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Arash is a 34 year old refugee from Iran and wants to share his story. He doesn’t really speak Dutch well, but he is really doing his best to learn the language. He craves contact with others.

How do you experience your stay in the Netherlands?

I have studied economics in Iran and had a good job there. But I fled to live more freely. As a christian I got in trouble with the police increasingly and saw no future for myself anymore in my country. With a fake passport and help from a people smuggler I flew via Russia to the Netherlands. Hoping for the best.

I have been here for a year and four months now. At first I stayed for a while in the refugee centre in Den Helder, but I did not feel at home. I do feel at home here in Utrecht, but sadly I do not have a permanent residence. Sometimes I sleep with friends and acquaintances, but regularly also on the street when there is no other way. I have registered for the night shelter, but I still have to wait for four months. I want to live and work in the Netherlands, but it is difficult without papers.

What have you discovered in the time of you being here?

I would love to stay here, but my future is still uncertain. Not just because of my papers, but also because I am sick. Six years ago I had a car accident. I still have a painful leg and I walk with difficulty. I do not get medication, because it is unclear what is wrong with me. I need a lot of rest and can’t walk too much. But how can you rest properly without a roof over your head?

During the day I am well sheltered. At Villa Vrede, but also at the Sint Jozefkerk and the Rafaëlkerk. Pastor Chris and pastor Koos are important people to me. They help by really listening to me and by doing Bible study with me. I am real glad with their support.

What does Villa Vrede mean to you?

I do volunteer work at Villa Vrede, I cook, make coffee and clean. I am learning Dutch here and I want to learn that real bad to more easily make contact.

Which talents do you have?

In the past in Iran I worked in an office in a factory and had to place orders in a computer. But I like social work much more. To make contact with the Dutch and others to understand their culture better. I also like to read books and play billiards. But that is more of a hobby.

What would you like to pass on to others?

I would like to delve into other cultures and people and give people something from my Iranian culture. I find that exchange important. We are all people  who can mean something to each other.

What would you do if you were mayor of Utrecht or Prime Minister of the Netherlands?

That is a difficult question on which I do not have an answer. Right now I see no way whatsoever to change something. I cannot picture that.

 What is your hope for the future?

I hope to get a permanent residence in Utrecht without a chance of eviction, that I can study here and work here. Meanwhile I have a pretty big network in Utrecht, I know several people in the Catholic Church. But I don’t want to ask too much of them. I wait patiently for what comes my way. I have faith.

(Interview: Gottfrid van Eck, PR volunteer at Villa Vrede)