I fled Iraq in 2003

Because of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. In Iraq I was a Ba’ath Party member. I was ambitious and wanted to go to university after high school. But there I was only admitted if I was a member of the largest political party. Membership was essential for a social career and access to better facilities.

Especially because I’m Turkmen. We speak the Turkish language. My grandfather, grandmother, my parents and I were all born in Iraq, but we are still considered foreigners and discriminated against. The Kurds want us to leave, Arabs want us to leave and Shi’a Muslims want us to leave.

I left…Alone. My parents and brother had saved money so that I would be able to go to Europe. They stayed in our hometown, Iraq. I fled north, to Mosul. Then I went to Turkey, but it wasn’t safe there either. So I continued travelling.

In the Netherlands From the start, there have been people in the Netherlands to help me and offer me food. The Netherlands now feels like my second country. In 2007, I received a residence permit for a fixed period. I started a new life: took Dutch lessons, did an internship working with disabled people, volunteered as an interpreter for VluchtelingenWerk [major Dutch NGO for refugees, ed.]. I wanted to work.

They said Iraq had become safe

In 2010, I had to apply for a renewal of my residence permit, from fixed-term to indefinite validity. I received a letter stating that I was not allowed to stay. They said Iraq had become safe. But I get killed if I go back, even my parents were already threatened. It’s very dangerous there.

The Immigration and Naturalisation Services (IND) want to see more evidence, but I simply don’t have any. I didn’t bring any documents or cards. Imagine a fire breaks out – don’t you also get yourself to safety first, instead of looking for your official documents and phone?

I often dream about hearing my parents voices

And now I’ve stayed in touch with my parents and brother ever since I arrived here in 2003. Now I haven’t heard their voices in 10 months. They still live in the south of Kirkuk city. Where the fierce fights between IS fighters and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces are taking place. I really hope they are still alive, but nobody knows where they are and if they are still alive… I often dream about hearing their voices.

Of course I would really like to return to Iraq, if all goes well there. I was born there, it will always be my country. I’ve always maintained a positive attitude, although that’s been very hard lately. But I remain hopeful. If I were to get a residence permit, I would love to have my own home, even a small one. Simply so I could open my own lock with my own keys.