Aref Yousefi left everything behind and chose freedom
Many people obliged to leave their countries for many reasons, including wars, intellectual, political and religious persecution, and the lack of freedom of opinion. Our guest in this number is Aref Yousefi. A 26-year-old young man, who came from Afghanistan where he owned a private company and worked in construction, but he was forced to leave everything behind for the sake of his faith and intellectual freedom. He chose to save his faith from intellectual persecution that he had received. Yousefi is one of the few immigrants who succeeded to manage themselves and start again in Sweden in a very short time. In this reportage Aref tells us about his arrival and starting in Sweden.
Why did you leave your country and come to Sweden?
– I was forced to leave my country and leave my work, my company and everything I suffered to created it so much. Because living as a new Christian is almost impossible in my country and in many other countries as well. Where religious freedom is just ink on paper. In these countries one has no right to have his own beliefs in God and faith. Those who choose their religion and beliefs are punished by the state, society and family. So in 2015 I decided to apply for asylum through the United Nations in Turkey. The idea was to register through the United Nations offices in the hope that I could be sent to another country. I traveled from Iran, the country I lived in for 11 years, and headed to Turkey with the help of smugglers. After I arrived to Turkey, I knew that it is not possible to register with the United Nations offices due to the war in Syria, and it is necessary to wait for at least 6 months so that we can submit an application for asylum and then wait several years until we send to other countries. Therefore, I decided to take the risk and travel by rubber boat to Greece. But Greece also did not want to receive asylum seekers and they asked me to leave the country within 29 days. During that time I was able to reach Sweden and I applied for asylum in Götebory , and I was placed in a camp in Revingeby, and then I was sent to Växjö.
Have you had difficulty integrating into Swedish society and learning Swedish?
– When I came to Växjö I did not know one letter in Swedish at all, although I stayed in Sweden for more than 4 months, but during the period of applying for asylum and waiting for residency, the opportunity to learn it was not available. In Växjö I went to the Red Cross where I had a Swedish language course, and I also went to the library where two young men from Afghanistan were giving Swedish lessons to asylum seekers. I learned the basics in both places. I tried to practice the language in spårkcafe that are located in different places. Through spårkcafe and communication with people, I learned the language fairly quickly and understood it. After that I started teaching the Swedish language to others after 8 months and worked as a volunteer in the Studiefrämjandet and Red Cross. I think Swedish is not difficult to learn, but the most difficult is practicing Swedish with the Swedes. Especially in the Arby region. Many immigrants face difficulty in making Swedish friends and practicing the language with them, and this clearly affects the language learning. But my integration in general was very good and I feel I am a part of Swedish society today, I have my partner, my friends, my association, my work. But this does not mean that there are no difficulties and headwinds. I think the headwinds and challenges are good for us humans, because we can develop ourselves. I am also trust God because He has good plans for me.
What are you doing today?
– I have been worked since 2018 as a business developer at Studiefrämjandet Växjö. I work with integration and social issues.
What are the activities provided by Studiofrämjandet for newcomers and what is its purpose?
– Since 2016, the Studiefrämjandet has been working on integration and the new Växjöbo. My colleague Frank Jonelid started working with music for asylum-seekers and "chatting and playing". Many came from the largest refugee camp in Vecchota Bota Place, played music and talked about all their problems. After that we started with language courses, spårkcafe and a lot of other activities. Today, We have Swedish courses, learning music, spårkcafe, parenting loved children, basic IT courses and cycling courses. During the asylum and waiting period for residency, one cannot join the Swedish Language for Foreigners (SFI), so the state mandated the Association for Study and Popular Secondary Schools to teach the primary language of asylum seekers, so that they could integrate into society while waiting for their residency.
– We also manage operations funded by Länsstyrelsen with the aim of promoting new immigrants parenthood and facilitating their founding process. For example, we have a project in which many asylum seekers participated and wrote a book about their journey and experiences in Swedish society. The book, entitled " Vi som valde Sverige", will be published next month and will be available to read to everyone who works with integration, interested in integration, SFI teachers, and government officials. Other projects under implementation in some of the county municipalities are information technology, and it aim to learn how to use computers and electronic services in Sweden. In addition, cycling courses for those who can not ride a bike.
You participated in presenting a religious program. What is the idea of the program and what is the goal?
– The program is part of Kristen Närradio Växjö, presented with Kasra Saadat Program Manager. The program is a radio program for Dari Christians and Farsi speakers in Växjö and Sweden as well as in other parts of the world. We talk on the program about the love of God with our listeners, broadcast songs of praise, share evidence, and support Christian persecuted in other countries.
What is your plan for the future?
– I am trying to read theology from a distance, and I want to continue my university studies as well. What I haven't decided yet is to start a family.
What is your advice to newcomers?
– My advice to those who recently came to Sweden first: Don't waste time waiting, start learning the language because language is the key to society. When you come to a new country, there are opportunities and difficulties at the same time, not only focusing on the difficulties, but focus more on the available opportunities. Rate yourself and on that basis prepare your plan! Nobody knows your experience or abilities more than you. Ask for help if you need it. The community helps you and your family to make you feel stable. There are a lot of community and government activities dedicated to helping you. Finally, I advise you to read the book "Vi som valde Sverige". The book tells about the experiences of many immigrants that you can benefit from it.