What freedom means to Kidane

Kidane - Don't let others decide - aeuoeu

Name: Kidane Kiflay Haile
Age: 18
Country of origin: Eritrea

What indisputably stands out most about Kidane’s appearance is his charming smile. His eyes seem to talk when he smiles. His mouth, however, doesn’t say that much. What he does say, though, cuts without exception straight to the point.

What would be your absolute dream, here, in the Netherlands?
There’s two things I would like to do in the near future: studying business marketing or becoming a barber. The former is because of my fondness for mathematics, the latter because of my neighbour in Eritrea, who was also a barber.

Kidane - Don't let others decide - aeuoeu

Do you think you can realize those dreams over here?
Yes, absolutely. Aside from the access to education the Netherlands provides, it provides something far more important: freedom. We can become whoever we want to be. I can study whatever I want. Here, we’re not forced to enter the draft (or dienstplicht) when we’re 18 either. That’s the main reason why many of us fled the country before turning 18.

What would freedom entail for you?
Democracy. To speak openly. In Eritrea, it is not easy to express yourself publicly. Apart from the weather, the degree of democracy would be the biggest difference between The Netherlands and Eritrea.

Kidane - Don't let others decide - aeuoeu

Given this difference, is there anything you would like to ask the Dutch?

Yes, I would like to ask for their understanding. We’re not fleeing our country for no reason. I know it is hard to relate to people one doesn’t know that well, but a little more compassion wouldn’t hurt. Let it be clear, I owe a great deal to people over here - they’ve been trying to understand and help me since I’ve arrived in the Netherlands. Asking for their understanding is therefore absolutely no offense.

Kidane - Don't let others decide - aeuoeu

Photography: Chavez van den Born
Supported by: Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland

Disclaimer: this interview was conducted in Dutch and has been translated and rewritten to English.