Inside the Lives of Asylum Seekers in Germany

Becoming an Activist

SHAGHAYEGH, 30, is from Iran.

Fleeing political persecution, Shaghayegh came to Germany in 2013. Since then, she’s been active in organizing non-citizens in eastern Germany.

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Shaghayegh’s husband was an activist and blogger in Iran who wrote about the 2009 election and made films critical of Islam. He was sentenced to six months in jail and fled to Germany. Shaghayegh stayed behind.

A few months later, Shaghayegh grew concerned for her own safety in Iran. She used a forged passport to reach Germany. Her husband was staying in eastern Germany and she was placed in the south. Due to German laws for asylum seekers, they were not allowed to live together. They only had enough money to pay for one person’s German courses.

In 2014, they became politically active in Germany. Their non-citizen group protested receiving food packages (including red meat, which they cannot eat), and the travel restrictions placed on refugees.

During this time, they began learning more about refugee rights in Germany. “Basically political refugees don't have any place here,” Shaghayegh says. She received a letter rejecting her application for asylum because she could not prove that she would be unsafe if she went back to Iran. Her status in Germany is now “tolerated,” but she has not been accepted as a refugee.

Shaghayegh is an active member of Pro Asyl, an organization focusing on refugee rights in Germany, and considers herself to be a non-citizen, since she has not received official paperwork allowing her to reside in Germany.

Life as an asylum-seeker in Germany is “harsher than anyone can think,” Shaghayegh says. “It’s much more unfair than anyone can expect, and it’s much more inhuman than anyone can imagine.”