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Refugee stories


Simah is a young Iraqi woman in her early twenties. In 2016, she fled with her brother to escape the war in their home country. Still in Iraq, she completed her first four years of school, but was not allowed to work there. The reason she gives is that parents in Iraq don’t like to let their girls out of the house. Now she wants to learn at least German and go to work here as soon as possible.

But before they arrived here, Simah and her brother were on the run for over a month – and several days of that on foot. And: Simah is still visibly shocked and traumatised by her experiences. When she talks about how a small boat brought them from Turkey to Greece, she has tears in her eyes. The journey took four days – with the boat having to navigate one day and one night through a heavy storm that shook the passengers so badly they didn’t know if they would make it through the night. Finally arriving in Germany, they felt exhausted but hugely relieved. Simah says she enjoys that everything is safe and quiet in Germany. The only downer is the family her brother and sister have left and miss so much.

Simah does not want to go back to Iraq – the fear is too great. She heard about the “INTEGRA” project from another mother and is determined to take part in order to learn German. Now Simah is a permanent participant and is very happy. She also finds it good that she can exchange ideas with other women in the course. It makes it easier for her to come to terms with the past.


Bilkis has been here in Germany for 10 years and has six children. She was married at the age of 15. When asked if that was too early, she replies that it is customary in Iraq to marry at 13 or 14. At that time, her family had fled because of the war and left everything behind. All the money was paid to a “trafficker” to make sure that the whole family would be safe. That’s how they got to Greece by sea.

In the beginning, Bilkis’ children were still small and there was no time left for German lessons. But now that the children are bigger and more independent, she can finally learn German through the childcare offered.

In the meantime, she already understands German quite well, but would like to improve further in order to be better understood when going to the doctor or shopping. At the moment, she cannot imagine returning to Iraq, although she has a great longing for her relatives and the village where she grew up.


Sanaa is a young mother and has four children aged six to 15. She came to Germany in 2016 and previously attended school in Iraq for six years. In the “INTEGRA” project, she is learning German diligently and her pronunciation has also improved a lot. She is happy that her children can attend school normally in Germany and that the whole family can live in safety. She herself does not want to return to Iraq, where chaos reigns.

Sanaa is happy that she is allowed to attend the German course at INTEGRA and that her children are also looked after during the German course. Without the childcare, she would not have come to the course. Otherwise, she says, learning German would be even more difficult for her.