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Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.13)

60 years resistant

Letters to the wrold from Ritsona
Neda Torabi

I had a simple life before I was forced to become a refugee. Mine was a small family with sweet dreams for the future. It was a united and loving family, caring and soothing each other with words, with affection, with smiles, with encouragement.These, not medicines, were the cures for our wounds, physical or emotional. And then, a revolution overturned our life, like a dark and menacing cloud after a sunny day. When two of my brothers were killed by the Taliban, we lost our security,safety and our shelter,

Those killings raised the alarm for all members of that house. Like a bomb they drove each member of the family into a corner. The power of the Taliban over the area we were living was increasing and so was their blind violence. So we had no other option but to leave our home, a house that was a shelter for 30 people, a huge, old and traditional house — a house we loved. Two of my brothers turned to internal immigration and went to Kabul, but for the rest of my family that was not an option. Our only hope was to go to Iran. So, we plucked our courage and after collecting all we had, I immigrated with my daughters and two sons and my grand children. We faced many hardships during our clandestine travels, but I had the power of my family with me, they were all with me, and we were sharing our strength with each other.

Iran, could never become like my homeland, and could never give me the feeling of home, country, compatriots. It was a place to only live, but without dignity, respect – a place which also made us reflect and understand that we have rights, and are not only slaves of the state, to work and generate economic profits for the government. My daughters got married there and built a small family, in a small house. Yet they could never make it a safe and pleasant world for their children. All were discriminated, segregated, even the children playing when they were in primary school. And once they finished with primary school they were excluded from any higher education.

It is suffocating for any parent to see the education of their children be limited to a specific duration of time, to a specific age and to a specific level of learning, and, as a consequence, the only thing that would be demanded from them would be their physical labour, not their mind, their talents and their ingenuity.

Life in a country like Iran is not easy or simple for any family. And so it was for my own family, especially since my husband had to work for 8 long years, in spite of his weak physical condition and, in the end, his accident.

Iran just left me the worst possible memories and we were not able to build a bright future. I could not allow my children and grand children have the same fate as my husband. So once again, with pressures from all sides, we had to decide to continue our journey to another country in order to make sure that we will not face the same problems we had faced here.

For me, there was no hope for a good life elsewhere. However, I accepted to venture elsewhere only to see my children and grandchildren live in peace. My husband died and my brothers were murdered. My body was getting weaker and weaker everyday and insulin was my only painkiller taking the measure of my breath and of my life — counting the number of days I would be alive.

You know, you are reading the words of a 60- year old woman who has experienced many difficulties, but has never given up, not because I was born strong, but because I had strong reasons to be strong.

I am a mother and a grand mother. The responsibility of those roles increased when my son’s wife died while birthing her first child. Once more, I was attacked by life, and this continued. I faced too many different sorts of hardships, bringing up my grandchild, who could never forget his mother’s smell, his mother’s love and his mother’s embrace. I was convinced that, in Iran, we would not be able to build and start a new life and make a decent future. So, we managed to control our fears and start our journey towards Europe crossing valleys and mountains, hot deserts and, finally, the angry sea.

In the end we reached Moria, where young people could not tolerate the conditions for more than a month. I was there for 3 months, My son was arrested by the police because he participated in a demonstration, asking for democracy with thousand more people.

 He is currently passing the hardest days in prison. No one defends him, no one claims his rights. There were many people in that demonstration. Yet, only my son was arrested, because the others were silent and did not attack the police. I realize now that I did not only risk the value of my life coming here, but also the unity of my family, which broke.

I am a woman, whose body is consumed by insulin and whose heart is consumed by the pains and injuries of my soul. I am left with many injures, with many pains and many wounds and many unaccompanied children without guardian. Having all these responsibilities is really heavy for me, and today when I feel myself weaker than ever, I realize that I am not the only one who is suffering all these pains, but I do not have anyone with whom I can share my words and can express my feelings. I am repressed, limited, in prison and banned, not by the fences around Ritsona, but by medicine and mental problems.

My son is in Prison, in Moria. My husband#s grave is in Iran. My grand children are without parents. My brothers grave is in Afghanistan. And I am here left on my own, and, on top of it, exposed to the corona virus. How many days may I stay alive? Here is not a place where I can breathe. My grand children’s life is sinking in discrimination, even about their education. All these problems are suffocating me, they do not let me breathe.

How long will I be able to knit , using cottons of jackets and save some money for my medicine and fruits , that  I need to eat after using such strong medicines, how much more washclothes will I be able to made and sale with my weak hands, while my health is getting worse everyday , to collect the wanted amount from police station in Lesvos to release my son form jail.

Will I feel peace and respect during the last days of my life?

Will I see my children and grand children in a bright future?

Will I be treated as a women who has experience of 60 years of life, not a immigrant?

