We need bridges that connect, not the walls that separate
A few days ago, I woke up as usual and got ready to go to my class. As I walked along, I noticed some bulldozers and many workers working by the back gate, constructing something. They had already laid down some long, red metal rods. When I asked them about them, they told me that they were going to build a wall all around the camp. They also told me that wall would be 3 meters high and the project would finish in a month.
The Ritsona camp has been an open structure for years. It should not, under any circumstance, become a closed structure. This assertion is not based on a theoretical and idle consideration of the
concept of detention. It is based on the paramount concept of social integration as a policy and aspiration for immigrants and refugees. A closed camp not only makes the goal of integration with the local society impossible, it also violates the most basic human rights of the inhabitants of the camp and deprives
them of that minimum freedom of movement they have had. The people of Ritsona have not committed any crime for which they need to be kept apart from the rest of the world around them. The people of Ritsona need to be seen and acknowledged in their humanity and the rights that derive from their humanity.
Silence reigns in the camp. The only pre-occupation of all the people relates to their interviews and the process of their asylum applications. Very few of them, if any, know about the construction of the wall. No announcement has been made in this regard.
What they might be aware of is that the minister of immigration, Mitarachis, has declared that only the camps on the Greek islands will become closed structures.
The money spent on the construction of walls could be used, instead, to make a better life for those living in the camps, a life that safeguards the integrity and dignity the people. It could be used to cover their
medical needs, their educational needs, their psychological needs. There is no justification for walls that imprison and stigmatise those who, leaving behind threatening existences, sought refuge in this country.
These walls should never become a reality. We should not become prisoners with no offence or crime. We should all come together and, united, standup against it.
Give us your support. Give us your solidarity. Don’t allow them to cut us off. Don’t accept this indignity of exclusion, of violation of rights, of injustice.
After a bomb attack, in the city of Herat, Afghanistan, which injured my leg terribly, I went to Iran. The doctors there wanted to amputate my leg. Luckily for me, there were some American doctors who did not agree and only operated on it. For five months after the operation, I had to use crutches and, after that period, I could start walking properly.
At that point, I decided to stay in Iran because I could find a job there. My family did not agree with my decision and were very displeased. The truth is that I was dealing with many difficulties, with many problems: I was not given an identity card; I had no access to social benefits and no access to education and health care. Not succeeding to get an identity card, I was disappointed and discouraged and felt humiliated by the reactions of the people around me.
I have many bitter memories from my life in Iran. The worst one is the treatment I faced when I went to buy bread from the bakery. The police saw me and started chasing me. Somehow, I managed to ran into the building where I worked. The police followed me inside and asked my fellow workers whether they knew and saw me entering. Thank God, they directed them away from my hiding place and I was rescued. That incident was very stressful and scared me terribly. I really didn’t want to be arrested and be deported back to Afghanistan.
I was working in Iran for 4 years, but I was not content at all and could not envision a decent future for me in that country. It was then that I spoke with a smuggler and arranged for me and some of my friends to cross the Iranian border into Turkey. While passing the border, the police shot on us.
Fortunately none was injured. What a horrible scene!
Three months after I arrived in Turkey, I started working in a restaurant that was run by Turkish people in Van city. My salary was satisfactory, but I had to work like a machine to survive. That could not be called a life. I worked for three years in that restaurant, but there was no change in my life. I just went on and on, without any improvement in the conditions of my life. Every day
was the repetition of the previous one. I felt powerless with no strength, no desire or inspiration to continue that life.
Nevertheless, during those three years, I managed to put aside some money and I decided to use my savings to pay smugglers to get me out of Turkey.
After spending 3 nights in a forest my group was arrested by the police. I did not give up. I made two more attempts and the third time around I succeeded to cross from Turkey to Lesvos, Greece.
I arrived at the Moria camp, on Lesvos, in July 2019. They gave me a tent as a single man. Many people in the camp who suffered disabilities and were vulnerable were transferred to other places. Although my disability made life in Moria very difficult for me, I was not given the opportunity to be transferred from the island to the mainland. So, I decided to continue my journey illegally.
And I managed to get by ship to Athens and, from there, to the Ritsona camp, a few kilometres outside the city.
