Category Archives: Letters from Ritsona

Letters to the world from Ritsona “No.25”

Who will be the next one?

Here in Ritsona, you cannot trust others easily. In fact, you should not do so. To share little and listen carefully seems to be the easiest way to stay safe. You find few people who are honest with you, who can love you and feel your wounds, willing to help heal them rather than put salt on them or mock you. You talk with people, you
laugh, but not all smiling faces are honest or real. There are many pains under the smiles, hidden behind masks.

Here everyone carries within a small world of pain. This is their secret alongside the common and shared pains, which the system, rules, and laws cause. Lack of honesty is the main root of many of our pains. It is the condition we live in, also shaped by our background or by the people around us.

I am a young girl living with my old parents. The reason I am sharing what I have been through is that many are afraid to have their voice heard, to share their pains, afraid to bother others who might not want to hear and know harsh realities.

I know that I am not the only one, the only girl, who has had such an experience. I know there have been many girls who have been suffering from the same pains but have decided to hide them. It is not that they do not have the courage to share their suffering. The fact is that they have not been given voice and support to do so
honestly and safely. They are afraid that their voice, their words will irritate and embarrass them and that they may provoke disrespect and contempt.

A week ago, I went out of the camp with my friend (a boy). When we reached one of the factories close by, he raped me. I don’t know what happened immediately after. I was in shock. I was like a statue: I could not move. When I came to myself, I had just run out of the building. I just wanted to be under a shelter, to be back home, to be
where no one could see me.

Days passed and I started feeling a very acute pain in my belly. I decided to go to the medical unit, to be examined. They visited me and diagnosed HIV infection. I felt
terribly anxious, angry, and exposed.

“How old are you?” they asked me.
“15.”
“We have to inform your parents!”
“I don’t want them to know anything about this, nothing at all, they can not tolerate this. I will solve my problems, but please don’t say anything about it to them.”
“We want to help you. We want to treat you. You cannot get the medicines you need without your parent’s permission.”
“We also have to inform the police.”
“No, I don’t have any complaint, about anyone. If you don’t want me to commit suicide, then help me to close this topic.”

I just wanted to run from there, to escape, to go far, to go and hide. I hated my body and everyone’s eyes, thinking that whoever was looking at me, wanted to break me, or that they guessed what had happened to me. I asked the medical personnel to give me one or two days to change my age on my documents or do whatever else
would stop them from sharing what had happened with my family. I knew that being older would take away my right to go to school, but I had to keep my parents out of it.

They didn’t give me this chance. They just broke their promise and shared the information not with my family, but with many workers who thus learned what had happened to me. Their eyes, their looks were unbearable.

My family also learned what happened to me. They did not talk with me for a long time, neither my mom nor my dad.

Everything is now over, but who will answer for those nights I was cutting my hands with a blade, praying for better days?

Better days have not yet come. I just became stronger, relying less on others and more on myself. I am trying to have a better vision of myself every day, a stronger belief in myself and in my own abilities. I talk more with myself about who I am, and I accept myself. I hope that one day I will become strong enough to stop something
like this happening to young girls and to protect them from the cruelty of others if and when such a thing happens.

To make a safe place for them to share their pain, without being judged, without getting broken and imprisoned for what they have been through.

I know some girls, who have also been raped. However, they don’t want to share with others, especially here, in the camp where everyone can seem like a goat, but be a wolf underneath. It is also possible that some men in the camp can blackmail them and force them to have sex with them.

What has happened, that trust in each other has been broken? Why have pen and paper, writing, the moon, and the night become closer friends to us, rather than people? When will we start understanding each other, rather than blaming each other, for what we have been victimized for?

These violent acts will continue. They can happen to anyone, not only girls but boys too. They will happen without any voice denouncing them, without any outcry.
Everything will happen silently, secretly. Who will be next?

