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

Poems of a Butterfly (No:8)

by : a migratory girl

It needs courage !

It needs courage to build a school !

It needs courage to touch children’s hearts !

It needs courage to welcome homelessness !

It needs courage to stand with us in one line !

It needs courage to open an educational house !

It needs courage to give hope for hopelessness !

It needs courage to give pens to those that have never touched a pen before !

It needs courage to paint  the black and white world of the wounded !

It needs courage to advocate from silences !

It needs courage to give shelter to others !

It needs courage to stay a human !

It needs courage !

It need courage !

BECAUSE ….

It’s easy to destroy !

It’s easy to break hearts !

It’s easy to shout at the silenced !

It’s easy to close your eyes on truths !

It’s easy to hurt those who have been hurtled many times !

It’s easy to sit aside !

It’s easy to show your power against weaknesses !

It’s easy !It’s easy !

But , we will never give up !

We will build again , stronger than before !

We will help again more committed than before !

We will bring happiness and stay happy , happier than before !

We will make islands free

04/05/20

illustrated by : Micol suber

 

 

Poems of a Butterfly (No:7)

a migratorygirl

Every night, before sleep

Every night, silently 

Every night, lonely 

I dress my harsh realities

In dreams 

Every night, with my pen 

Every night, with my words

I hug my dreams 

I review my story 

Every night, before sleep

Every night, when all sleep

In my silence, with myself 

I build with my words 

A new world 

In my world, home is for all

in my world, school is a right 

In my world, you have peace 

In my world, war is banned 

In my world, the world is for all

Sun is mom, moon is dad

Mother earth is a planet for all

But 

When I close my eyes 

In dreams, as in reality, 

I live nightmares ……

04/09/20

Ilustrated by : Alexandra Nikolova

 

Poems of a Butterfly NO:6

How easy you ……. we

How easy you left us behind

How hard we continued the way

How easy you faded our lives

How hard we stayed displayed

How easy you suffocated our voices

How hard we broke the silence

How easy you called us danger

How hard we proved our peace

How easy you counted our deaths

How hard we lost our beloved ones

How easy you called us terrorists

How hard we live with terror

How easy you left us in darknesses

How hard we found lights for our way

How easy you thought us most greedy

How hard we proved being simply refugees

How easy you hid and trapped us

How hard we lived your hells and prisons

How easy you left us in the past

How hard we struggle with present

How easy you sleep in sweet dreams

How hard we live in nightmares

How easy you threaten to divide us

How hard we prove being united

How easy you burned our dreams

How hard we draw new dreams

How easy you left us in prison

How hard we must break the chains

 03/05/2020

illustreated by :Alexandra Nikolova

poems of a Butterfly NO:5

We are burning

It’s not to mark the date!

It’s to raise the alarm!

The fire has burned our homes.

The fire has burned our schools.

The fire has burned our hospitals.

The fire has burned our dreams.

We are burning.

We search for your eyes.

You have turned them away.

You have hidden your faces.

Who is the criminal? Not the fire, for sure!

Who shall pay for the life of the burned child?

Who shall answer the mother, never to touch her child again?

Who can answer?

Who dares imagine the screams of the baby burning ?

The baby was crying…

Was crying, was crying…

The baby was burning, a bundle of coal left.

Where are those who cursed us?

Those afraid we threatened their wealth?

Come on and see!

Do you dare to look at this scene?

Better avert your eyes.

Hide and lock yourselves in your homes!

We are silent so that you hear us

written by:Parwana Amiri

Ilustrated by :Micol suber

link : https://brushaandbow.com/we-are-burning/

Letters to the world from Moria (No:15)

Is it a crime to …….?

We come from far away lands – lands of war, violence, misery. Our lives were threatened every day, every hour, every minute. So we plucked our courage and we left in search of a better, a secure and safe future — for ourselves and our children. We traveled in fear, facing all sorts of difficulties, all sorts of dangers and threats. Finally, we reached Europe.

We have been in the refugee camp of Moria, on the island of Lesvos, for months and months. It felt like a prison, it felt like hell. Nobody cared for us. And whenever some people tried to help, they met hostility and persecution from the authorities.

After many months spent in that hell, lining in queues for food, water, medical care, to use the toilets or the showers; after many months surviving in squalor, with sewage water running along our tents, garbage piling up; suffering the cold, the rains, the heat with no adequate protection against the elements; after many months of humiliation, repression, uncertainty and fear of the violence that broke among the people cramped up in that prison, we managed, on our own, to leave that hell and arrive in Athens. Did we make the wrong decision?

Here we are now: in Victoria square, in the capital of Greece! We pass our nights in the open, suffering cold during the night and heat during the day. Our children, hungry, play with naked feet. To use a toilet, we can only go to the restaurants around, but the owners are often unwilling to give us permission to use them. All our possessions are stuffed in a suitcase. We use our few clothes as pillows under our heads and we share some blankets with each other during the night. While the rest of the world is sleeping we are awake, because danger threatens us each moment here, in Victoria square. Smugglers approach us, asking for money and promising a safe passage to other European countries. How can we trust them? Dispossessed, displaced, alone, we are at the mercy of strangers.

The shade of trees is our only protection, but they do not protect us from the eyes of the passersby. Look at us! What you see is the reality of our life, not a theater drama or a dramatic film. Don’t bow your head to avoid our sight and pretend that you don’t know what is happening to us. Don’t avoid us as if we were carriers of disease, or criminals threatening your life. And don’t pretend you support us by taking our pictures and posting them in your facebook. Our children are not actors performing in the films you shoot without asking us. They have their own dreams they long to reach. Will they be allowed to?

Is it a crime to say ‘no’ to injustice?

Is it a crime to demand our basic human rights?

Is it a crime to struggle for a better life?

Is it a crime to demand the satisfaction of our basic needs?

Is it a crime to challenge what you call “democracy”?

Written by:Parwana Amiri

Photo by:Marios Lolos

Poems of a Butterfly (No:4)

poems of a migratory girl

Your eyes bother us

It is not a drama film
We are not actors
Don’t be spectators
Your eyes bother us!

Trees are our shelter
The earth is our floor
This is a real scene
You eyes bother us!

Violence and humiliation
Scorn and repression
Don’t see us as criminals
Your eyes bother us!

You support is admirable
But, don’t take our pictures
The lenses, your eyes
Your eyes bother us!

In the roads, passengers
In the tents, tourists
In war, among soldiers
Your eyes bother us!

Not the eyes, only hearts
Not the eyes, only thoughts
Not the eyes, only glances
Those eyes bother us!

(Full of respect for all solidarity people who were always there to help us, this poem is only for those
who couldn’t change their perspective about us)

(To survive, to breathe
To achieve our goals
Not to stay in darkness
We struggled in Greece)

photo by: Ahmad Ebrahimi

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 .

….why do I have nothing left to ask?