Finding Love In Lesvos

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Mohammad and Faezeh never expected to find love on their perilous journeys to Europe. The constant worry about asylum while struggling to live without basic necessities in squalid refugee camps left little head space for even the notion of a relationship. But that was before they set eyes on one another, through the doors of the mobile library where Mohammad volunteers.
After a few short months, and a couple visits by Faezeh to the One Happy Family library, the pair now can’t imagine a future without the other in it.
“It started from the library,” Mohammad tells me, as I sit across from him and Faezeh in the place where it all began. They look at each other and smile as we nestle in the coves between the literature and chat about Lesbos, libraries, love and life. “She gets me a nice feeling when she’s in the library… it’s very difficult, I can’t explain,” he furrows his brow while trying to communicate his complex feelings in English, a language he’s only recently learnt.

This feeling makes everything easy for me. Especially when living in Moria and living in Lesvos.

Mohammad, a computer programmer graduate, volunteers at the One Happy Family (OHF) community centre, near Lesbos’s maintown of Mytilene. The library, which is inside a bright green camper van, is just one of the centre’s many projects which are run by and for refugees. It’s one of OHF’s few quiet places; a small sanctuary where Mohammad and Faezeh can forget the uncertainty that dictates their lives in the world beyond the library’s doors.
The pair arrived on the Greek island around the same time, roughly 10 months ago, and since then have been waiting for their asylum applications to be processed. Although they are both Afghan nationals, Mohammad and Faezeh were born and raised in Iran as second generation refugees. Iran treats Afghans as third class citizens, refusing to give them citizenship even if they are born there, forcing many to flee. Mohammad describes leaving his home and family as “very difficult” but in the end he “didn’t have any option.” Faezeh too, says she “had to leave Iran” with her family, but didn’t want to go into specifics for fear of harming her asylum case.

Since arriving, the pair have tried to make the most out of the dire situation they found themselves in when the promise of Europe shattered at the sight of Moria’s barbed wire fences. As well as volunteering at OHF, Mohammad also works with another NGO, giving computer classes for refugees, and is taking Greek lessons. Faezeh has two jobs; she’s an interpreter in a clinic in Moria camp and a Farsi and English language teacher at a school for refugee children.

If you do something, if you study or do something for other people, it's not so hard.

Mohammad says that keeping active and helping others through his volunteer work has made living in Moria more bearabl

“But it’s very difficult for some people, living in Moria, they need a suitable home they need basic necessities, for life, they need and they don’t have it. It makes it very difficult.”

He admits that he tries not to think about the conditions in Moria, where over 6,000 people are crammed into a facility with the capacity for just 2,000, but instead focuses on helping others.
“I’m trying to study, to do something useful for other people and I try not to think about the difficulties.”

With a small and timid smile he glances at Faezeh, suggesting the other reason why life in Lesbos has suddenly become a great deal more bearable.
“If you have someone to … someone like, like Faezeh it becomes very very nice.”

She too, exclaims with a loud ‘yes!’ that her life has changed for the better since she fell for Mohammad.
“I feel his love,” she tells me.

Before meeting Faezeh, Mohammad says that he thought of nothing else but his asylum application.

“I didn’t want to think about the love about the relationship with another person, I only thought about the progress of getting asylum and go to another city for progress,” he tells me. “But the way of my life has changed…”

Two months ago, Mohammad received some amazing news, news which every refugee in Lesbos dreams about every minute of every day – his asylum application was successful! Although this means he’s saved from being deported to Afghanistan, getting refugee status brings new problems. Mohammad now has just four months to learn Greek to a sufficient level to get a job that pays enough to rent a flat. Earlier this year, UNHCR announced that it will only support refugees with a monthly stipend and accommodation for six months after they’re asylum is granted. But with Greek’s current economic and unemployment crisis, the prospect of refugees finding employment is slim.

Mohammad and Faezeh worry what will happen if he is not able to find a job and accommodation before the cut off point.

I am very worried about the future and I don’t know what will happen

“Because they don’t want to support some people like me to learn language and become part of society. We need more time like one year or two year.”

Faezeh and her family, who live in Kara Tepe camp, are still waiting for their asylum. Sometimes the couple argue about the future. Faezeh knows that if her and her family are granted asylum they will leave Lesbos. “Here I can’t study and my brothers can’t study, it’s a big problem for my family,” she explains. But Mohammad feels that there’s more chances to find work in Lesbos, where there are almost 100 NGOs to support and provide employment opportunities to refugees.

As we sit in the tiny library with the bright Lesbos sun flooding through the sunroof, i want to stop time for Mohammad and Faezeh. I want them to enjoy each other’s company and new found love before forces beyond their control pull them apart.

Mohammad feels the same. “I say to her, no need to worry about the future, we need to think about now. Maybe one day we have to leave each other but now we are together and we are trying to enjoy.”

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