Will my son be reunited with me and his child?

Will I be able to rest ?

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.12)

“In a world of war”, where can we find safety?

We escaped from far away lands, lands of war, violence and misery. We came here so that our children would not have to see the violence we had witnessed.

We passed the borders of life and death in search of safety and shelter. We put our lives in the mercy of smugglers and strangers to help us cross rocky mountains, deep valleys, deserts and, at the end, the angry sea. Europe was the light which kept us going. Europe was the promise of a new life at the end of the journey.

Yet, what we are experiencing, here and now, is the threat of a dark and unknown future for us, our children and the next generations.

Where can we find safety? This is, for us, the most vulnerable moment in our lives, a moment for which we had not been prepared. We have never, before, lived together with different communities, each with a different culture, different religion and beliefs, different customs, different histories. What we share is that we all crossed borders which left us with injuries, injuries in our bodies and, even more difficult to treat, injuries in our souls. Our life as refugees is filled with anxiety and mental stress. The process of reviewing our
application for asylum; our worries about our beloved ones left behind and living in danger; the future of our children which is wasted as they have no opportunity to go to school; our transfers from one camp to another, from detentions to ghettos , all create fears, worries, anger and frustration. No wonder that chaos and violence break in the camps.

No one who arrives here enjoys mental health, even the physically sound ones are suffering of depression and other psychological difficulties. And even if those arriving are free of such symptoms, once here and as the months of waiting go by, they soon feel vulnerable and exposed, anxious and afraid.

In such an atmosphere, a small event can provoke negative feelings, even violence among different groups. It is enough to have a child throw a stone to another from another community and, soon enough, there is suspicion and hatred between the two groups. Similar feelings are generated if, for example, a child falls from its bicycle as another, belonging to another community, is passing by.

Such events may seem minor and insignificant. Yet such events have had terrible consequences. People arm themselves with sticks, knives, bats because they feel they may be attacked and need to feel that they can defend themselves and their families. Even our fathers and brothers pile us things ,that they can use to defend us. Women collect stones for their men so that they can protect them.

How could it be otherwise, when 2500 people are piled together, even now that we are facing a new ferocious threat, the Corona Virus. The form that ‘our safety quarantine’ takes is imprisonment We are forced to live in closed ‘facilities’ even as the number of infected people among us is rising.

When violence breaks and we call the police, no one answers, no one
interferes.

I am afraid I can be caught in this violence, this war. I am afraid that I may injure someone, that I may lose my belief in people and in the possibility of peace in our lives. And I am afraid of what can happen to my father and brothers and I am tired of seeing my mother cry or hear people scream.

Where can we find safety? Surely not when we are locked up, repressed, hidden in a far away and isolated camp. Nobody sees us, nobody cares, nobody understands that the life of our children having no schooling is wasted in idleness. Yet we have dreams of becoming doctors, engineers, teachers. . .

But how long…..?
How long should we witness violence?
How long should we arm ourselves for protection?
How long should we suffer anxiety and depression?
How long should our children carry stones instead of books and pencils?
How long should we waste away, facing total indifference about our future?
How long should we be targeted as deserving repression?

 

Letter to the world from Ritsona (No.11)

“Born with a hole in the heart”

(Struggles of a baby (Rahela ) who was born with a hole in the heart and braveness of a mother in the refugee camps )

I am Rahela Eimagh and I am six months old. From the moment my heart started beating in my mother’s womb, in  Moria, I knew that something was seriously wrong. That knowledge made me also understand what my mother was telling me, that life is impossible without struggle.When I was born, I was suffering from bouts of diarrhea,fever,kidney insufficiency,coughs, breathing difficulties. Yet, my worst illness was not recognized.
My constant crying sent my parents to the medical centre everyday in order to make one appointment after another. Failing to diagnose my true illness, the doctors kept on prescribing all sorts of wrong cures. They even advised my parents to wash my nose with serum as they were thinking that maybe my nose was clogged up and thus
prevented me from breathing well.
No one was able to recognize the strong pain I experienced every moment of my short existence. I brought no happiness to my parents, I did not let my mother sleep during the night, I could not let my sisters hug me. Everything was painful. When my crying became desperate and I could hardly breathe, my mother called the
ambulance . Had the ambulance taken longer, I would have suffocated and died.When we arrived at the hospital, the doctors put me immediately in the Intensive Care Unit. For more than two hours there, I had a blinding light over my face and was surrounded by doctors trying to keep me alive. Every moment, I felt that they
were connecting me to a new machine. But most of all, I felt excruciating pains everywhere.

