Ibrahim Al Bayati (25) is from Diyala, Iraq. He graduated from a medical university in Ukraine and then returned to Iraq to work as a dentist until ISIS attacked his hometown. After completing the Green light workshop in Vienna and in accord with the Dublin Regulation, he was deported to Zagreb, Croatia, where he first registered as an asylum seeker in the EU and where his application for asylum is currently being processed.
Ibrahim: Ok, my name is Ibrahim Al Bayati. I am from Iraq, from the province of Diyala. In November 2015, I decided to move from Iraq to Austria because the situation in Iraq was not so good since ISIS reached my city. So I planned to run away and reach Austria. I chose Vienna because I knew some people there. And it’s a safe city.
TBA21: How did you know about Austria or Vienna?
Ibrahim: I didn't know anything about Vienna and I also didn't know the exact location of Austria. I knew that there was a country called Austria and a city called Vienna, but when I decided to leave Iraq, I was searching for the best city to live, where I could have a really good life and I came up with Vienna. It’s such a nice city. Like, to live and have a good life in. And at the same time I discovered I have relatives, like distant relatives, who were also here.
TBA21: You also lived in Russia for a while?
Ibrahim: Yeah, I lived in Russia and in Ukraine, where I studied at a medical university.
Ibrahim: In Ukraine, I spent my last year there. After that, I went back to Iraq to work. But I was shocked at the beginning because the situation was not really stable and it was getting worse and worse by the day until ISIS entered the city and it got so bad you couldn't even go to the hospital to work. I was attacked by ISIS, which was the main reason why I left the country.
TBA21: How did you learn about Green light?
Ibrahim: It happened by coincidence [laughs]. Somebody said, “Come to work.” At the camp where I was, there were about a thousand people. Every day we would talk to each other and one day, while I was working as an interpreter for the Red Cross, Fatima from our project, came up to me and asked: “Do you want to work with Green light? Because I am going there every day and it’s a nice project.”
TBA21: What attracted you to the project?
Ibrahim: The first thing I was attracted to was just to work here, to be away from the camp [laughs]. Better to have something to do, to work and learn German. Better than sitting around with nothing to do in my room. And the second thing was that the people here are nice. Also the German course with Marianne, it was amazing and I didn’t feel it was too complicated, it was fun and I felt like I was studying at the same time and learning. Also, there was good food [laughing]. I spent my time here well. Also there was the free travel ticket. When I got the ticket I travelled all over Vienna as if I were flying: such freedom! [laughs]. There were so many good things here.
TBA21: What do you think about the idea that working together in a workshop can connect people, that art can create special places?
Ibrahim: For me, Green light as a project is something interesting, because for the first time in my life I saw how you can create something like a lamp. Before that, I have never seen in real life how things are made, and it also that attracts people and visitors.
TBA21: So also the production aspect of the project, you mean?
Ibrahim: Yeah, the process and the instruments we used. And also the stuff that was offered to us, the plans and the catalogues showing us how these things are made. To me all of this was new. I am a dentist, so I was not interested in art and I was really blind to these things. I don’t know about the people who are used to working with art, but when I walked in to the space, I found it interesting—and that gives you so much energy. Because when you finish your job, you have something tangible in your hands and it is beautiful. So this was the good feeling I got from the Green light.
TBA21: Did you get to meet many new people?
Ibrahim: I didn't actually have friends during the project. Only you were my friends—the team that worked with us. But, I mean, the visitors were interested in who we were and how we built these things. So they were not there to be friends with us—which is good, because I don’t have time to talk with them every day. But I explained to them how we came here and what we did and all these things.
TBA21: And what do you think about the Green light lamp?
Ibrahim: The lamps, I don’t exactly know how they will be used. Like, I don’t know the correct place for these lamps. Maybe at a restaurant, above the tables where you sit. The light coming from it is romantic. For me, this would be the correct placing. But at home I don’t know exactly where to put it. Maybe near the plants, you can put it on the floor and light the green plants at night. That’s nice. I don’t know where to put it because I have never seen something like it before, it’s a new concept to me. The light is not too strong but not weak. It’s in the middle. So I don’t know.
TBA21: When you think about the project, what do you think were the strong and weak points in it?
Ibrahim: A strong aspect of the project was the fact that we ended up with something useful. It wasn’t done for nothing. We did a lot of things which will keep us strong. A weakness of this project was that not everything was very organized and many things got mixed up. Maybe it’s the fact that it was a big team connecting about ten people, and everyone has a different idea and everyone is responsible for something else. It’s good that everyone had something to do, but it didn’t feel like the staff were acting together. I didn't feel all of you had one vision. Every person had a different idea about the project and it mixed up my thinking. I didn’t know how to react to all of you.
TBA21: Looking back on the project now, with your experience and everything you now know, if you were to meet a future Green light participant, what would you advise them?
Ibrahim: I would tell them, “You should have a big heart!” [laughs]. It’s not easy to understand the situation in the beginning. At first, you will feel stressed because you won’t know what to do, because it’s all new—I mean, it’s a struggle to fix the lamp, maybe something is wrong, maybe it’s not good enough, maybe the people you work with will say that it’s good but deep down inside they don’t feel happy about it either, they’re just trying to make you feel good and happy. So I would advise people who want to work with Green light to be strong and to be open and have a big heart to take everything in.
This interview was conducted by Clemens Rettenbacher on October 29, 2016.