Photo by Boryana Ivanova
Musa, 22, from Mali, met on December 16 on Warschauer Straße
"After the death of Gaddafi in 2011, many Islamist militias came from Libya into the north of my home country, Mali. They had a lot of guns, cars and money and were threatening Malian people with death if they didn't convert to Islam. These militants wanted to enforce Sharia law all over the country. They were killing unmarried women, men who were drinking, they started separating men and women in different rooms.
But at the same time, these people were not real Muslims. They didn’t pray, they drank, they had sex with a lot of women, and were very fond of money. I’m also Muslim, but I can’t tell other people to become one. It’s not something you can do with force.
In 2012, the fighting started. Men with guns started robbing shops, entering homes and killing people. Shootings on the streets continued all night long – you couldn’t sleep. It’s tricky to fight terrorists because you don’t know who they are. They train in the desert, they wear masks. Maybe your friend is a terrorist but you wouldn't know it. The Islamist militants said they wanted to colonise Mali. And the government was simply not strong enough to fight them. The militias did pretty much whatever they wanted, they swept through the big cities like a tornado and took over one region after the other. They came with tanks and heavy guns and the police were poorly equipped; they had no choice but to run away.
My father had a big shop in Bamako where he sold clothes and shoes. I was sent to Arabic school in Gambia, to learn the Quran and how to pray and stayed there for seven years. When I went back to Mali in 2007, my mother had died and my dad had married another woman. I loved my mother a lot, but I hardly knew her because I was a little boy when I left. I sometimes ask God why I didn't get to know my mother. To this day I've never understood it.
After my return home, I started learning French and playing football. When the violence started in 2012, my father took some money, closed down the shop and left for Senegal. I spoke to him a few times but then lost his number. At that time we didn’t have Facebook either, so I completely lost contact with him.
Then, in 2013, I went to Libya and worked as a mason for a year. A lot of my friends got killed there by street criminals. If they see you that you are coming home from work and you're carrying a bag, they attack you. They stab you, take your money and run away. The police had no control, the whole country was a mess.
In 2014 I paid to a smuggler to take me to Lampedusa and from there I was sent to a small village close to Rome. After almost a year in the refugee camp there, the Italian authorities told me that I could no longer stay there and that I should start taking care of myself. But I wasn'tt allowed to work so I had no other alternative but seek a better future in Germany. I spent half a year in Munich and then was sent to Berlin. I liked Berlin because I had made some friends and it's a big city. Now I only come back once a month to visit my friends and go to the discotheque.
After a month in Berlin I was transferred to Braunschweig to continue the asylum application process there. Everything here so far has been good and the people are nice. At first it wasn’t easy to adapt in the camp, it’s really big and there are lots of people from all over. But at the same time you are free: you can go to the city and walk around. There’s internet.
The only downside is that I don’t have any friends. When I get on the bus I know no one. Some people come up to me, ask me where I’m from, we have a small chat, they offer their help and we exchange numbers. But when I call after a few days, they don’t pick up. Or they tell me to meet at a certain time and then they don’t show up.
I don’t know what I want to do in the future. I pray every day; whatever God gives me I will accept. I just want to have a good life and a family. When I was a boy I used to play a lot of football. I still do it sometimes, but just for fun. There are some people at the camp with whom I get together and play, and that's really nice."
Photo by Boryana Ivanova