Rahela’s mother
From the moment I gave birth to Rahela, I have been stressed out, worried and restless. There is nothing more difficult than seeing your six month old baby in constant pain. Seeing her suffer, I forgot all my own pains. Ever since our car crashed in Kunduz, I lived with strong headaches. I broke three vertebrae, at that accident, and was operated on our way to cross the border of Pakistan. I suffered
terrible neck pains as well. But I forgot all my pains when I listened with terror the desperate crying of Rahela. We took her to the hospital with an ambulance.
We waited for more than two hours before the doctors came out to give us the news, good and bad. The good news was that Rahela was alive. The bad news was that she had a hole in her heart. At the sound of their words, everything became dark, I felt extremely weak and sensed that I could not stand, that I was going to faint.

From that moment onward, my life changed its color and became unbearably dark. The news affected our entire family. From that day, no one of us was able to smile, to be happy, to laugh and have fun.
Yet my baby is brave. She smiles in spite of all her pains. When she finished the tests in the ICU room and they brought her to us, she was smiling. The doctors could not believe their eyes.

Baby Rahela
I know that having a hole in your heart is difficult, but a smile is a healer, so I smiled. I know that my disease is making all members of my small family bitter, but they are all trying to manage their bitterness to help me become better. As for me, there is no
option but to continue struggling. I am sad that my father is jobless and my expenses are increasing. When I need to go to the hospital, it is my mother who always takes me there. Last time, after the visit, we had to sleep in the park. The taxi driver refused to bring us back to the Ritsona camp, because he knew that there were cases of corona virus infections in the camp. We had to spend the night in a park. Here there were other people like us.
People with no identification documents and so without value. Even the most vulnerable ones are left to spend the night in the open. There were families with children, lying on the ground with their clothes spread around. I am not sad about myself. I am sad about my mother who has to hold me in her arms and take me everywhere without getting results.
During these last months of my existence, I and my mother were home less than two months. We passed our days in the hospital and the nights, before coming back home in the park. It upsets me to know that my family spends so much money on my health. I feel that I am taking away the rights of my sisters. I have two little sisters
who seem to be given less affection and care from the day I born.
I have injuries in my soul and in my body. Tomorrow I will have more appointments.
My family worries about every appointment, the results of the appointments and what will happen next.

Rahela s mother
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but the smile on Rahela’s face gives me the biggest hope. I am a mother, mother of three doughters. They are all little children. My eldest, last night, said: Mother, why has our life changed in such a bad way? We
were happy before and everything was perfect. But from the day Rahela was born, we lost our happinesses. Take her back to where you brought her from.
It is true. Many things changed for my daughters. , They were full of energy before, but now they are quite and getting rude, as the environment is affecting them while neither I or their father have time to look after them .

Last time one of my daughters locked herself behind a door. When her father asked why, she said: I want to kill myself. She is only 4 years old and already very depressed. It seems normal since she and her sister get very little attention from us.
Tomorrow is the next appointment of Rahela. Again, we will have to walk, search for unknown addresses with no Greek interpreter and English will not be understood. I was a doctor in Afghanistan, a midwife with my own practice. Knowing that it will be very hard, perhaps impossible, to exercise my profession breaks my heart too. I
have too much interest in learning. It is dawn and I have to start preparing for my three days trip to town. I don’t know what difficulties we are going to face. My mind is tired. My eyes burn, doctors are all around. Whom to ask this time …
Finally I found a nurse who has a sweet smile. Whom can I ask for the result of the last test? I ask. How can I tolerate this? How can I find hope? What I was afraid of has happened.
There is less hope for her treatment. They said that the holes of her heart will get smaller and this is very dangerous. Her life is at risk. Once again, I feel I am falling down. Again, everything gets dark. When I come back to a normal state, I feel too much pain in all my body. I think they tortured me again. Last time, my husband was
witness of how they were putting the needles in my feet and many more horrible things.
I feel too much pain after getting vigilant. Life is getting darker everyday for every member of my family. A mother is like the main pillar of a family and my family is breaking down every time I am far from my other two daughters. I cannot help it. For me, the priority is Rahela.

Baby Rahela
I am Rahela, 8 months now and struggeling with a hole in my heart. I have other holes too. Holes in my soul witnessing the suffering of my family in our refugee life.

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.10)

“Stop destroying our future!”
I would never imagine, after reaching Europe from my country, that I would participate in protests, claiming my inviolable right to education. I would never imagine that my life in Europe would be centred on struggles to get access to education, a human right.

I had experienced the fear of losing access to education after the presidency of Talibans in Afghanistan and their attacks to schools and their decision to close them down. Yet, here in the Ritsona camp outside Athens, in Greece, we face the opposition and attacks of right-wing groups and we are being blocked from getting the most basic schooling.

I am one of 850 children of school age who are not granted this basic right to education. Everyday, I am searching to find the reason we are excluded and the legislation that excludes us from being at school. But, I cannot find any reason for this deprivation.

