Thailand: young and alone in Bangkok - a story of survival
07 November 2011

In this self-portrait, Nikou wanted people to see that her eyes have lost hope. After months of living alone in Bangkok, she said she doesn't know how to retain hope that her life will get any better.
I don’t know what will be of my future. I would love to have a job but I can’t get it in here. I spent all the time at home because I’m afraid that the police will arrest me.
Nikou is 28. She fled Iran after being arrested during a protest and imprisoned without a trial for over a year. Now she is seeking asylum in Bangkok, waiting and hoping the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will declare her a refugee and resettle her to a new country.

Bangkok, 08 November 2011 – I was studying graphic design at one private university in Tehran. My hope was to get a job related to the arts. But they arrested me so I couldn’t finish my study. 

I was arrested by the Basij forces in 2009 because I took party in a Green protest. In Iran there’s not freedom of speech, but I wasn’t scared to attend the protest because many people were participating. I was sent to prison. While I was in prison they asked me if I was Muslim. I said no, that I just believe in God. But Muslim people did too many bad things to my family and to me so I cannot say that I’m a Muslim. But for the government if you’re not Muslim you deserve to die. 

I can’t stop my mind from thinking freely and differently. Everyone grows in fear in Iran because we know that the government does not tolerate anything that is against it. 

Survivng Iran prison

I was arrested on the 4th November 2009 but I was only brought in front on a judge only on the 29th January 2011. My mother requested to the judge that I be bailed in order to go to the hospital because I was not well. The judge allowed it.

I was supposed to go back for my second hearing in March so that they could finalize the charges against me. After been bailed out, I stayed in hospital for three weeks. While my parents were taking care of me I told them about the conditions in the prison. Torture. Beatings. They felt so sorry for me because they knew that there was nothing they could do to redress my situation. 

Instead of returning to court, I decided I had to leave. My older Brother already fled Iran as a refugee and was resettled. Now I had to do the same. My mother put some dresses in my bag and a lucky necklace. With my mom and my sister we said goodbye at home because they were too afraid to come to the airport. My sister’s husband and my dad took me to the airport.

I didn’t know anything about Thailand but my parents told me it was safer than Iran. I haven’t spoken with them since I have been here. The government tapes the conversation.

Bearing Bangkok

Now I live in Bangkok. I cannot sleep at night because I have nightmares. So I read and I sleep a little in the morning. I spend the rest of the day thinking about my family and how I unlucky I was. It’s very difficult to be alone here. I know I can’t go back to Iran but I’d love to be there with my family. Two weeks ago I was sick and no one took care of me. 

I don’t know what will be of my future. I would love to have a job but I can’t get it in here. I spent all the time at home because I’m afraid that the police will arrest me. I feel like a dead body. It’s very difficult for me not to know what UNHCR will decide. I cannot go back to my country. I feel like everyday is the same day. When I go to BRC (the Bangkok Refugee Centre where refugees and asylum seekers can get medical and financial assistance) I see the other asylum seekers -- they look so poor and sad and all so worried about their cases. 

I can’t have hope for the future because I don’t have anything now. I would like to be resettled with my brother, but I do not know what will happen to me.