Category Archives: Letters from Ritsona

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:9)

Can you imagine your self ?

15/07/2020

Imagine being an asylum seeker , seeking for your asylum application everywhere!

Imagine yourself in long queues to get food, to see a doctor, to go to the toilet, to have a wash, to have access to the taps for water to wash your clothes.

Imagine yourself calling for help while your tent is burning with no help coming to the rescue!

Imagine that you are a young muslim refugee girl, who cannot find safety anywhere, while school and education are becoming unreachable dreams for her and is fighting for all her rights.

Yeah, we struggled tolerating all those difficulties that we are facing even now when our voices and our rights are repressed and our existence is trapped. We have never been treated equally either before the pandemic or even now during the pandemic in spite of the so much used slogan: “We are, in this, together”.

When we are forced to stay home, because of unfounded and unproven diagnosis of corona virus cases, while tourists from other countries are welcome: when, in spite of this call “to stay home”, we are evicted from our homes, we demand freedom of action. But, that too we cannot have.

We, refugees, are always fighting to have our fundamental rights, which should be given naturally as we belong to the humankind, like you and all other people.We are fighting with words, with protests in the camps, until our voices be heard.

Although we have struggled until now and continue at this moment, the built up of pressures is becoming unbearable. We will not be able to continue our struggle alone.

We need your fists to be raised for us, not against us!

We are trying to survive, and you can stand in solidarity by our side. Our geographical origins distinguish us from each other, and it is a general human condition that there are things that some have and others do not. But there is one thing that all humans have, from the day of their birth to the day of their death, even during the pandemic: we have rights, basic human rights. As refugees we also have a right to education, a right to health, a right to hygiene, a right to food and a right to a safe life. We are refugees and if we cannot find safety here, then the concept “safety “ becomes meaningless.

We will never let others take away our right to freedom of movement, our right to freedom of action, to freedom of raising our voices .

And, if you stay silent against what is happening to us, then it means that you condone it and that it should continue.

If you stay silent against this crisis, then you are a cause of that.

If you stay silent against what we are suffering, it means we deserve such suffering.

Do you agree?

This silence will decide the value of our lives.

Parwana  Amiri (migratorygirl)

Special thanks to : Sonia Vlachou and solidarian collectivities in ionnina greece, who invited and supported .

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)

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No:7)

by migratory girl

We do not have a second shelter

We took our children´s hands while our homes were blown up by bombs and death was invading our lives.

We tolerated all sorts of hardship and crossed thousands of kilometers, to reach safety, find refuge.

Then we arrived here. We were treated  harshly, at times, with cruelty, as we waited to see if we would be recognized as refugees and given asylum. In the process we were forced to see each other with suspicion for we claimed the same thing.

And yet, even now that we have been recognized as refugees and been granted asylum, we are threatened with new hardships, new obstacles, new cruelties. Our dream, which just came true is being turned into a nightmare.

Our lives will have the biggest revolution. We will be turned onto the streets, the alleys, the parks, the open public spaces of cities, with no roof over our heads. These will be our new shelter.

With each moment that passes, I am losing my focus on my life more than ever. The threat of losing my home, the shelter I have known so far, fills me with panic. What sort of future waits for me, when homeless I will be forced to sleep on the corners of the streets? I was hoping that soon I would start my education, in this country where I was given the right to live. There will be no education for me. I will have to seek a job in order to rescue my family from the streets.

A job …

That will be the hardest part of my new life. For months, I have lived far from a town, in the midst of nowhere. During all these months, I could not be taught the national language and I am not able to speak it.

I dread to think how we can live in the roads.

Why should downtown become a second Moria camp for us?

Why should we live under such a social system?

If our labor cannot be used, then the economy will suffer. This is our belief, but unfortunately the rulers do not agree with us. They are wrong.

We want to work , we want to give services, we want to earn respected money and food.

We need an organized life, a home, an education, a social security number to get a legal job, a health card to get medical care. Only then, will we become real residents — not when we stay hidden or looked upon by discriminating eyes.

How can we be left on our own, in the streets, with no shelter, no education?

There is no second home for us. Our first home has been destroyed under bombs and wars. Yet, we were given some sort of a shelter, some sort of a home here. And now they want to throw us out. We will not leave our only shelter. What is the logic of this new policy to kick out the ones that are recognized as refugees in order to create accommodations for the ones from the camps on the islands? How can we integrate into society under such terms, which leave us totally exposed and deprived of our human dignity? Only when the newly recognized refugees can enter society and have the means for their own survival, should new ones come to take their shelters.

We will not let our families be broken.

We want justice and equality for our lives.

(Parwana Amiri)

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.6)

Enough is Enough

I am Parwana Amiri and at this moment where I’ m writing to you.
I’ m sitting back against the wall located in the middle of nowhere, between factories that produce different gases that cause various breathing problems to children and elder people.
Here is Ritsona, the refugee camp, where responsibility is absent, vulnerable s are ignored.
We are those refugee individuals and groups that could be moved away from the Aegean islands to the mainland, due to being highly vulnerable, but what we are faced with despite our vulnerability is being at the bottom of the care list, even now, during the pandemic.
Having the fundamentals is an unquestionable right for those, who are in quarantine, yet we, the people locked down in Ritsona are far from that!
Continue reading Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.6)

Letter to the world from Ritsona (No:4)

Author:Parwana Amiri

Public safety or mass extinction?

