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Zam, Azerbeidzjan

Who does not know her as the presenter of the television program 'Hello, Leiden!' on Sleutelstad TV? In the talk show devised by Zam, internationals in the region are given a stage, just as they get with this photography project. But we know little about the person herself. And she certainly has a stormy past.

“I have stopped dreaming. It's hard for me to see ten years into the future. Of course I have plans, but I don't dream anymore. After being an asylum seeker three times in my life, and having to start over just as many times, I prefer to live in the moment. Dreaming just doesn't make sense to me.”

“I ended up in the Netherlands through the ICORN project. This is an international collaboration between cities that shelter writers and journalists who are at risk in their own country and cannot do their job properly. In the Netherlands there are three cities that participate: Leiden, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The good thing about it is that you are safe for a while, and that you become part of a huge network of people who can help you.”

“I can't really work here as a journalist. I don't speak Dutch yet, hence the options are very limited. So, I now work for Ashoka, an organization that promotes impact making for social entrepreneurship. I also started the Little City Project. This is an initiative with which we welcome and support foreign writers, journalists and artists in Leiden. I am also studying psychology, because I want to help refugees processing their traumas. That is something that is often lacking.”

“You're a centipede,” I remark. “How do you relax?” “My grandmother was a herbalist. I remember her surrounded by plants. She was always making some kind of potion that I had to deliver to someone when I was a child. I personally love nature very much. I have been waiting for an allotment garden for two years. In the meantime, I help with gardening at the yoga centre in the Leidse Hout. When I do that, I lose track of time and I completely relax.”

In her mind she is in nature. “Oh wait, maybe I do have a dream,” she says suddenly. “It is for more cities in The Netherlands to join ICORN. That way we can welcome more writers and journalists who are struggling in their own countries, because of censorship and oppression.”


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