Letters to the world from Ritsona”No.24″

“Two days in Ritsona”

Photographer: parwana Amiri
Photographer: Parwana Amiri

On a very hot afternoon, everyone is in their containers and no one dares come out. I am one of them, trying to drink as much water as possible in order to resist the heat. What about those under tents, those in the big hall, where many families are living together in one space having difficulty to breathe, especially small children? Yet,
since here is Malakasa, you cannot complain about anything, cannot ask or demand something different or better. Even if you are under a tent you have to be thankful, only that you are here.

What I am afraid of is not what is happening now, bad as it is, but of what may happen later, due to extreme weather conditions and the heat wave that ravages the whole of Greece.

Suddenly, I hear a siren, a scary noise on my mobile. It is an alert from a sim company; all of us must leave the camp immediately!

The silence which followed for a minute breaks down. Everybody is getting ready to escape, some are collecting all that they have and some are going out with a single bag.

My neighbor is afraid to leave the camp. She is thinking of her dishes and house stuff that she recently bought and are all new. She does not want to lose them or have them burn. She is crying, what will happen if she comes back and finds no one and all her belongings lost? How will she be able to ever replace them?

The buses are here. The team of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) is trying to do their best to organize the departure. They give priority to vulnerable people, but, of course, as always, single men and boys are trying to be in the first group to go.

I am here with a small suitcase, where I could only put some personal stuff of mine and of my mother’s. We still do not know where we are being taken and what is going to happen. They only thing we can see clearly are the flames blazing on the mountains around the camp.

Some men are asking for help to move their stuff. Those living in the tents are doubly worried as there is no lock for their tents and all their belongings are left there.

The camp staff try to make sure that everyone is out and ready to go. Yet, it seems that some stayed hidden in their containers and do not want to move elsewhere.

Everybody is trying to get on the bus. I am in now, but my mom has not realized it. She is anxiously looking for me in the crowd and calling my name, “Farishta, Farishta”. In the general chaos and noise she cannot hear me calling her too.

Finally, she realizes I am in and climbs on the bus. It is 10:00 o’ clock now. I remember my mom has just cooked chicken for dinner. Pity, we had to leave it behind. As we ride forth, we see a huge black cloud hanging ove the whole area.

We hear that we are being transferred to Ritsona. I have heard about this camp  many times, but have never been in it.

At last we arrive. Here we are in Ritsona now.

There are no mountains around it, but as the camp of Malakasa, it is surrounded by a big wall, covered by slogans and some paintings. There is no shop or market around as we have in Malakasa.

Once off the bus we are guided by the people standing by the gate into the camp. Such a big one.

Everyone is waiting and some walk to the other side of the camp to take refuge  under the trees — many big pine trees.

Some people are going into containers which have been opened by camp workers. Others are still lingering outside. We are waiting to see if there will be an open container to go in, but my father is still not here and we are waiting for him.

Some have settled in corners, close to the walls. They have put a carpet or a piece of cartoon and will sleep there.

Many are standing with their babies in their laps and their bags in their hands.

A big van of water comes and everyone rushes to get water to quelsh their thirst. The atmosphere is heavy because of the fires, the heat makes us feel as if we are in a desert. We need to drink, we feel we can die otherwise.

We are behind one of the containers, in front of the wall. I am so tired. I just want to close my eyes. “You sleep,” says my father, “I will stay awake for a few hours more.”

My mom is still awake and afraid for me and my sisters. Here is like a public road, one comes another goes, each moment there is a new call, that there is an empty space. My mom wants to go there, but my dad wants to stay here for tonight and change places tomorrow.

The weather is warm, but we need to have a blanket or some cloth to put over us. My father is afraid of the wind, that it may bring the fire here.

Counting the starts, goodbye night…..

We open our eyes very early the next day. Already, everyone is running around trying to find a free space to settle. It looks as if the sun has broken down the calm of the people again.

My father is collecting our stuff together. The whole situaation reminds me of all that has happened in Moria. Again displaced, searching for protection, looking for water and food. No news about breakfast or food. In Malakasa, some people had no cash card and ate only the meals provided by the camp or the NGOs. Here, in Ritsona, there are shops and people who have money can buy some provisions. Those without money cannot buy anything at all. I want to cry when I hear their children ask for a biscuit, while their mothers are trying to keep them calm and play with them.

