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The best thing about Joen­suu is free­dom 

Mohammad Ali Heidari found freedom in Joensuu

“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.

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