#WomenInScience: Feriste


“My husband is the first person in my life, who pushes me to continue my studies”

Feriste, 25, from Afghanistan, along with her husband and daughter, have been living in Greece for the last 2.5 years. Their daughter was born here. If the Greek law was different, she would have taken the Greek citizenship. We all met one afternoon at SolidarityNow’s Thessaloniki Solidarity Center. Her daughter was on her father’s arms, playing with coloring pencils, giving us shy smiles and trying to communicate with us in every way. Feriste, proud of her family, spoke to us about her life in Afghanistan, her studies, and Greece, her potential new country.

Life is full of equations, operations and imagination as well as mathematics. “At first, mathematics has to do with numbers, but when you get deeper, you have to use your imagination. You must have in your mind a 3-D photo to understand them. But to be able to see it, you need to be able to use your imagination”, says Feriste, who has studied mathematics. She is an only daughter -she has 3 brothers- and is the only one in her family who went to University. Although her mother, has only been in school for 3 years and her father for 8 years, they both encouraged her to follow her dreams.

“At first it was difficult to understand mathematics because of my country’s education system. Many times we didn’t have professors. As a result, the older students were the ones teaching”, she notes. The things have improved in the University, but there were other problems, bombs, attacks, a scenery of war. Very often, her parents were afraid of her life, but Feriste insisted and continued her studies; in 2016 she got her degree and then she got married. With her husband they met at the University, they were fellow students. “When I was a child, my dream was to become an educated and useful woman. My parents always supported me, and I learned many things from them. That’s why I wanted to study and help my family for all these difficulties they have gone through”, she emphasizes.

“After graduation, my father first came and told me that this is not the time to search for a job. I was very disappointed. I was studying so many years to stay home, but I couldn’t do anything about it”, she points out. Sometimes mathematics can lead you to dead ends, and that’s where the imagination comes in. Together with her husband they left Afghanistan and travelled to Iran. There, her husband worked as a farmer in the fields. “Early enough we realized that there was no future for us in Iran. For Afghans, Iran is not an easy country”, she adds. They came to Greece in October 2017. Her only worry was to be in a country where they would feel free and they would have a prospect of creating a better future. “Now that we are here, it is not always easy to pursue our dream”, she says.

Feriste and her family live in an independent apartment ran by an organization, in Thessaloniki. Their relationship with SolidarityNow began a year ago when they came to the Blue Refugee Center to attend Greek lessons. “There we could leave our daughter in the women’s space and at the same time attend the lessons. We also talked to the employability advisor, but it is very difficult to find a job in Greece; everyone wants you to speak Greek. The team at the Center was very polite and helpful, but we needed to take intensive language lessons”, she explains.

Today, Feriste attends Greek courses at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, while her husband is taking after of their daughter. “My husband is the first person in my life who pushes me to continue my studies”, she undernotes. We ask Feriste what she wishes for her future. Her dreams focus on education: “We want to be in a place where we can continue our studies. Because things in Afghanistan were not easy for us. I wish for our daughter, for our children to have an easier life”.

* The Blue Refugee Center is supported by UNHCR GREECE and funded by EU.

** Thessaloniki Solidarity Center was established and is supported by Open Society Foundations.