When will this story of being repeatedly displaced finish?

For many years, geopolitical games and economic interests have been behind all sorts of tragedies for people all around the world. These are the causes behind the catastrophic scenes of extreme weather and the terrible fires that surround us. They do not threaten only us, but almost half the population in this land is sunk under. Their homes, their memories and their history have gone up in flames.

Again I see food lines forming. That is yet another history of waiting and counting the ours.

Doctors are trying to respond to the arrival of so many people who have not been checked in Malakasa. The newly arrived, on their side, are trying to use their opportunity to get medicine and treat their ailments and pains.

When something gets distributed to a large number of people without an orderly organized distribution method, then many people remain without their fair share.
Nothing remains in its place. I can see even small boys carrying away bottles of water.

Here, the world for girls is different. They are active, they care, they support us, and share. They are a team and do not work alone. They are brave and do not care about what boys tell them.

Yesterday a group of young girls of the Ritsona camp organized a collection of the trashes and the empty bottles of water from all around the camp. They did so ignoring the negative comments they received from some boys.

They even encouraged some more girls from Malakasa to do the same.
But, would they be able to always do as much as they do now?

In Malakasa girls do not support each other and they are all waiting for someone else to stand first line and the rest to support them.

I think that the girls here have already made a big impact on us, with the way they extended hospitality, shared awareness, cared for our needs, and encouraged us to be patient. But how close to each other have we really been? How different have they considered us? They have the same problems as we have, the same anxiety and uncertainty we have been tolerating, with the interviews, the separating walls, the access to education. Will these unite us?

It is evening. ash is falling from the sky, smoke fills the lungs. People get even more scared. As I pass by the mosque I see lots of women staying there.

And what about the infections of COVID19 among us and the new arrivals.

It is sad to hear about the high number of people who get Covid in the local hospitals and the number of people who, unchecked, are displaced now in other areas.

Some girls have their period and are looking for pads. How will they find them and from where?

I am tired, have no place to get a shower, feeling ashamed of how I smell.

It is the second day we are staying in Ritsona after two nights we spend since we arrived. The buses are here to take us back to our homes soon. People have missed even their tents. All the same, many would prefer to live here.

Goodbye Ritsona.

Letter to the world from Ritsona (No.22)

My nails soiled with Earth

Photo by: Neda Torabi
Photo by: Neda Torabi

The sun has not risen yet. I keep one eye close, the other
open to check the clock, hoping I could sleep a bit more.
No, I must get up. I need to pray and quickly get ready,
not to miss the dolmush (small bus).

Walking from the house to the gate of the camp, I can see
some shops opening for the day and I can smell the coffee
brewing in the Kurdish mini coffee shops. As I step out of
the gate onto the road with the wall of the camp behind
me, I join a group of almost 20 people, some with bags on
their backs.

The bus arrives, a white dolmush. Normally it should
transport 12 people, but we all get in, one by one, closer
and closer to each other. With all the seats taken, a
number of us sit on the floor.

There is little light reaching us on the floor. More and
more, we have difficulty to breath, incapable to change
position or stretch our legs. We resign to tolerate it all, as
it will last only for 30 minutes.

Some of the men in the car are almost the age of my
father, some maybe younger. My poor father is sick. He
can’t even walk properly. The same is true for my mother.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here, on the floor of this car. I
would be sleeping like so many youths of my age. But the
story and the wave of everyone’s life are different, some
have no waves in their life and some face a tough sea.

A bad smell comes from some shoes. I would really enjoy
making a joke out of our circumstance, but the silence
around me is heavy and scary. Were I to make a joke, I
might be kicked out of the car. The whole scene reminds
me of old, black and white movies.

