Malek’s Story

I left Iran in a rush for refuge in Turkey, I had given it only one week’s thought. I had no other choice.  I couldn’t continue living in Iran anymore.  I brought a few months of savings with me, not nearly enough.  The Turkish authorities told me to live in Kayseri, one of the cities that refugees are asked to live in.

My first meeting with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) in Ankara was three months after I arrived.  After five months I went for a second interview.  They recognized me as a refugee.

After my first six months of living in Turkey I had run out of money and my roommates did not want to share their place with me anymore. Thankfully I had good friends who were very generous in sharing their apartment with me and paying for my food.

My first thought when I heard that there was a group of five people who were interested in sponsoring me was ‘thank god!’ If this group is interested in helping me then maybe my waiting period before I can resettle in a Canada can be reduced and I can work again.

When I first met the group I had done some research and wanted to know about the weather, about the application process for permanent residency, and about what it was like to live as a gay person in Winnipeg.  My first meeting with the group was about seven months after I arrived in Turkey.  We met by video conference call.   I wondered why all the five people in the group were in such a small room. They were also all wearing more clothes than I was used to seeing on people in someone’s home.  I got a good feeling from all of them.

The group of five members and I asked the UNHCR to refer my case to the Canadian embassy for resettlement there.

After that I had regular contact with two people in the group.  We met weekly on Skype and also talked by instant messaging, often daily.  I was developing a friendship.

Two members of the group offered to help with living expenses while we were all waiting for the Canadian embassy to call me for an interview.

I was finally invited to an interview at the Canadian embassy about 14 months after arrival in Turkey.  I knew things were going well because they told me to go a medical exam the next day.  They only do that if you pass the interview.

They told me to bring my passport to them a few weeks after the interview.  At that time they told me “Welcome to Canada”, but warned me it would take another year or so before I was offered a flight. Then another period of waiting began.

There were a lot of other steps, but three months after that I was on a flight to Winnipeg.

When I left Turkey I was scared and I knew I was going to miss friends that I made there.  I was very excited to see what it was like on the other side of the aquarium.  I looked forward to meeting my friends in Winnipeg.

My flight lasted 20 hours.  When I met my friends at the airport, my fear disappeared.  I was so happy to see them.  The group had a little party to celebrate my arrival.

I stayed with two people in the group that I got to know as I lived with them for three months while we looked for a more permanent place to live.

I feel very supported by every member of the group.  They helped me a lot.  I completed two years of full time English classes and have a full-time work.

Now that I am in Canada I rarely think about being gay.  It is not like before.  I am not scared anymore.