“I left Iran five years ago, and I went to Turkey because it was not safe staying in Iran anymore, and I didn’t have a plan, any kind of plan. I didn’t know what to do. I went to Turkey, and I was allowed to stay there just for three months as a tourist. After three months, I have to do something but I didn’t know what to do.
Some of my friend told me there is an organization called UNHCR. It is an organization for United Nations. They told me, ‘You could go over there, and tell them your story that you’re not safe in your country anymore.’ And I went there, and they told me, ‘OK, so you have to wait in Turkey for two years or something.’ They told me, ‘You have some options. You can go to Germany. You can go to one of the country in the Scandinavia. You can go to Australia, Canada or US, which one you prefer?’ I told them, ‘I don’t know.’ Because I didn’t have any idea. One of my friend used to live here in Miami, ‘OK, tell them Miami, America, in the US.’ That’s why I came here but I didn’t have any idea which one is better for me. Anyway, it’s not that bad.
I used to make some video of demonstrations. I used to make some reports, and sent them to some overseas media. There is dictatorship in Iran. There is no freedom of speech. Whenever you do something against the government through media is illegal. Some of my friends, at that time, you cannot believe it, they were arrested six years ago, and they are still in a prison now. Just because they wrote some letter against the government. For example they had some video coverage, they do something that the Iranian government considers as illegal thing. Some people cannot understand and believe it. For example in western countries, if you said something against the government, OK, maybe the government doesn’t like it but they never put you in prison.
I have combination of bad and good memories from Iran. That’s why I miss it but sometimes it’s OK. But you know, I miss Istambul, Turkey a lot. I used to live there for two years and a half. I was there. It was a very good place, and so many good memories also few bad memories, but it’s OK. The best memory from Iran is my good friends. I didn’t have so many friends. I had limited number of friends but we were so close. They helped me a lot.
The most difficult memory in Iran was when I had to live in different houses. I had to change my houses because I was under surveillance. The police was looking for me. They tried to arrest me. At that time, I didn’t have any place, and I was not safe because there was high possibility of getting arrested by the police. Maybe I can find some kind of other difficult situation but currently, this is the most difficult.
People like me in Iran don’t have any good chance for living, because everything is under control of the government. They don’t let people like me to find a job, to have a secure life because everything is under control by them, for a example if a company hired me, the government would ask him, ‘This guy is against the government why did you hire him?’ It was very weird.
Let me tell you something about my life. When I left Iran and went to Turkey, I didn’t have any idea how long would it take to stay there, because I had to leave Turkey, and go to destinations for example US, Europe or somewhere. In Turkey, we (refugee) didn’t have any permission to have a job. I didn’t have any money. I stayed there for two years and half without any money. At the time, I didn’t have any permission to have a job, but they told me that I have to stay there.
I had a friend, Niemar. He was one of my friends. He was my roommate in a dormitory 15 years ago when I started my study in the university. He called me several times in order to ask me, ‘What are you doing? What happen? Did you find any way to go to America or something?’
After two or three weeks, I was trying to get a visa to America, but I failed. I had a paper for a conference in America. When I started to apply for the visa, they told me, ‘We don’t have any appointment for this month, you have to wait for the next months.’ But next month it is after the conference. So, I had to wait. I had to say that I was not able to come to the US. And Niemar told me, ‘OK, stay there, and we help you. I will help you. I will support you all the years in Turkey.’
Niemar is not a rich man, but at least when we were students in the university, we used to belong to the middle class families. After university, he started some good job, and earned little bit of money. Not that much, but little more than average. He told me, ‘OK, stay there in Turkey, and I will send you money months by months, as long as you can, you have to stay in Turkey.’ Nobody can believe it. He sent me in total $25000 worth of money.