I reached Ritsona on 18 March 2020. Upon my arrival, however, my cash card, which allowed me access to the allotment given by the Greek government to refugees, was cut off. The camp didn’t want to register me since my trip over had not been authorised by the camp in Moria.
Here my world is dark and, as time goes by, I am getting more and more depressed. I found a bed to sleep in one of the prefabricated houses, but I was not allowed to stay there during the day and I had to leave the house.
From morning till evening, I wandered around the camp keeping myself busy moving from one place to another, speaking with the owners of the small markets that had been organized by refugees in the camp.
Later on, I decided to find another solution to my need for a shelter. I constructed a small makeshift tent to give myself a safe roof and avoid becoming a weight on the arms of other people. Of course, I have no oven here, no heater, no toilet, no electricity. I am absolutely alone and there is no consideration for my life.
I fear that I will lose my hope, my motivation and my concentration about my life, as there is no activity for anyone of us. I am interested in history and, as much as I can, I have been reading and researching on my own.
I don’t know how long this uncertain condition will continue. Stuck in this prison, how could I gain some freedom? How long should I and many like me live here?
While all the European countries present themselves as defenders of human rights, why are we left totally alone?
I am a girl in need of certain necessities and to have them, I don’t want to be in bondage of pieces of papers called “money”.
When my rights get stifled by the people around me, I can fight for them, especially if I have the support of my parents. But how can I struggle when it is my very parents who repress my rights?
I am a young girl for whom the world outside this camp is becoming my passion and financial necessities are becoming my enslavement.
More than ever before, I depend on what money can buy for me and consider having some money as my right which is violated by others.
Don’t I have the right to get 1€ from the 75€ that is given by the
government to my parents? Don’t you understand that, when I go out with my friends with nothing in my pocket and see them buy something they like, even a simple ice-cream, I feel humiliated and my pride hurt?
The ones who are around me can understand me well as they have the same condition as I have.
Do you think it is fair to prevent me from having my right, because you do not want to give money to your sons, fearing that they will use it to buy drugs or alcohol? Don’t you realize that actually they will find this money from other sources?
My brother buys alcohol and drinks it, thus wasting his energy. Why
should I be sacrificed because you want to prevent the satisfaction of his destructive desires?
Don’t you think that as a girl I need to satisfy urgent needs which I may not be able to discuss openly with you.
My dear parents! There are times I cannot ask you for money, but I
really need it. Do you expect me to ask for money to buy menstruation pads or underwear or products for my personal hygiene?
Aren’t you aware that, here, the weapon of wolves who hunt young
deprived girls like us, is to offer them pieces of papers called “money”?
Know then that, if you ignore our needs, you will be the reason why we will take the bait and fall victims to such wolves.
You are responsible for me; responsible for my food, for my clothes and other such basic needs of mine. You are responsible for my life,
whether it would be a dark or bright life, since I am passing the most
formative and crucial days of my life.
My dear parents, I want to complain about your actions, I want to
complain because these actions of yours are depriving me of my
fundamental right. You are not raising an animal which would stay docile at home, because you simply provide it with basic necessities.
I am not interested in provoking and seducing men. So do not justify
your behaviour towards me with the excuse that having me stay at home and preventing me from having some joys in the company of my friends will keep me safe in the environment of the camp.
But I suspect that there is another reason for your behaviour. I think that you do not give me the money that, by right, is mine for my own needs, because you want to save it for the continuation of our trip to another country in Europe. You know that we will need that money to cross borders so that you will not have to stay here any longer.
I know, you wouldn’t treat me like this if you were not considering these future expenses for our moving on. And you would not be thinking of moving on towards another place in Europe, if our human rights were respected here, if the asylum processes were efficient and fair, if we could have access to health care, to education, to social services, if we were treated as normal and equal individuals.
Finally, the reason we are kept restrained in the houses, the reason our wings are tied down, is not our parents, but the camps we live in.
“Story of a bitter past, a lost present and an unclear future”
In Afghanistan: I got married when I was 12. No one asked my consent. In our village, Katshod, Ghirij, what is most important is not the girl’s desire, but only the price that her marriage can obtain.
