Freedom from Torture - The Interview by Elif

The Interview by Elif

Write to Life says:

Some of Write to Life’s external artistic collaborations are instigated by Freedom from Torture; others come from approaches. In late 2016 theatre director Mark Maughan asked us to collaborate with him for his new play with writer Tim Cowbury, about the substantive asylum interview that determines the outcome of an asylum application. The resultant writing is a testimony to their resilience and their determination to help the public understand their experiences.Audiences throughout the tour of The Claim were able to listen to the stories as they emerged from the play; you can listen to them here.

Elif writes:

I joined Write to Life in 2017 and being part of the Freedom from Torture family has been a good experience because everybody can write what they think freely. I want to tell everybody about the interview process because I believe that all the United Kingdom is not like this. In the interview process, they treat you like a liar and this is very difficult. When people come into a country in pain, it is more painful when officers don’t believe their stories. The interviewers think you are paperwork, not human beings. But we are all human beings. I would like the people in the immigration system to have more humility and kindness and not just care about their career. I forgive them but I believe that the Home Office needs to change; people there need to believe the stories of refugees and to be kinder.

I went to see The Claim in January 2018. I didn’t listen to my recording because for me it is too difficult and I don’t want to remember. The performance was perfect – it was good to share my story because I believe we need to have more awareness of pain.

The Interview by Anonymous

I’m sitting here now and thinking about my second and long Home Office interview. Even now it is quite hard managing my feelings about that time, my pain about the interview. Maybe I will really be able to see how very desperate and helpless I was. I was like someone thrown out of the world.

I was alone, much as I would have been on leaving hell. Hell is Turkey and I didn’t want to go back there because of what might happen in this interview. It was very frightening.

Maybe I expected something more and different from the interview. I thought they were bound to believe me because I’d been in prison for years.

In the Turkish community, “interview” is translated as “court”. It was just an interview, but it was translated like that. To me, it looked like purgatory, not an interview but a court case.

It made me very worried because I had been in court in Turkey before and it was political. I had been convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison. I was just 20 years old, I hadn’t killed anyone or done anything like that. I was just a university student.

All the bad things that happened in the court in Turkey remained in my head. I did not realise that this interview was different. How could I?

Did I go alone to that address or did my cousin take me there? In any case, the important thing at that time is that they took me to a little room with a very big table and two men. Oh my god!

The room was the same as a police cell, small and with no window. I can’t stay somewhere with no window for a long time, I need to see the outside. But I couldn’t say anything.

They asked me many questions. How did the police rape me? How many men raped me? Could I give them any evidence proving this? Could I give them any evidence about the torture?

It was as if my body was shedding its skin. I wanted to say, ‘Stop it! I can’t go on, I can’t, I can’t!’

Why couldn’t they have been women? A woman interpreter and a woman Home Officer? I felt dead explaining about my rape to those men. I went to the toilet many times and washed my face. I didn’t know my rights. I wanted them to stop the interview, but they didn’t. I thought that, if I stopped telling them what had happened to me, they would send me back to hell in Turkey. I didn’t yet know that they were robots.

After the interview, I felt guilty, as though I deserved everything that had happened to me in my life; it was all my fault. Their body language and their questions made me feel guilty.

I had no one to share my feelings with. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. I felt like an empty vessel and only cried in my heart.

Read more about Write to Life’s involvement with The Claim and listen to the other writer’s pieces here.

All accompanying art for Write to Life’s 20 pieces for Refugee Week is by members of the Open Art Studio group at Freedom from Torture.

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