Finally, a young man, in his late 20s perhaps, changes the
whole situation. I could hear with gratitude his voice
coming from the corner of the car: ‘’Please, use a spray
for your feet. They smell so strongly we can feel the smell
even though you were shoes. Do something, otherwise we
will get all dizzy before starting our work’’.

He is totally right. There is an awful stench in the car. Yet
it is not shocking. Rather, it is totally predictable. The
space is tight, heavy with the breaths of so many people.
Most of them may have not had the time to wash their
face or brush their teeth. Mercifully, it is still early in the
morning and the weather is not yet awfully hot.

Finally, the door opens and we pour out. No chance to
even stretch our body. Our so-called boss is tough and
heartless. “You are not here for gymnastics, start your
work immediately, this field should be finished today.”

He yells at us, screaming out everyone’s mistakes. He is
one of the inhabitants in the camp, but he just knows
some Greeks and, thus, he has become the manager of
the workers. He must be almost 50. His name is Safi, but
now everyone calls him mister Safi Jan.

Such a strange world….

Here in the onions fields, work is divided in 2 stages. I
wish I could work in the second one, but I am new and for
people like me, no matter how old they are, they work only
in this part, harvesting the onions and picking them out of
the ground. At the end of the workday, you can’t see your
nails any more, as if a kilo of soil has gathered under
them. The second stage of the work is better because you
just put the onions in boxes and then lift the filled boxes
onto a truck.

As I gather the onions from the ground, I think of a
chessboard. Yeah, I love this game and I am a good
player. So I enjoy thinking about new techniques and
tactics while picking the onions. It makes time pass faster
and easier.

My very life is itself like a chessboard. Here, however, I
am not the player. Neither the ones who are here working
like me are players on their chessboards. We are all chess
pieces in the hands of politicians, who use our name for
their benefit. It is the same in my country. It seems I have
many rights, but I’m not aware of them. This is the reason
why I and many others like me are exploited.

Generally, I am a calm boy and I don’t interfere with
anything or anyone’s life, unless I have a responsibility to
do so. My quiet manner may well be the main reason why
my brothers, smaller or older, whip me with their words.
They are much fatter than I am and more energetic. I used
to think about everything too much and worry about all
that happens. I feel a heavy weight on my heart and a
heavy weight on my shoulders.

During the first hours of our work, with every minute that
passes, I can feel the heat increasing, reaching up to 36
degrees Celsius. The humidity is very high as well, I feel
as if I stand under a hot shower, or as if someone is
pouring water on me.

Getting close to mid-day, there is no eagerness to have
food, only water, and my clothes are wet through.

Few hours left, I tell myself. I should persevere. I need to
get those 20 euros home. We are getting close to the end
of the week and we were supposed to buy my father’s
medicines at the beginning of each week.

Now, I am counting the moments to see when it will be
14:00 so we can stop working. Exactly as I am thinking
this, Safi says, ‘’Today’s work is finished, thanks to all of
you.’’

This is the best sentence my ears could ever hear.

Going back from here to the camp, however, I feel like a
prisoner who goes from detention to work and to work
from detention. In the Spongebob animation show I saw,
the hero was in jail and working for a coal mine.

I do not even want to think about myself anymore, either
about life, or about the things that happen around me.
Who can see me? Who dares to look at me? I am just a
17 years old boy, who is burying his dreams every day,
trying to accept his realities and somehow continue to live.

Still, this work of ours could be more dignified, better
organized, and equitably paid. We get much less than we
should rightfully get. I know that we are sold from one
boss to another, from an Afghan to a Pakistani and each
of them gets paid for what we do, because they collect us
and bring us to work, but not in an humane way.

The prospect of integration does not rest only in having
the possibility to work on onion fields, or in vineyards or
olive groves. Integration should be based on the
opportunities offered to use our training, our talents, our
skills and abilities in any given field and for us to have a
chance to live as normal citizens in the community.

 

letters to the world from Ritsona (No.20)

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.

1000 stories and dreams from Ritsona (No.3)

Story of a bitter past, a lost present and an unclear future” 

Photographer : Neda Torabi
Photographer: Neda Torabi


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 soar from 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 Iran and 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.