My husband who was 20 years older than me, had another wife.
First he had her stay away, but when we got married, he brought her back to our home. The woman was treating me as if I were her slave, she was torturing me, beating me and didn’t even let me feed myself properly.
My family took me from him when they realized that he had brought his previous wife back home. Their decision was not inspired by
their kindness and affection for me. Soon after they got me back, they forced me to marry another poor man who had 8 children.
I was as young as his girls, yet I had to take care of those 8 children, boys and girls, who were abusing me.
When I was 15 my first baby was born. I didn’t know how to take care of the baby, how to hold it in my arms. The whole experience was like a nightmare.
Meanwhile, my husband was ashamed of what he did, of his marriage to me. As a result, he had never wanted to introduce me to his relatives. I was seen more as his grandchild rather than his wife. My second child was born when I was 19.
When my daughter became three years old, my husband got very sick. I didn’t know the reason, but the doctors in Iran diagnosed that he had cancer and he died of the disease soon after.
I was only 20 years old when I started cleaning and working in other people’s houses besides taking care of my own small children. The landlord, where I was working, wanted me to leave work. However,
when I described my condition, he changed his mind.
The work was very hard, my milk got dry, no milk for my six-month old child. No diapers either. My spine was damaged and I needed an operation. I was working as much as I could, but there was no spirit and no inspiration in my life anymore.
My childhood and youth: As the first born child of the family, I was expected to work as a boy: collecting the crops from the farm; splitting the wood; taking care of the cows and hens — all these tasks were done by me alone, and even I was getting violent and frustrated when I was not doing things in the right way.
It is like the saying about women of Afghanistan: “if a girl learns violence in her parents’ house, she will face violence in her husband’s house too”.
My hands were soarfrom sewing the heavy traditional carpets.
I was sewing clothes for people, but I had never had the opportunity to wear new clothes, not even once in my life. Neither did I have the opportunity to enjoy my time with my family.
From Afghanistan to Iran: My daughter became 14 years old, a young beautiful girl, but deprived of her rights and divorced from her dreams. I was not able to provide for her most basic needs, not even clothes for school or adequate food.
She married and started a new life. Luckily, her husband brought her happiness and peace, but once married, she couldn’t continue her education.
We decided that our only hope for a better life would be to immigrate to Europe. We didn’t have enough money to pay for all the children,so my son decided to stay in Iranand work in order to pay for our expenses to travel from Iran to Turkey and from there to Europe. He has been working as a security guard in an apartment building. Unfortunately, his employer doesn’t give his salary regularly, not even the necessary documentation to get a work permit even though he has been there for many years and months.
7 years ago when my husband died and work became the priority of my life, I couldn’t imagine that I would continue to work like that even after 7 years.
Life is very cruel. I could never feel happiness. At the end of the week, when my friends who worked with me discussed their plans for the weekend with their husband, there wasn’t any plan for me.
They were all as poor as I was, but there was love and sharing in their family and love and sharing were exactly what I was desperately missing in my life.
I had tolerated many things, days that seemed to never end and months that were spent in pain. But today, I am crying for the week days during which I feel like a marathon runner who has been running kilometres and now is taking a breath and feel the fatigue of that running.
We were tortured, we faced violence and even forced into deportation while passing the border of death and life. These scenes are my nightmare now.
My biggest worry, now, is about my son who is left behind the chains of discrimination and racism in Iran while his belief in life and in a better future is diminishing day by day.
Before Ritsona Camp in Victoria park: After months on a Greek island we first landed on, we decided to leave and go to the mainland. When we first arrived at the mainland, there was no accommodation for us. So, on the first day, we went to Victoria park, where tens of families like us were staying in the open. There, we spent 20 days. Every morning the municipal workers came to clean the area and we had to wake up very early. Many times, they wanted to throw our back packs in the rubbish.
The locals considered the park dangerous because of our presence there and they preferred to walk on the road rather than cross the park unless they were forced to do so.
One woman we knew told me about Ritsona camp and wanted to host us for some days. We didn’t have the money for our transport, but, fortunately, a local woman helped us out. Later, I could speak with the representatives of the community and they placed me in one of the houses.
