Interview for

Anonymous

12/7/2019

Interviewed By:

Serena Alagappan

Date Interviewed:

Audio Recording of Interview
00:00 / 1:26:46
Summary

Anonymous talks about her strong religious faith and how it isolated her among her Kurdish community (which was discriminated against) in Syria. She also talks about being forced to move to Turkey and then the US and how she feels like coming to the US has brought her further from her faith.

Transcript
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Additional Notes
Outline

Narrator:  Anonymous

Date: 12/7/19

Location: New York City, NY


Content Warning: Mentions of suicide, violence against women.

Summary: Anonymous talks about her strong religious faith and how it isolated her among her Kurdish community (which was discriminated against) in Syria. She also talks about being forced to move to Turkey and then the US and how she feels like coming to the US has brought her further from her faith.

Topics: Religion, family, faith, childhood, gender, discrimination, education, language, cultural adjustment, employment, safety, conflict journey, immigration, conditions back home, mental health, future, interfaith connection, places of worship, home


Outline

Section 1: (00:00-10:48)

  • Religion, family, education, childhood - From Syria and lived in the countryside. Taught religion at school and concluded there was a higher power. Was in the first grade when she started to wear a hijab. Made fun of at school for wearing it, but she describes being very happy and fulfilled and started praying after wearing the hijab.

  • Faith, gender, family - Her society was not very religious, but she was drawn to religion because she likes the idea of someone always being there for her. Contrasts this relationship with God with that of a relationship with parents. Her sister felt differently, wanted to feel pretty and show her hair. Mother came from the city, a more religious area. Not common to see people wearing hijabs in narrator’s area; people would ignore her when seeing her wearing the hijab, excluding her. Believes people have the freedom to choose whatever they believe in.

Section 2: (10:49-20:25)

  • Discrimination, education, language - Kurdish but never taught how to read or write. Only speaks it. Okay to speak it in her community, but the language is not allowed in schools or government. Talks about how Syria tries to dissolve their culture and make the Kurdish people Arab. She also had tension in her own community and experienced isolation because of her strong faith.

Section 3: (20:26-38:00)

  • Cultural adjustment, employment, faith, language- Talks about the differences between Turkey and Syria, includes Kurish people not saying that they were Kurdish. Needed to fight sometimes to get time to pray, but eventually, since her bosses were also Muslim, they understood. Harder to pray here in the US while working, less understanding for her faith needs, especially when working jobs which require physical labor. Doesn’t like the way her faith has changed due to life changes.

  • Faith, safety, conflict journey - Turkey was a sort of in-between between Syria and US. She still wore hijab there. In general, is happy to be in a place which respects peoples’ faith, opinions, and boundaries. Did not feel completely safe in Turkey, doesn’t like to hide her identity as Kurdish, and her family was there illegally.

  • Employment - Couldn’t get good jobs because they were there illegally. Worked as a tailor, very physically demanding job, no sick days. First few months in Turkey were especially very hard and financially difficult.

Section 4: (38:01- 1:07:53)

  • Immigration, faith - Applied to the UN while in Turkey, didn’t feel like a human being during the interview process, felt like they were trying to sort human beings. Don’t know where you are going. Prefers to be in a religious society, one which is modest and everyone is free to their opinion. Ideal would be a combination of Turkey and the US.

  • Conditions back home- Was originally difficult to convince her father to leave Syria, but ISIS invading eventually convinced him to come to Turkey with his family.

  • Discrimination - In Turkey, felt unwelcomed as Kurdish and also a refugee.

  • Cultural adjustment, faith, mental health, future - Went through a phase of depression, didn’t feel welcomed with her hijab, so stopped wearing it to be accepted into society and find a job. Felt very sad about it, feels like it has changed her faith in a way she does not like, feels further from God. Hopes to eventually wear her hijab again.

Section 5: (1:07:54-1:26:45)

  • Interfaith connection - Felt very welcomed by the Presbyterian Church and another small encounter with a woman she met by a bus stop.

  • Faith, places of worship – Just wants to be respected for what she believes in, doesn’t think extremist Muslims are Muslims, does not want that to be what people think of when they think of Islam. Doesn’t go to a mosque here and barely ever went to one in Syria. Believes that people should have the freedom to believe in what they want.

  • Conditions back home, war - Talks about how war has changed her area, how desperation has warped even the people she used to be neighbors with.

  • Home - Doesn’t know if anything can replace the place you were born in, sometimes wishes she could go back to her childhood. But is starting to appreciate New York too.

  • Interfaith connection- Fondly recalls being invited to her first Passover, thought it was a very holy experience. Talks about other welcoming experiences which brought joy.