We live in a small world of 2500 people , who are the most effected people by the COVID1-19 pandemic and are suffering in the second period of Quarantine.This is the most difficult period for us, mostly since we know that there are about 5 infected people (without symptoms) out of 100 tested inhabitants.Unfortunately for us, being in quarantine does not concern only our health
safety, but it threatens our right to education.

This year, once more, using the justification of COVID 19, we may be excluded from attending school. No teacher has been recruited for us, “refugee children”, and no transportation system has been put in place to take us to a school. How long should we accept to witness our future getting destroyed?

There is no difference between our days and our nights. The difference between us and the children who have the chance to go to school, is the fact that we happened to be born in a country we did not chose, where we lived in repression, exclusion, violence, war and routine violence, none of which was our own choice.

Be brave, imagine you are one of us, imagine that your child is one of us. Put yourself in our shoes.

At daybreak, when you wake up your children to get ready for school and stand by their beds to make sure that they get up, we are sleeping. We are still sleeping, not because we are lazy or we want to waste our days. We are sleeping, because there is nothing constructive for us to do. Sleeping, we can, at least, dream of a classroom where we can learn and of a teacher who teaches us.
Some of us (children) are waiting for sunrise to start playing with pebbles with other children in their neighborhood containers.

So, when your children are washing their faces, brushing their teeth and combing their hair, in front of the mirror, and start their days with a smile, we (refugee children) are starring at the extinction of our future.

So, your children are feeding themselves to get the energy needed to build their future, we are wasting our energy in this ghetto.

So, when your children hear the horn of the car that is calling them and you use the last minutes to put the flask in their bagpack, we are struggling to have the public transportation service the people of the camp and, failing that, have a bicycle.

These scenes, these contrasts are our daily routine. How we would prefer to find ourselves in those morning scenes of your children’ s mornings.

Sorry if those words and imaginations seem hard and bitter. Yet, put yourself in our shoes, wonder whether your children could be one of us. The discrimination we suffer is not due to the superiority of your children, but to the arbitrary fact of where we were born.

Something is not right when a seven year old child is demonstrating for his or her right to education!

Is it too much to ask for our right to education?
Is it too much to ask to be treated equally, at least regarding education?
Is it too much to get registration for school?
Is it right, is it fair to be criminalized and discriminated as the ones who are threatening your lives, while we are condemned to live in danger?

By , a migratorygirl

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No:8)

Europe must act

Congratulations to the European Union! To the European Commission! To the European Council! Congratulations also to all the European citizens for your 70th anniversary of alliance. We, however, are not able to celebrate and participate in your jubilation, as your crises and differences have left us behind, alone with all our difficulties and the unbearable conditions of our lives.

Yet we live in the same land as many other European citizens, in the land of one member of the European Union: Greece. We have never thought that, in a country of Europe, we will face such a fate that human dignity itself loses its meaning and that human freedom is ignored, forgotten.

12 golden stars in your flag surround our life and imprison our freedom.

27 country members keep silent, no matter how loud and how desperate our calls for help are.

Our children are suffering hunger and we are all facing absolute deprivation, condemned not to ever live a peaceful and normal life. We are denied education, health care, housing, employment – all those things a citizen rightfully expect.

Dinghy” may be a noun, but we put our lives in one and came here. We were lucky. So many others lose their lives in such dinghies. Nobody knows their names, they are just numbers counted by coast guards and authorities.

Since all members of the European Union are responsible to solve this crisis, why are we totally alone? Why are our lives becoming toys in economical games? Not only our lives suffer from those economical games; the lives of local people are equally affected. We are not the only group of residents suffering. Like us, local people, see their lives, their dignity, their humanity given less importance than the economy. Unlike them, however, we are also denied freedom. It makes no difference whether we live in the streets, under tents, in hotels, in constructed facilities, in containers, in homes. Even a castle becomes a prison when you don’t have freedom.

When I was at school, we learned, from our books, that freedom was inseparable from Europe, that where Europe was, there was freedom too. Yet what I experience here, in this European country, is totally different from what I learned from my books, back in my country. Freedom is just an adjective for Europe, it carries no meaning, no essence. In order to achieve a peaceful life, we escaped from our countries and our homes, but in doing so we lost our dignity.

If we are in prisons; if we are in danger; if we are in need; if we are in deprivation; Europe must act!

If we are trapped; if we are vulnerable; if we are forced to silence; if we are discriminated;

Europe must act!

If we are totally alone; if we are kept far away; if we are struggling; if we are asylum seekers;

Europe must act!

If we are human beings; if we lost our dignity; if we lost our self-respect; if we live like prisoners;

Europe must act!

Europe must act because our fate and our problems are an inseparable part of Europe.

Europe must act because if we lose our dignity, Europe will lose its own too.

Migratirygirl(Parwana Amiri)