up.
She walks with beauty in public.
The watering mouths of the gawkers do not bother her.
The self-confident, strong woman pursues her gifts and talents.

Some women stay at home, they dissolve
And turn to water.
And the ones who go out turn to bread and food.
And when I say women, I mean these women.

*Perfume named “Mountain to Mountain”
Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
The Poetry Project | Foto © Rottkay

Samiullah Rasouli (*1999)

Samiullah Rasouli grew up in Ghazni, Afghanistan. The region is highly contested today. His father died four years ago. Samiullah was on the run for four weeks. Now he has begun training as a trade merchant. His poems are about love and longing for his father. Photo © Rottkay

Only You

Mahdi Hashemi

Ghazni, Afghanistan, raised in Iran


We now see times
In which you are there,
And only you.

You love and you are not loved.
You feel intimacy and nobody is there
To lean on.

You have everything, and yet you have nothing.
The wound hidden
Behind the veil of tears,
The secret remains unread.


Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
The Poetry Project | Foto © Rottkay

Mahdi Hashemi (*2000)

When he was an infant, his family fled from Afghanistan to Iran. There, he grew up as a refugee, close to the capital Tehran. Mahdi Hashemi writes about why Afghan refugees in Iran even apologise for breathing the air there. Photo © Rottkay

Mother

Kahel Kaschmiri

Ghazni, Afghanistan


If only you were here,
I would kiss your feet.
I would bow before you
And kiss your face.

And everywhere you went and lingered,
I want to go and cry.


Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foro © Rottkay

Kahel Kaschmiri (*2000)

Kahel lived in Ghazni, Afghanistan. A Taliban commander was after him. Kahel fled his country, via Iran, in the trunk of a smuggler’s car. In Germany, he is confused by the lives of Europeans. Photo © Rottkay

Hopeless

Ghani Ataei

Herat, Afghanistan


They killed in the village before my eyes.
Four days I could not speak.
Four days I was mute.

Until I understood.
Nobody expects anything from anybody.
And anybody can do anything to anyone.

No matter how much older I grow,
How grown up I will be,
When I am uneasy and full of sorrow,
I will wish my mother by my side.
But I am hopeless
When it comes to the world.

 

Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
Foto © Rottkay

Ghani Ataei (*2000)

Ghani Ataei grew up in the old trading town of Herat, on the border with Iran. His father was killed during the war, his mother died in an accident. As an orphan, he went to Germany alone. Photo © Rottkay

Beginning of life

Mohamad Mashghdost

Bandar Anzali, Iran



The beginning of life was
That I did not exist.

There was a mother.
She was my God.

It was an unrequited love.
There was a father.
He was never there.

The body came to rest
But not the mind.
I was without solace.

The sister wanted to be a mother to me.
But she was tired.
I loved the mother.
She died.

I wanted to leave
And I stayed.
I wanted to stay
And I left.

Leaving was not important
And neither was staying.
I was important,
I, who did not exist.


Translation from German: Maxmarie Wilmoth
The Poetry Project, Foto © Rottkay

Mohamad Mashghdost (*1997)

The son of a taxi driver from Bandar-e Ansali, Iran, set off for Europe in autumn. At home, he was afraid of being drafted into the war in Syria. In Berlin, Mohamad Mashghdost wrote some outstanding poems about the lack of meaning and his native Iran. Today he lives in Husum. Photo © Rottkay