On the other side

Text and photos by Meri Shirzai

Arriving in Hungary as a migrant, without a network or the means to communicate, I was at the mercy of fate. My family and I left everything behind to start anew, witnessing the struggles and sense of helplessness that plague so many families like ours.

These experiences change you, making you wish to forget and move on. Yet, the issue of refugees and their rights is omnipresent – in the news, politics, and schools, often depicted negatively. However, realizing the privilege and power I hold, having navigated through these struggles, I knew I had to act.

The photo series I present captures the journey of a migrant girl overcoming obstacles to assist others like her. It’s a testament to our duty as migrants to speak out and take action for our peers. Documenting my daily life, intertwined with my work and passion for human rights, these images reflect the motivation that drives me – the faces, places, and children, our future, make the fight worthwhile.

This project came to my attention through a former teacher, reconnecting after years and highlighting the transition from seeking to providing help. This realization was a call to action, inspiring me to participate and, hopefully, inspire other migrant girls by demonstrating that success is achievable, regardless of obstacles.

Upon arriving in Hungary, unaware of its existence or language, I was initially silent. Yet, I chose to no longer be a bystander in my life, gradually using what words I knew to assert myself. My journey was supported by many who believed in me and also challenged by those who doubted me. This dichotomy only strengthened my resolve and clarity about my aspirations.

There’s a saying about people judging according to their limitations. It’s crucial to remember that their disbelief in your abilities reflects their insecurities, not your potential. Against many odds, I pursued education and opportunities out of curiosity and defiance of societal expectations, proving that limitations others set for me did not define my capabilities. Throughout, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by kindness and support, which I strive to pay forward, especially amid discussions on new EU migration policies. It’s imperative we use our voices for those still struggling to be heard.

The European elections, set for the 9th of June, mark a critical time. With growing challenges, it is essential for those of us who have found a voice to use it for the betterment.

In a world where trust in government is diminished, and human rights are under threat, our collective responsibility as migrants is to amplify our voices and take meaningful action. This narrative isn’t just mine; it’s a call to action for all who have faced adversity and emerged stronger, with the power to effect change.