Life has always been cruel to me. I have worked hard throughout my life: as a cleaner, as a worker in a furnace, as a tailor, as a farmer and, above all, as a struggling mother trying to keep alive her dreams for her children
You know, the word “man” has no meaning for me. I have been working like a man, continuously with no pause, without negotiating the number of my working hours. My only concern was the wages I could get.
My dreams: When I was in Iran, I was dreaming for a day of leisure, of rest, without worrying about food, not having to get up early (Azan). One might think that, here at Ritsona, I got the fulfilment of my dream. But here, things are really different. My days are empty, staying all day at home without anything to do. I am afraid I am losing my desire for life, my hope for a better future for me and my children. My loss of energy and hope is also affecting them very negatively.
I want to be the best mother, most supportive of my children. I want to provide for all their needs and to not let them feel deprived and have to face what I have been through.
Another dream of mine is to go back to Iran for the marriage of my son and see that there is love in his life now. I have been disappointed not to have him here, to live together with him. But I will never stop longing to see him again; he is the source of my hope.
If the world is reading me, they should know that there are eyes which, over sleepless nights, have shed floods of tears. They should know that there are lips feeling the bitter taste of life. For what I am, what I have been, where I have been and what I have gone through cannot be seen in one glance. Such knowledge needs time to be shared, to be communicated, to be listened to, to be read about. Only then will I be able to recover, to be cured.
Wife : I want to express our pains in behalf of my husband.
When you can not find yourself in what you were dreaming for , then you should take further steps to find, see your children reaching their dreams.
During the revolutional presidency of doctor Najib we were losing our children and it was like a nightmare to see, they will be died in front of our eyes. We knew that if not bombing attack , but the bad cindition of the country would injure them and would take all dreams and future away,so there was no more time to wait for,no reason to stay in Afghanistan longer as we had never felt safety in our life there.
My face has been smiling to the world, when there was no reason to feel happy , you can give minutes of happiness for those who are around you.
My heart is old and broken, I seem calm,but I feel a revoloution in my soul, as my son is in danger and my family is getting broken.
He is only 18 years old ,with no family or friends there, he started his journey from Afghanistan before us, when we arrived in Greece we got transferred to a different island, in Moria camp ,Lesvos.
Now that I am in Ritsona,with a shelter, facilitated but disappointed my is in Samos island ,among cold , heat, rains, fire and dirts.
I am a father and can not tolerate being far from him with a life in comfort,I am afraid if he is fine, eating good food, is he is heathy or no in the hospital and thousands other voices that is really suffering for me.
I am really worry if he may lose his inspiration to live, in he may lose his motivation, that may lose his self and his way, or may attmpt suicide once more.
I am sorrounded in where, which there is no way to reach my voice to the world,sorrounded by fences of injustices, sorrounded by rules of segregation , that has sorrounded our dreams since the first day of our arrival.
Will my voice reaches the world to see my son again?
I dream of a future when I will be reunited with my children, who left Syria before me and, now, live in Germany.
Nothing is more important than my children. I hope this endless war in Syria will finish and that I will be able to start a new life in my own country, where I can feel dignity and respect.
I have less words for the world, but I have more words for the young generations. What I want them to know is what I could not understand about life. I want them to never stop learning, never stop
asking and staying curious about life, about love and about the world.
I passed my childhood, youth and old age in war, but I hope they will have a different life, different experiences. I lost my country and my loved ones because of the hypocrisy of the powerful, their racism and their political games.
People see us as persons without skills, profession, knowledge, abilities. I am not the only one considered so. Thousands of us are seen as useless, we who, once, we were the labour force, the
backbone of our country and its economy. I was a businessman. I had my own sewing company, one of the most productive sewing companies in our region. I want to start a business like that here too.
A refugee is a person like any other, full of dreams, full of aspirations and full of expectations that he wants to see come true. Yet, what I have achieved here is nothing more than lost children beyond
borders, and one boy behind prison bars.
My dreams are not secret, they are in front of my eyes all the time. Yet, where and when will my dreams come true?
War and conflicts are the reasons of our displacement, but what the world is deciding for us is totally different from what we deserve.