Here we are in the Ritsona refugee camp, located 70 kilometers north of Athens, constructed to house vulnerabe refugees. Ever since the outbreak of the Corona virus epidemic, however, the color and spirit of the camp have changed dramatically.

As the whole world is facing this terrible pandemic, the Ritsona refugee camp is where the first positive case of the virus, among the refugees in Greece, occured. As a result, we are now in a 14-day quaratine!

But …

What does quarantine mean in a refugee camp?

When we hear the word quarantine, the first thing that comes to mind is being locked down in a specific place, for a specific length of time, with a specific objective: to stay away from infected people who can put our lives in danger and to prevent ourselves from putting the lives of others in danger.

But, what is the reality of a quarantine for those living in a camp?

Continue reading Letter to the world from Ritsona (No:4)

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No:3)

Author : Parwana  Amiri

What is Corona Virus is teaching ?

Corona is teaching spiritual and moral lessons that have long been forgotten. It is teaching equality, that all humans are equal regardless of their life style, culture, religion, wealth, skin color, and geographical location.

Corona is teaching …

    • … that … a border can simply be the door of your room, when you are not allowed to go out, even if you need to. Crossing that door frontier is banned.
    • … that … borders can now be crossed without passports. Those documents, which, for years, separated us, excluded us, have little value now. A virus can cross the borders without any identification papers.
    • … how … foolish humans have been taking for granted the most important necessities of life:  food, water, medicine, while millions around them were deprived of them, living in fear of deprivation, every day of their lives. Today – everyone faces those threats!
    • … that … no matter how hard humans are working, the important thing is what one does and how one does something can benefit others.
    • … shame to those full of greed, selfishness and arrogance. It is teaching that the only way to survive is to help, to share, to give and look after others and protect them from the virus.
    • … how … the meaning of life changes when you do not have any solution for your problems and you are just waiting to see what others are deciding for your life.
    • … that … all humans are vulnerable.
    • … patience instead of panic. Many lived in this panic for years and had to chose patience instead – knowing that panic would cause more harm than good.
    • … that … everyone might become like all those who – for years – had their lives at the mercy of others – without knowing what their fate would be.
    • … that … life can lose its meaning when you are forced to live without any purpose or expectation. Or in a prison – just staying alive – the prison becoming your home.

Continue reading Letters to the world from Ritsona (No:3)

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.2)

Author : Parwana Amiri

The chain has been broken

02/04/2020

What we were afraid of has happened. After giving birth in a Hospital in Athens, a women – that escaped from somewhere in Africa – and her newborn where soon released from the hospital and brought to Ritsona Camp. She was then tested positive for the Coronavirus. After being in touch with 63 persons in the camp 20 positive results have been confirmed in the camp.

Copyright Parwana Amiri

The quarantine started from today 02/04/2020. People are in panic and they are trying to keep their distance with people from African countries – that will not decrease the risk. With this treatment from other communities, residents that escaped from countries in Africa raised their campaign in the camp more than ever with slogans like “Africans have NO Coronavirus”.

However, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), one of the official actors of the camp, announced that they will begin to distribute food baskets and hygiene kits to camp residents and that people would continue to have access to medicine. But it is not clear when. The residents prepare their food in the homes, they started buying what they need from internal shops of the camp. But most of people are not able to buy their necessities as the bank cash that were going to receive on the beginning of this month, has been delayed on 20th of the month

Close contact of people with each other, having no mask, less access to medicines they need as vulnerable people, is increasing the risk more than elsewhere.
14 days quarantine for residents from government and emphasized by active NGOs of the camp, sending frequent messages to residents. But still different reasons push the residents to go out and provide their necessities, meanwhile police started their activities to control the movement of people in the camp.
Continue reading Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.2)

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.1)

Author :Parwana

Under COVID19 pressure

29/03/2020
For years, Ritsona Refugee Camp was ment for almost nine hundred refugees. Today, the camp provides accommodation facilities for more than three thousands refugees from the islands, most of them are vulnerable.

I am one of these new arrivals, who could find peace, dignity, primary education, health care, entertainment and all that a human needs for a normal life, under one camp – Ritsona Refugee Camp.

Copyright Parwana Amiri

Our all-day-life-world changed here for us, people could get back their normal moral state. Communication became much stronger than what it was before. But we are all under a huge pressure of a common problem – COVID-19 – that has a single solution: stay at home to keep your safety!

That is almost impossible when you are a part of more than four thousand people, and live in a container with more than eight persons .

While all through the world, the rule is to stay at home temporarily, here it is just to stay in the camp. But in Ritsona Camp this is not logical. People are in a close contact with each other every single moment, without having any information about what it is going on throughout the world or ways of protecting themselves and their children.
Continue reading Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.1)