Tumor, wheelchair, but still hopeful

Since Nazima’s reasons for applying for asylum were so obvious, we could not imagine that anything could go wrong, but it turned out differently. For almost nine months (!) the procedure was in limbo, during which time she was repeatedly insulted by fellow Afghans and other Muslims in the refugee shelter for wearing her hair down (!!!). The uncertainty and worry about her family – who had fled to Pakistan but no longer had a visa there – plus the complete powerlessness in her situation pushed Nazima into severe depression. After the official hearing finally took place, she called me euphorically: the “decision-maker” of the BAMF (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees) had promised her the maximum possible three-year residence permit and – of course – political asylum. A week later, an official of the same office cancelled the decision and announced the imminent deportation to Italy: panic for Nazima, panic for us helpers… which subsided a little when it turned out that the Meloni government is so hostile to migrants that it does not take back refugees who have entered the country. The deportation to Italy would not happen, she reassured us, but Nazima’s depression worsened to the point of paralysis on the right side of her body.

In the end – and with the help of a lawyer, who could be paid from the donations – the administrative court overturned the deportation order and made the same quasi Solomonic judgment, as it is usual in these cases: asylum application rejected, because the Dublin Convention is now valid law, but recognized as a political refugee and three years of residence, the same rights as with granted asylum. Nevertheless a sh…situation, in my opinion: if you are only allowed to stay because the others don’t want to take you back, how is anyone supposed to feel? Like a rejected amazon return?!!!

In the meantime, her family had also made their way to Germany, yet Nazima was getting worse and worse, the depression was increasing, she herself was losing weight, plus the mysterious paralysis symptoms on the right side of her body. What WAS that?! When a CT scan was inconclusive, she googled her symptoms and the diagnosis was, “Maybe a brain tumor?”

It was indeed a tumor, it had also caused the paralyses, there would not have been much time left. The tumor was in the middle of the brain, the risky operation succeeded – and it was a benign, i.e. non-metastasizing tumor. However, the paralyses became more severe at first. Currently – I am writing this in October ’23 – Nazima is in a rehabilitation clinic near Frankfurt and is in a wheelchair: from bad to worse. But the doctors are optimistic that the paralysis will go back completely. What a crazy dramatic fate: almost deported, finally recognized and then almost dying of a brain tumor, which she diagnosed herself (!) with the help of Google (!!).

When her life in Kabul was going really well, Nazima got a tattoo: No risk, no story. She had it signed over: “Enough story and enough risk this was!” she says. By the way, the interview Tim and I shot with her back then is pretty much the greatest thing I’ve ever had the privilege of doing in 25 years as a filmmaker. It’s on Nazima.org.

Nazima is currently living on state benefits, but donations are still helpful: it would be nice if enough money could be collected so that she can go skiing for a few days or go rock climbing again sometime – if the rehab is successful.