Ali’s journey (June 13, 2018): The long journey back. Baghdad feels like a sauna

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Twenty-five days have passed since Ali,* 22, who speaks on condition of anonymity, “voluntarily” returned to Iraq from Finland. Sometimes the journey back to where you were once from is longer than the one that took you to foreign lands. The first journey fueled by hope and the other one back to your former homeland with question marks and doubts.  

Below is the first message I received from Ali when he landed in Baghdad on May 21:

Baghdad sometimes feels like a sauna, according to Ali.

He continues (the comment was lightly edited) in a message dated May 23:

“Well yeah it is so exhausting [the journey back], but that feeling when you see ur mom after long, long time it’s the best feeling in the world; [it’s the same feeling when you] also my brother and some friends, but still, for sure, there’s that feeling of not being safe etc.. it makes me think too much but I don’t wanna think of it, like it’s like that and [there is] nothing i can do so.. but i feel good and all good for now. And also i feel like it’s been 100 years when i was here last time and things are not the same…”

This evening when I spoke to Ali he repeated what he said in Finland and on his return to Baghdad: “Even if I’m here I still don’t believe that I’m back. It’s a weird feeling because I never saw myself returning.”

Ali said that he impressions of Baghdad after almost a three-year stay in Finland has not changed.  He said that the political situation is horrible, there is violence, no future and that “a lot of bad things can happen.”

Ali plans to go to Turkey and get married to his future wife.

“From what I have heard, there are a lot of Finnish wives that get married to Iraqis in Turkey,” he said. “With the papers and the legalizations, interviews at the Finnish embassy in Ankara, I suspect that I will be with my future wife in Finland in September 2019.”

Ali said that even if an Iraqi marries a Finn, there are no guarantees that you will get a visa to Finland soon.

“The whole process is a long one,” he continued. “I know of a case where [an Iraqi] man has been waiting for a year to get his visa to Finland.”

Ali said that the things he misses most in Finland are his girlfriend and friends.

“I miss the feeling of walking outside and feeling safe,” he said. “Here you don’t know what can happen. A bomb can explode and kill a lot of people like what happened recently in Sadr City [Baghdad].”

Ali admitted that he still sees recurring nightmares and suffers from headaches. One of these is of the Finnish police deporting him back to Iraq.

“I have these types of nightmares even if I am in Iraq,” he added. “I know that the Finnish police do their job, but it is wrong when they detained me and locked me up at the Joutseno [immigration removal center]. They made me feel like a criminal.”

* See also: