19/01/17 Saeed

10 questions with: Saeed Agha Jafari (28), Saeed was at City Plaza with his wife and their 3 children, (3 years old, 1 year old and 12 weeks old)
From: Logar, Afghanistan
At the time of this interview he had been living at City Plaza since: 11/16

By Ellen Downes
Wed 19 Jan 2022

On the 19th of January 2017 I photographed and interviewed Saeed while he was living with his wife and 3 children in City Plaza Refugee Accommodation and Solidarity Space in Athens. We were at the time living there together among 400 refugees and activists. Here is our interview from 5 years ago today.

What does City Plaza mean to you?

City Plaza means security. My family lives in good conditions here. We feel like we are in our home. We have a doctor, enough food. Yes, City Plaza for us means security and a home.

3 words to describe the experience of living with 400 others at City Plaza:

Happiness, friendship, humanity

For you what is the main difference between the refugee camps and City Plaza?

In the camps we were treated in an inhumane way. Living in a tent with my wife and small children, with poor food, it wasn’t good for us. At City Plaza we are safe and most of all we are treated in a fair way.

Where is your favourite place to be at City Plaza?

The kitchen. I love to be in the kitchen because it’s where I’m busy, working alongside volunteers, preparing food, washing the dishes. I like the feeling of being busy.

What are your hopes for your future?

I hope when the borders are open again that my family can find a home in another European country. I also want to work again (Saeed was in the army in the Bermel Valley in Afghanistan and also worked as a waiter in England in 2010). Maybe I will find work in as a waiter. I want to support my family, I don’t want to rely on money from any government. And I want my children to have an education.

What will you miss about City Plaza?

I will miss the people here. We have had support through everything, especially at the hospital when my wife gave birth.

How do you contribute towards the running of City Plaza?

I love to participate in all the day to day jobs at City Plaza. I clean, I work in the kitchen and I go to meetings.

Have you learnt any words here in the languages of refugees from other countries?

In Urdu and Arabic I can say ‘hello, how are you?’ and ‘I’m fine, and you?’.

What is your best memory so far at City Plaza?

For me every day becomes the best memory. Every day I see the happiness of everyone living all together.

City Plaza is supported entirely by donations from around the world . What does solidarity mean to you?

We are all human. We all deserve human rights. We need our humanity.

I believe that we should all come together, everyone, everywhere, refugees included. To have real humanity in the world, we have to fight together, talk together and live together.

Detail of the day:

Today, as with every day at City Plaza, I am thankful that my wife, my children and I are healthy and together. This morning I gave my baby daughter a bath and she looked at me and laughed a lot. This was a beautiful moment.

City Plaza is a hotel in the heart of Athens. It had been empty and closed for 8 years, then in 2015 its doors were reopened. Europe had just closed its borders leaving 65,000 refugees trapped in Greece. Activists occupied the building and madturned it into a home for 400 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine & Pakistan. It provided a safe and dignified alternative to detention centres and camps.

From 2015-2019 this 7 floor building provided a safe and dignified alternative to the inhumane conditions of camps in Greece. City Plaza a refugee accommodation space may now be closed, but its spirit will always live on. It will always exist as an example of how peaceful and constructive a way it is possible to welcome refugees.