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Newcomer Ahmad Al-Dali.

© Photo: Georg Moritz

Newcomer in Berlin: Don't call me refugee!

Ahmad Al-Dali fled the war in Syria, now he lives in Berlin. But he does not want to be referred to as "refugee". To him, the term suggests helplessness and neediness. Plus, there is a much better word.

To tell you upfront: I am doing well. I am getting along. This is why it really bothers me when people call me a “refugee”. Yesterday for example. A TV team was making shots for a piece about the “Schlafplatzorga” at Oranienplatz. As the name says, these people organize places to stay. I am helping them. A girl introduced me as “Ahmad, a Syrian refugee”. I didn’t want to just suck up something like this. It sounded as if I was a thing. But I am Ahmad, from Syria. And I am living with my friends.

It’s a big difference to give help as a friend or to give help out of sympathy and pity. The term “refugee” is connected with the need for help and weakness. But I don’t want pity. I hate to ask for help, it’s uncomfortable. I prefer to go the hard way – as I did many times since I left Syria two years ago.

Of course, not everyone is in this position. Some people really need support and like to accept help. Others just don’t think about how they are called. But I am a thinker, and that’s why this is so important to me.

We all have a personality - and a lot of potential!

At first I didn’t want to come to Germany or to Europe and become a refugee. As a refugee, you lose the feeling of being a person. You lose yourself. You disappear in an anonymous crowd. People say “refugee” and generalize everything: the mentality, the nationality, the culture. But just look at us Syrians: We all have a personality – and a lot of potential!

For me the term “refugee” also means waiting. A lot of my friends just sit around in their camps and count the moments. They all had a good life before the war came and destroyed everything. Only when they get the residency they can look for a job and really arrive here, start a new life. Only then the word "refugee" will end for them.

Turkey was a dead end

There are people who think they know everything about me, when they hear I am a refugee. However, I have a past in Syria and hopefully a future in Germany. In Damascus, I was a normal student. I played the bass guitar and made music with a friend. I wrote lyrics and taught myself 3D design on the computer. Because of the war, almost all of my friends left Syria, and so did I eventually. I had the idea of working and living in Turkey. But the country was so different from what I imagined. I worked in a stitching, more than twelve hours a day, quite a crappy job. Although it paid okay and I was really good at stitching, Turkey was a dead end.

I am in Berlin for about four months now. I almost feel at home already, although I still get lost with my bike all the time. My goal is to master 3D design. I want to make video games. I want to shine!

Until I get my work permission, it probably will take a while. However, I would prefer not to be called a refugee anymore. I would like to be called by my name. If it really needs a collective term for the people who are coming here, they should be called newcomers. I have used the term recently. I told a girl that at Schlafplatzorga that I help the newcomers. That really sounds more appealing than “refugee” does. Why don't you give it a try?

This text was published in German in the printed Tagesspiegel supplement "Mehr Berlin". Read the German version here.

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