10 questions with Ali Agha (27)
From: Kandahar, Afghanistan
At the time of this interview he had been living at City Plaza since: 09/16
By Ellen Downes Thurs 20 Jan 2022
On the 18th of January 2017 I photographed and interviewed Ali while he was living 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.
City Plaza is the sun. It gives light to refugees from different countries. It is a home of hope.
Hope, friendship, home
The difference is that in camps we are treated as refugees, as if we all came from jungles not countries. From the first day that I arrived at City Plaza I have been treated as a human being. I said ‘I’m a Ahmed Agha, a refugee from Afghanistan’ and Olga (member of the communication team at City Plaza) told me, ‘no, you are human, like everyone else’. She gave me hope. I felt that I am really something again, at the camps I had felt that I was nothing.
The kitchen. In the kitchen I’m working as volunteer, I help the chef. In the kitchen I feel happy. I’m not only washing dishes or preparing food, I’m helping 400 refugees, for this reason I have a huge feeling of happiness in this place.
I don’t have dreams, I have aims: to be healthy and to have an education. My want for the future is for everyone to join together to save humanity.
I will miss everyone. My home, my family, my friends my kitchen here. I will miss everyone.
I participate in all the shifts here, working in the kitchen, cleaning the building. I also work with volunteers to help with the children’s activities.
In Kurdish I can say ‘how are you?, I’m fine, and you?’. In Arabic I can say the same and of course I know the word that everyone knows here, habibi (my love in Arabic).
The first day of Eid. When I woke up I was a little upset because I wasn’t with my family. But when I went downstairs and everyone greeted me with happiness and love, I realised that I would be spending this special day with my City Plaza family.
Actually, I have a message to everyone who will read this: Imagine if you can that you are a refugee, that you have had to flee your country, that your family has been forced to separate, that your biggest want in the world is to have a home and to be safe. Please join us in solidarity. I believe that if everyone stands together in solidarity, refugees included, that we can save humanity, create hope and together build a brighter future. Humanity. Humanity. Humanity.
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.