When I moved to America, I was very worried about paying back his money, because I usually told him, ‘Niemar, I know it is kind of you, sending me money months by months, but I know that one day in the future I have to give it back to you, little by little, but I don’t know exactly when, because I have to go to America. I don’t know, maybe after two years, three years. I have to find a job, and I have to save money, and I have to give it back to you $200 or $300 per month, but I don’t know when. Maybe it will take time.’ And he told me, ‘Don’t worry about money. In the future, if you can find a good job, and you can find some money, you can pay me months by months, but if you can’t find a job, don’t worry, maybe in the late future. I am not worrying about my money. The most important thing for us, for me, is our friendship. Now, you are in a bad situation, and you need help. Maybe in the future, I need help, and you can help me. Right now, I can help you, so let me help you. In the future, maybe I will need help, and you can help me.’
When I came to US, one of my friends was about to buy a house, financing a house from a bank. The house cost $100000, and my friend needed $10000 for the deposit. He should pay $10000 in cash, and the rest will be paid by finance or loan, but my friend didn’t have $10000. I told Niemar, ‘I’m leaving next month to US, and my friend is going to buy a house, and he needs deposit, so I have an offer for you; You can buy the house with Salman (he is my other friend), both of you can be the owner. Anyway, in the US I have to rent a house, but if I go to your home, I can pay monthly to you as a rent. I know this is not the money that you paid me. This is different, because you can’t buy a house in Iran, and you can’t rent it out, but it’s better than nothing.’ He told me, ‘Let me think about it and I’ll let you know.’
After a couple of weeks, he called me, ‘I think about it a lot. I guess it is not a good idea for me to buy a house in America, because over there I am not citizen. I am not permanent resident or anything. That’s why it is not good idea to buy a house over there. So, if I buy a house in Iran, it would be better for me, because the raising price of house in Iran is so much more than in America.’
But without my permission he sent $10000 to my friend. My friend, Salman called me, you see, Salman, he and me, we both are friends with Niemar. He called me, ‘Niemar sent $10000, and he told me to not let you know.’ But anyway it is the same $10000. I called Niemar, ‘How? Why did you send $10000?’ He told me, ‘I sent the money because you are permanent resident there, to buy the house with Salman, and share the house with him. From the beginning, you should go to your own home with your wife.’
He said, ‘It is a friendship house, and in the future you can pay me. I am not in a hurry.’ It was very, very kind of him, because already I had owned more than $25000 to Niemar. Not only he did not ask me to pay that money, but he also paid me $10000 more. And it felt… when I called him, ‘Niemar, let me pay you for example $100-$200 per months, because I didn’t have much money.’ He told me, ‘No, no, just wait, maybe in the future, you can find more secure job, better job.’ Right now, I don’t have any saving or anything. I just live check by check. I asked him so many times but…
One day I asked Niemar, ‘Why are you paying me that much money?’ He told me, ‘This is a case of a friendship. This is not the case of money.’ and he explained more, he said to me, ‘Fifteen years ago when we were roommates, both of us belong to poor families, lower than middle classes families. So, we didn’t have any time for the university, and we used to live in some poor dormitory. At that time, in the first year that we met each other, I remember that one day it was my birthday. At that time, I remember that you didn’t have money even to buy food. You just saved the whole week of your food, and you used it for buying Walkman, for my birthday. That was all of your money. I know it, because at that time you didn’t even have money to buy food. So, during the week, you went to other friends to eat something. At that time, you paid all the money you had. It was less than for example $10. But it was not the case, the $10 was all of your money. This money that I am paying to you is not all of my money. So, that’s why I want to let you know, if you do some kindness to somebody, in the future you will see it. Maybe not from me, but from the nature and other people. Because 15 years ago you never ever thought that maybe in the future you will move to Turkey, and at that time I would be rich, and I can send you money. At that time, you bought me a gift, that Walkman, because our friendship was important to you. You appreciated our friendship.’
That’s why I want to show you that friendship never dies, the real one. Maybe you can find so many fake friendships. A real friendship is always alive. Especially in difficult situation, because in good situation when you are rich, and you are happy, all people are your friends. At that time, I didn’t have any choice. I was not able to go back to Iran, because I would be arrested. I would not stay over there (Turkey), because I don’t have job permission. I would not go to other countries, because I was not allowed, and I never ever asked Niemar to send me money. I didn’t have any idea so that Niemar is gonna pay me, he’s gonna save me, but Niemar told me, ‘This is my offer.’
