A Refugee’s Inside Story

Marzieh Kheir Khah is Mentor Sweden's office manager and has written a book about fleeing Afghanistan as a 19 year old refugee.

9 January 2023 | Blog

Marzieh interviewed on TV4 in Sweden about the book she wrote

Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to Sweden?

In October 2015, my family and I were forced to flee Afghanistan when the Taliban threatened to kill my father; after having killed my uncles. I was only 19 years old and planning to go to university. Instead, my family and I fled to Iran, but that wasn’t any better. So, we moved to Turkey. By this time, the Syrian refugee situation was at its height, and my father was unwell. So, rest of the family had to move on without him. It wasn’t easy to do that, and sometimes we had to risk our life for our future. After going to many other countries including Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Austria, and others, I eventually made it to Sweden (as did the rest of her family, and her father too).

How did you find/start at Mentor?

A friend recommended me. Mentor Sweden needed temporary assistance with administration, invoicing, and accounting. Since I had worked with accounting and bookkeeping before, I was happy to just fill in for two weeks, but the organization was so kind, and everyone had such interesting backgrounds. The work felt so special that I really wanted to stay. It was clearly mutual because after two weeks, I was offered a full-time position. Before coming to Mentor, I had never heard of the organization but had been thinking that if there was an organization that matched young people with mentors it would be so important. Then I found out that Mentor Sweden existed. What a coincidence!

Marzieh Kheir Khah was interviewed by TV4 in Sweden.
I didn’t have time to focus on writing. I was just trying to survive.

When did you write your book, and was it something you were planning on writing for a while?

Already from the beginning, I knew that my journey was something that I really wanted to write about. I needed to share this story with the world because unfortunately I will not be the last refugee who goes through something like this. But my focus was never the book, and it took longer than I thought to start. But finally in 2021, when my Swedish was good enough, I started writing. Mentor was actually one of the first supporters buying my book and giving me a forum to talk about it, which is great.

What was the writing process like?

Some days I could sit and write pages and pages, but some other days I could sit and stare at the laptop and nothing came out. Even if I had an idea, when I tried to write it down, it just wouldn’t come out. It was so emotional and difficult to write down many of my experiences. I could just sit and cry. I found some old papers from 2017 and 2018 when was writing to lawyers and places that help refugees. I was asking them to please help my family because I could not just sit there and watch them get sent back to Afghanistan. Going through those letters and thinking about it once again, was difficult. Expressing my feelings in a foreign language was hard and did not always translate, but I did get help with editing. She helped me a lot but didn’t change the tone of the story which was important to me.

What makes Mentor’s mission important to you?

When I was younger, I really needed someone in my life to help guide me through the goals that I had; maybe even offer a positive image of the future that I didn’t have. I think that is something that many young people need. There are many young people in the same situation as me and many in other difficult situations. They all need someone to talk to, who can help them out, and Mentor’s mission is to give them support, and we know that the most important thing is that every child and every young person deserves a safe life and productive future. That’s what Mentor is doing.

What are some of your hobbies?

I just found out that I like strength training! So, I train a lot. It’s my meditation. I also like being in nature a lot, hiking and just exploring. I love watching films and going to the cinema. I even make my own short films. I really like being creative and storytelling and you can tell stories in different ways.

For more information about Marzieh’s book or Mentor Sweden, please free to get in touch: [email protected]