Letters to the world from Ritsona(No.16)

”My world is farming”

Photo by:Nda Torabi
Photo by:Neda Torabi

When my wife and I immigrated to Iran, the Iranian government threatened us with deportation. That was exactly the moment we discoverd that my wife was pregnant and it was then that we started praying for a miracle.

My youth had been poisoned by discrimination. The mere idea that my child could also become victim to similar discrimination was unbearable. That prospect became a nightmare burning my might. So we decided that we should leave Iran and seek a better place for our child to grow up, no matter what the risks of such a journey would bring. We wanted our child to be born in a place of safety, of peace, of future possibilities.

My parents were totally against our decision, for they were very vulnerable and there was no one to take care of them, once we were gone. But for us, there was no other option. We were not going to become spectators of our child s unhappy life.

The journeys of refugees are never without risks, without dangers and without hardships. But every refugee who embarks on his journey has, at least, one most horrible experience, one most unbearable moment, never to be forgotten. For us the worst part of our journey was the sea, when my wife was trying to tolerate her belly’s pains, in order not to be arrested by the polices while crossing the border. At that terrible moment as we were crossing, we could never imagine that we we would end up in this dreadfulcamp, in the margins of Europe.

As for many refugees, my life, so far, had been without joy, without certainties, without belief in a possible better future. With the coming of our child, however, I could, no longer, accept the continuation of such an existence. I started taking steps for a better life and a brighter future. I started making changes in our environment.

For eight years in Iran, I was a farmer and, over those years, I gained a valuable experience in farming. I decided to apply that experience and I started planting different plants, mostly vegetables, in small plots close to our house and with access to water.

I want the world to listen to my voice, to listen to my words. I believe that every individual should be able to work in the field they want and have experience in. Only then, will they be able to develop to reach their potential and earn a dignified income. Passion is a key to success, self improvement, and strenght. In no way, should it be repressed or hidden.

I was getting depressed before, but farming, sowing plants, giving them water, being outside in the fresh air rescued me from the dark and heavy feelings that oppressed me. All the same, however, working here is not easy as it may seem to passersby. Neither has it brought a revolution in my life.

While working the land has given me some relief, every single moment, my thoughts are with my wife who is suffering from diabitis and hypertension. My thoughts are also always with my new born baby who is only five months old and badly sick.

Our journey to Europe has badly damanged the health of my wife. Her sugar level is very high and it has provoked two miscarriages. This baby was our last hope, because the doctors had warned us that my wife might not be able to get pregant. Unfortunately, she is now dependent on a medicine which she takes three times per day. She also needs to have insulin everyday.

Yet, all these difficulties do not prevent me from feeling joy seeing our own crops grow, in spite of the limited facilities at my disposal. I am also content that we will be able to sell part of the crops to the
inhabitants of the camp at a lower price than that asked by the local sellers, even though their fruits and vegetables are often of very bad quality.

I am a proud farmer. I want to live my life, my world, my future, my hopes and dreams in a green land,where I can exert my energy not have it supressed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1000 stories and dreams from Ritsona(No.02)

”My pains behind my smiling old face”

Photo by:Neda Torabi
Photo by : Neda Torabi

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?

1000 stories and dreams from Ritsona (No.01)

”Will war in syria ever finish…?

 

photo by : Neda Torbai
Photo by : Neda Torabi

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.

Letters to the wrold from Ritsona (No.14)

”Will we be reunited?”

Letters to the world from Ritsona
Neda Torabi

Marriage is not only a traditional cultural ceremony. It is also an official proof that the two people who got married and their children constitute a unified family which should not be broken. Differences in nationality, religion, race between wives and husbands should never justify the splitting of a family. Moreover, whenever circumstances force members of a family apart, the simple fact that they belong to the same family unit should be adequate reason to have all members reunite. Unfortunately, none of the above applied to my experience. After eight years of shared life with my husband and children, the moment I reached Europe as a refugee, my family was broken up and I was classified as a single mother.

