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Culture

My piece of hope: Afghan refugee clings to Bible, dreams of university

Farsad has been a refugee all his life. Now he's in Germany, waiting for permission to stay. As a Christian, he'll be persecuted if he returns to Iran or Afghanistan. His Bible is his source of hope.

As hundreds of thousands of refugees are entering Germany, the country is facing the challenge - and opportunity - of the century. In this DW series, "My piece of hope," refugees share their personal stories of persecution, escape and waiting. Each individual shows one significant object they've brought with them on their journey - their "piece of hope."

The book that gives the most hope to Farsad is also the book that keeps getting him in trouble: the Bible. It's a green leather volume with a birth certificate pinned onto the first few pages, a bittersweet symbol considering his history.

Farsad's parents are Afghan, but he has never seen their country. Ever since his birth, he has been a refugee. As one of two million Afghan refugees in Iran, he spent most of his life being tolerated at best and discriminated at worst.

"All Afghans live there without any papers, half aren't even allowed into school or science. They're always in trouble," he says.

At 19 - right after graduating from high school in 2010 - he came to Europe by himself. He never felt at home in Iran, but his fascination with the Christian faith made it impossible to stay. "First I went to Turkey, then I took a boat to Italy, and a car to the Netherlands." There he applied for asylum. In 2011, his case was closed and he was ordered to leave for Afghanistan. When he refused, he was jailed for six months.

Farsad suffered from depression during that time, but his faith gave him hope. The green Bible would get him into a lot of trouble in Iran, which is why he prefers not to give his full name and would rather not be recognized on photos. Getting his Muslim family to accept his decision also hasn't been easy. Although they have regular phone conversations, he knows they are critical of his decision to convert to Christianity.

He has been in Germany since January 2015. At the end of October, there will be another hearing in the Netherlands. He fears his final deportation. It's because of "Dublin," he says, "Dublin" is the reason he has to keep going back to Holland. The Dublin Regulation stipulates that refugees have to apply for asylum in the EU member state which they first enter.

Now Farsad lives in an asylum shelter in Brandenburg. It's a little "tough to be Christian among Muslims," but he has gotten used to it. He found a church close to his home and friends who help him enjoy life a little. But while others his age are busy partying in Barcelona or studying for exams at university, Farsad can only wait, always knowing that the supposed peace may not last for that much longer. "Yes, Afghanistan is my country, but I wasn't born there, I've never even been there. There is a war, there's the Taliban, it's difficult. But I can't go back to Iran either, I'm not allowed to go to university. I thought I could find work in Europe, but now... "

What does home mean to him? "I don't know," he says. Whenever he used these words before, he didn't understand the question. This time, he simply doesn't know the answer. When talking about his dreams, namely being able to stay in Germany, perhaps go to university, just like any carefree 24-year-old would, he chuckles. It's as if he wanted to do something extraordinary, like become the next US president or develop a cure for cancer. No, he has never been carefree - just one more thing he's gotten used to over time.

As he leaves, he sticks his Bible under his left arm and waves.

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