Extraordinary story of an Algerian refugee who is helping the homelessPadraig Conlon 27 Jan 2023
Mustafa is one of the volunteers with Tiglin at the Lighthouse, Pearse Street.
He spoke to Allen Bobinac, Service Manager with Tiglin, about his life and experiences in both Algeria and Ireland, reminding us of the importance of being kind to everyone and working together. This is what he had to say:
Algeria is a very good country from the environmental aspect.
However, the political and economic situation is very bad.
From the media’s perspective, Algeria is shown as beautiful and idyllic, but it’s a stark contrast if you live there.
Although I am from Algeria, I am not Arab. I am a Berber [Berbers are the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa] from a small tribe.
The Arabs are the majority, and they dominate every level of Algerian society, from small business owners to the highest levels of government.
For that reason, there is much pressure on my people.
We have our customs, language and tradition, and the government wants to control and make us adopt their ways.
Although I speak Arabian, if I were to speak in my native language to my countrymen, they would not understand me.
We inhabited present-day Algeria before the Arab expansion and their subsequent domination of North Africa. We even have our calendar. According to it, this is the year 2973.
It is usual for Berbers to marry Arabs and vice versa and for us to live together, but the division comes from the government and the policies they set.
We don’t have any rights in Algeria.
In 2019 we protested every day in front of the government buildings to get equal rights.
There were public gatherings of up to a million people. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we were not able to continue the demonstrations.
Soon the Arabs in Algeria also joined us in the fight for our rights, but that has all stopped now.
It didn’t take long for the Algerian police to start “beating up” protestors with bats during these peaceful demonstrations.
I was arrested and taken to the police station three times.
The first time they took me, they kept me there for a day while they put me in a barrel full of petrol and sewage.
They started beating me until I was vomiting blood. They also used electric shocks…
The second time they put me in a freezer alone for an hour and a half, I was extremely cold.
I heard people in other freezers as well.
The third time they put my head underwater, I couldn’t keep my breath for that long, so I swallowed some sewage water.
This time one of the policemen urinated on me.
After all these efforts, things have not changed for the positive.
In 2021, the area of Berber was burned down, and many innocent people and children died.
Many people died.
The fire burned for two days. I tried to help as many people as I could. I remember picking up a body, and the arms were dangling.
That is when I realised that one of my neighbours was dead. There were people with severe burns. I saw people with visible bones because of the severity of the burns.
I don’t believe this was a natural disaster.
My father saw a helicopter on the day of the fire.
It was flying very low, spreading a powder substance.
Even when using water, I couldn’t stop the fire from spreading.
I was worried that if I went to a police station, I would be taken away and unable to leave.
That is when I decided I would leave Algeria.
I arrived in Ireland as a refugee in late 2022. The first place I walked into was the Lighthouse on Pearse Street.
I came with a friend, I had some food and tea, and I left.
I remember thinking after I left that I really liked the atmosphere in the place.
When I returned the next day, I asked if there was any work I could do to help out.
I came in every day with the same request for the next 10 days. I felt comfortable here.
I felt like everyone that works here, the manager, people in the office…on the floor… everyone is the same, everyone is equal. I felt like I was at home here.
After 10 days, I was told, “yes, can you come back tomorrow”?
That was a gift for me. I was delighted to receive that news.
Here in Ireland, people are very friendly and open.
You can enjoy your life. As long as you work hard and are doing your best, it doesn’t matter where you are from.
Whether you are rich or poor, we are all equal.
This has to be implemented in Algeria because there is a lot of division, discrimination and racism.
The knowledge I can bring from Algeria that can be used in Ireland is to spend more time with family.
In Algeria, it is normal for multiple generations of a family to live together, grandparents and grandchildren, in one household, all spending a lot of time together.