When we arrived in the Moria refugee camp, on Lesvos, Greece, together with my disabled husband (he has a palatine bone in his leg) and my 8 years old son, we went to the asylum registration office. When our data were registered, they asked us for our marriage documents. We handed them over only to have them rejected in the harshest way possible.

The woman behind the registration desk added: “Your marriage document is not valid here. It indicates that you got married in Iran while you are from Afghanistan. Therefore, we will register you as separate individuals, not as husband and wife. So, your husband will be officially registered as a single man and you as a single mother, without a guardian. As for the boy, he will be registered under your responsibility.”

It was really hard to accept that the European law did not recognize the validity of our marriage after 8 years of shared life and that it could break our family apart.

Since my husband has a disability, most of the legal process was done by me. However, there was no trouble to follow up our asylum application process. Yet, with each step in this process, my mind and my heart were pulsing for my boy, worrying about his condition as we could not even get the permission to live in the same tent. Being responsible for him without being next to him scared me, because my son is a passionate boy and very head strong.

The palatine bone in my husband’s leg was causing him great trouble. Everything was becoming very hard for each one of us. We had come to Europe, hoping to get treatment for my husband, but he was getting more and more vulnerable. Many people were getting transferred from Moria. Among them my sister who was almost in the same condition as I, but for different reasons. Although she had arrived with her husband, she was registered and recognized as a single mother. Because her husband had two wives and could be considered officially responsible for one of them, he chose to be with his elder wife. As a result, my sister was considered a single mother and her two young girls received assistance from the authorities as orphans.

In spite of all the difficulties, I was trying to follow the medical process of my husband so that his asylum application could take into consideration his disability. However, we did not manage to get any answers from the doctors to certify his vulnerability before the first review of the asylum application. Thus we got the red stamp in our first and second registration in the asylum office, in other words, our request for asylum was turned down.

When we could not find any alternative, we turned to the illegal solutions and we put our lives in the mercy of smugglers and strangers. There was no other option and not even time to think about consequences including the dangers of the trip itself. My only concern was to get out of there and rescue myself and the future of my son.

The smugglers could find a way to transfer us from Moria to the mainland and the Ritsona camp, where my sister was already living.

Now I too live in Ritsona camp. When I first arrived here, I was secretly sheltered for two months in my sister’s house. During those two months, I was living in fear of getting arrested and being pushed back to Moria camp.

After, two months, we decided to speak about our accommodations with the authorities of the camp. I was not sure that they would accept and understand my condition or would speak with the police to arrest me and send me back to Moria.

However, I was a bit optimistic, as Moria was under fire at that time and there was less possibility to be pushed back to Lesvos.

Today, I live with my nine-year old son at Ritsona. Here, I face different sorts of problems. At the same time, my husband is in a new camp, Kara Tepe, on Lesvos, where everyone’s life is in danger and basic human rights are violated. He had hardly rescued himself from the fire in Moria and, now, as one thousand more people are living there, he is suffering inhuman conditions, exposed to Covid19, having asylum process problems.

Here, I am deprived of all rights that other inhabitants have, as our cards ATM cards are cut, and even during the quarantine there was no consideration about our nutrition, including the possibility of distributing baskets of dry food.

Here, even those who are healthy are getting vulnerable, not because of physical problems, but because of psychological problems. Every time that I speak with my husband and ask about his condition, I feel very sad. He is suffering there too much and, as a single man, he is treated very harshly by the authorities. I also feel very bad that even my own illnesses, mostly about my lungs, is being forgotten among all these troubles, while it is getting worse and worse.

I am a woman who is a mother and a wife. I cannot stop thinking of my husband who is locked up in an inhuman environment, surrounded by wires and the virus. How much longer do I have to suffer away from my husband? How much more should I stay silent against my son’s desires as a child, who is getting discriminated and bullied emotionally by other children?

Will we ever be reunited as a family?

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 ?