This is like a story. Nobody, nobody can imagine that somebody constantly paying you without any certainties and expectations for two years. Then, at the end of the two years, not only he’s not asking for money but he also sent $10000 more.
When I came here, in the first year, it was the worst period in my whole life. It was terribly, terribly difficult. After few weeks that I came to Miami, I started suffering from deep and bad depression. I went to a doctor, and after one or two months, I started being under control of the doctor. The doctor ordered me so many different pills, but none of them worked out. I used some pills for one month, some pills for two months, constantly changed, and I got worse, and worse. After six months, I remember at the time I didn’t have any job. I didn’t have money. My friend, Niemar sent the money, and my friend, Salman sell the house without any permission, and used all the money for some reason. He didn’t have any money to buy the house, because something unexpected happen to him, and he told me, ‘I have to use a big amount of your money.’ I didn’t have any job at that time, and my ex-wife was living in Turkey. I was supposed to send money to her, and I had to live here. I didn’t have any job, and I was mentally very bad.
After six or seven months, my doctor told me that he wrote a letter to my social worker, ‘He must be hospitalized quickly. He is in very bad condition. He must be hospitalized and probably he needs some electricity shock. Because the electricity shock in depression is the last option. If nothing, nothing works out. He has to go hospitalized and receive some electricity shock.’ Because in some cases, electricity shock refreshes you. It has some risks but it helps you to forget the parts of your memory. Always, there is the probability to loose parts of your memory.
At that time, we didn’t have any health insurance in America, Obamacare, nothing. As refugees, we have six months health insurance, but after that we have nothing, and my social worker called my doctor that I don’t have any insurance. So imagine, I was in the worst situation, but I didn’t have any money to go to the hospital.
My doctor told me, ‘OK, Daniel must go to be hospitalized, and he is in a very bad situation.’ But I didn’t have money to go to the hospital. The only choice was calling my friends. My friend’s brother, he is a doctor, to order some pills, and to give to passengers from Iran, and send it to me. I live with those pills for couple of months, just in order to be alive, because I remember sometimes I used to stay at home, and I cried for a couple of hours. I don’t know for what. It was my mental situation, my depression.
I remember after few months, I found a very, very hard job, working as a porter in a car dealership. I was supposed to remove the garbage, wash cars, and clean the inventory. I remember it was in the middle of the summer, and Miami is super, super hot. I used to work, because my minimum wage was so little, in order to save some money, I have to work 10 or 11 and sometimes 12 hours a day. And I usually worked 7 days a week. I used to work non-stop 7 days a week, at least 10 hours a day.
I remember it was so hot, and I had to have two or three set of clothes with me, because after two or three hours I was totally wet. I had to change my clothes. I worked for six or seven months. I remember when I came home, I was like; I started to work from 8 in the morning to almost 8 in the afternoon, and when I got home, I went directly to my bed. I didn’t have the energy to do anything. Imagine, I didn’t even have my Sundays.
After seven months, I was washing a car or doing something, at that time we had a studio over there in a company. Some guys came over, some lighting expert to do some lighting system. They’ve been negotiating about the lighting system or something, and suddenly I told the manager, ‘I guess for example you can use this light for this lighting system, and this for that thing.’ And he asked me, ‘How did you know that?’ ‘Because I am a photographer.’, and he told me, ‘So, why are you washing cars? We need a photographer. OK, just from now on you’re gonna be a photographer. I’m gonna hire you as a photographer. Why didn’t you let me know earlier?’ I told him, ‘I didn’t know that you need a photographer.’
Anyway, after seven months I started my work as a photographer, and that was a little bit better. At least I was in a studio, and there was an AC. After seven or something months, I quitted, and I told myself, ‘I need more freedom.’ I wanted to start my freelance job. It’s a little bit risky, because for example if I don’t have a job for seven days, I don’t have any salary. I might not be able to pay my rent or something, but it’s OK. I have freedom.”