“Call me Heidari, it sounds Finnish,” says Afghan-born Joensuu resident Mohammad Ali Heidari.
Mohammad Ali Heidari came from Afghanistan to Finland in 2015 as an asylum seeker.
The then 40-year-old Heidari was initially settled in Jyväskylä, where he began Finnish comprehensive school. Learning the language was imperative, as Heidari wanted to stay in Finland permanently.
Heidari identifies as an atheist, which is prohibited in Afghanistan. “There, everyone must be Muslim, but I don’t believe in anything,” Heidari says.
For the first few years in Finland, Heidari was afraid to tell anyone about his religious beliefs or lack thereof. In his home country, it would have gotten him into trouble, and he wasn’t yet aware of Finnish freedom of religion.
“Then, in Jyväskylä, an acquaintance told me that according to Finnish law, you don’t have to believe in anything, and it changed my life.”
Heidari describes how he was born again in Finland when he understood how freely he could think here.
Mohammad Ali Heidari says he was born again in Finland and fell in love with Joensuu.
Work and looking for friends
Heidari, who was trained as an electrician in Afghanistan, wanted to build a new life in Finland, which is why acquiring language skills was a priority. Today, he speaks the language fluently.
“I don’t have a nickname, but you can call me Heidari, it sounds Finnish,” he says, laughing.
In 2019, Heidari applied for and got a job with KKR Steel in the town of Ylämylly. He continues to work there. His shifts are ten hours long, and he has little time for hobbies.
Heidari, who lives in Noljakka, Joensuu, says that he sees his coworkers and his fellow Afghans mainly at weekends. “On weekdays I am tired after work, I go for walks in the woods, but that’s all I do.”
Dreaming of homeownership
Heidari says his lack of hobbies hinders him from meeting other people.
It would be nice to have Finnish friends, but it has been a bit difficult to get to know Finns, Heidari says.
Heidari wants to live in Joensuu for the rest of his life and dreams of continuing his education.
“I have skills as an electrician and a welder, and I also understand car mechanics. I haven’t decided what I want to specialise in yet.”
Heidari has lived at three different addresses in Joensuu, and he compliments all his neighbours.
“I often come home from work at night, but I’ve always been able to sleep peacefully, and the neighbours haven’t bothered me. I’ve had nice neighbours.”
“I’d love to be able to buy a home in Joensuu,” Heidari says.