Tag Archives: letters to the world from Ritsona

Letters to the world from Ritsona (No.17)

”My dear parents ,this money is my right”

Photgrapher : Neda Torabi
Photographer : Neda Torabi

I am a girl in need of certain necessities and to have them, I don’t want to be in bondage of pieces of papers called “money”.

When my rights get stifled by the people around me, I can fight for them, especially if I have the support of my parents. But how can I struggle when it is my very parents who repress my rights?

I am a young girl for whom the world outside this camp is becoming my passion and financial necessities are becoming my enslavement.
More than ever before, I depend on what money can buy for me and  consider having some money as my right which is violated by others.

Don’t I have the right to get 1€ from the 75€ that is given by the
government to my parents? Don’t you understand that, when I go out with my friends with nothing in my pocket and see them buy something they like, even a simple ice-cream, I feel humiliated and my pride hurt?

The ones who are around me can understand me well as they have the same condition as I have.

Do you think it is fair to prevent me from having my right, because you do not want to give money to your sons, fearing that they will use it to buy drugs or alcohol? Don’t you realize that actually they will find this money from other sources?

My brother buys alcohol and drinks it, thus wasting his energy. Why
should I be sacrificed because you want to prevent the satisfaction of his destructive desires?

Don’t you think that as a girl I need to satisfy urgent needs which I may not be able to discuss openly with you.

My dear parents! There are times I cannot ask you for money, but I
really need it. Do you expect me to ask for money to buy menstruation pads or underwear or products for my personal hygiene?

Aren’t you aware that, here, the weapon of wolves who hunt young
deprived girls like us, is to offer them pieces of papers called “money”?

Know then that, if you ignore our needs, you will be the reason why we will take the bait and fall victims to such wolves.
You are responsible for me; responsible for my food, for my clothes and other such basic needs of mine. You are responsible for my life,
whether it would be a dark or bright life, since I am passing the most
formative and crucial days of my life.

My dear parents, I want to complain about your actions, I want to
complain because these actions of yours are depriving me of my
fundamental right. You are not raising an animal which would stay docile at home, because you simply provide it with basic necessities.

I am not interested in provoking and seducing men. So do not justify
your behaviour towards me with the excuse that having me stay at home and preventing me from having some joys in the company of my friends will keep me safe in the environment of the camp.
But I suspect that there is another reason for your behaviour. I think that you do not give me the money that, by right, is mine for my own needs, because you want to save it for the continuation of our trip to another country in Europe. You know that we will need that money to cross borders so that you will not have to stay here any longer.

I know, you wouldn’t treat me like this if you were not considering these future expenses for our moving on. And you would not be thinking of moving on towards another place in Europe, if our human rights were respected here, if the asylum processes were efficient and fair, if we could have access to health care, to education, to social services, if we were treated as normal and equal individuals.

Finally, the reason we are kept restrained in the houses, the reason our wings are tied down, is not our parents, but the camps we live in.

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 world from Ritsona (No.15)

”Here is the world of moving statues. Here is the world of ghosts”

Ritsona camp , Neda Torbi
Ritsona Refugee camp, part (A), photographer:Neda Torabi

Yes, everyone is alive, but without a soul, without a purpose, without the energy of inspiration and desire that animates all life.

Their only wish is to cross Greece’s frontier and reach another European country. There is no light of hope here, and we are all fading away. Here, the day is lived waiting for the night and the night waiting for the morning.

Here, the pregnant women end the last days of their pregnancy in regret, in repentance. They are beset by compunction for their children’s future and dread that their new-born babies will have the same fate as themselves. They pray that their babies will not have the same experience and, with these thoughts and fears, they blame themselves for carrying these babies in their wombs.

Here, babies are born in the ambulance, in prefabricated houses or in containers. Their umbilical cord is not cut by a doctor, but by the crude blade of a midwife. The blood is wasting for hours, and in this traditional world, the baby who is born in the darkness of the night is called star-crossed.

Here, children are born, grow up, and pass the most decisive years of their life among metal containers and prefabricated houses, where every day is the same, an endless repetition, with no variety, no learning, no schooling. They all suffer from abject neglect.

Here, some girls get so lonely and so desperate that they even consider suicide. Sometimes, in their terrible loneliness, they lose their better judgement and trust any poisonous person around them. Yet, it all starts when the bonds of the families break down. The parents blame their sons and daughters for their behavior and they, in turn, blame their parents for their condition. For it was the parents who decided to leave their country and home and become refugees. The fact is, of course, that those poor parents could never imagine what their life would be like, once they crossed the borders and reached Europe. The generations do not understand each other, each lost in its own pains.

Here, the young boys resort to alcohol, as the only way to reduce the stress they are suffering. And when alcohol fails to alleviate their stress, they start using drugs, which come to them from different people’s hands.

Here, people are like rings in infectious chains. It is enough that one thing be used by one person and it will be used by many others. It suffices that one boy smokes for others to start to smoke too. Independently of theiage, young boys and old men alike have but one goal: find the money, not for food, but to pay traffickers to help them cross illegal borders. Self organized businesses, mini markets and shops are the main activities to keep themselves busy and earn money – money which is the only means to try to move on to some other more hospitable place.

Here, the family units are broken easily and the crude promises from the authorities make this easier. For example, they say that those who get divorced, can find safe shelter. What they do not mention, however, is how long the shelter will be available and all the consequences that will fall upon them again.

Here, during the night, safety for adult kin refugees is to walk in the camp together, one the guardian of the other. Here, safety means to have the police, even though they do not intervene even when the conditions give way to chaos. But if there is talk about a sword, a knife, a stack of things, the secret polices appears immediately.

Here, life for the ones who do not want to become addicted, waste their life, or change the direction of their life, is to be fast, clever, careful, go along with the many, but, in reality, stay alone with his/herself.

Here, people prefer to lock themselves at home, not only because they are afraid they may get infected by the corona virus, but also because they are afraid of getting infected by many poisonous people.

Here, there are women who cannot come out of their houses in the absence of their male kin. The door is locked on them and even when they are facing violence they should hide their pains, they should not refer the violence even to the doctor. They should put their hands on their mouths, in order to prevent other people from becoming aware of their condition. The fact is that they all know the end of this line, they know that a place called “safe house”, is not safe for a long time. Neither is there a safe fate for their children.

Here times are reversed for all, night is day and day is night. Here people’s lives are inverted. Here peace and quite are only apparent. Underneath this appearance, there is chaos everywhere.Traditions and customs are suffocating for all.

Here, the safe way of raising a voice is found in the writings of a young girl. She is writing about the black and white world of the inhabitants of the Ritsona refugee camp, their lives lived like moving statues. Her sharp pen carves the blank pages of her notebook with her words. Yet, she is hoping for something else. She is hoping to write about her dreams, not the pains around herself.

I am that young girl. Yes, I am trying to live, not to become a moving statue, not to be repressed, not to be confronted by the next generation’s questions, asking why I did not act. We are changed by authorities, those who are preventing us from thinking, speaking up, acting in order to keep our dignity, respect and honor.

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 ?

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.