When I arrived in Munich, Felix and Arash came to pick me and be together in the place of exhibition. We arrived and such a big shock, it was not because of the exhibition place, the artistic work of region people with bottles of irons which honestly impressed me. But it was to meet Nahid there. Nahid Akbari is 17 years old young refugee and an activist soul from Afghanistan which was an active member of YRM as well. Her journey with her family started in 2021 when the news about interviews of Turkey exploited from ministry of migration in Greece. As one of many families they started their way from Greece to Germany. This means that they passed following borders one after another.
(Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy). The hardest and the most violent border control had Croatia. “The were hitting single men close to death. They were taking their clothes, they were not even looking to pregnant women and were just beating all.”
I had many things to talk about, specially the effect of being in our activism group to become an activist herself in Bosnia’s border. “I noticed the importance of group work, was hoping to at least have one of girls there to start the movements. But then I started it myself, asked other to protest. The first time everyone was saying “are you going to let us the police beat us” but I started and asked some journalists to cover it, The next day I saw hundreds of them behind me, supporting the protest.”
The exhibition is fascinating for large size of each artists work to the food and music, Neda’s art is shinning here. We all hope yo join all the artists together soon.
I am impressed to see the Ukrainian refugees art as well, Anastasia is one of them. In a short conversation after my speech she said “Your words really gave me energy that yes we are all here.”
Kseniah was talking about the deep impact of news on her psychological condition, she is mother of two children. She is deeply loud artist and so young to believe that she is mother of two children.
“Do not read or watch the news so much, you need to take care of your mental health. You are vulnerable for all what you have been through and should give some pauses to yourself. You are a mother too and the news will just manipulate your emotions and take out your strength.”
Their art is so deep and loud. Many words hidden behind the colours and a clear message. I can imagine the moments they had their hearts burning for their country and compatriots, talking to the colours and brushes. The world of artists is wider than what we see as a result on the canvas.
In that time I was saying myself, “the warm attendance of people is so heartwarming, it is what I was dreaming to see one day. They do not pass by each artist’s work, but in fact they put all their attention, they read about each artists and discuss. This is a big achievement and this is how change forms. Even if the action is small, but this will prepare the people and will make my connection for wider actions.”
You really need to attend if you are want to know more of refugee condition and the way art can be a protest. If I call it an open school is for the fact you can join and hear yourself, not through mass media.
We simply put you in question of “WHY BORDERS ?” if Nahid was going to arrive in Germany, why she had to pass all those hardships in Bosnia, or if Neda was going to recognised as a refugee why she had to pass three years of her life in the camps as me. If refugees from Ukraine can get permit of Germany without passing any interviews, why can’t my family?
I know the answer, but the low can not convince me. As law is to be changed, for Nahid who is afraid of Dublin and me who is exclude of the right to Freedom Of Movement.
But it is not a single side struggle anymore, We must stand before we are crushed under the oppression of politicians.
On a very hot afternoon, everyone is in their containers and no one dares come out. I am one of them, trying to drink as much water as possible in order to resist the heat. What about those under tents, those in the big hall, where many families are living together in one space having difficulty to breathe, especially small children? Yet,
since here is Malakasa, you cannot complain about anything, cannot ask or demand something different or better. Even if you are under a tent you have to be thankful, only that you are here.
What I am afraid of is not what is happening now, bad as it is, but of what may happen later, due to extreme weather conditions and the heat wave that ravages the whole of Greece.
Suddenly, I hear a siren, a scary noise on my mobile. It is an alert from a sim company; all of us must leave the camp immediately!
The silence which followed for a minute breaks down. Everybody is getting ready to escape, some are collecting all that they have and some are going out with a single bag.
My neighbor is afraid to leave the camp. She is thinking of her dishes and house stuff that she recently bought and are all new. She does not want to lose them or have them burn. She is crying, what will happen if she comes back and finds no one and all her belongings lost? How will she be able to ever replace them?
The buses are here. The team of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) is trying to do their best to organize the departure. They give priority to vulnerable people, but, of course, as always, single men and boys are trying to be in the first group to go.
I am here with a small suitcase, where I could only put some personal stuff of mine and of my mother’s. We still do not know where we are being taken and what is going to happen. They only thing we can see clearly are the flames blazing on the mountains around the camp.
Some men are asking for help to move their stuff. Those living in the tents are doubly worried as there is no lock for their tents and all their belongings are left there.
The camp staff try to make sure that everyone is out and ready to go. Yet, it seems that some stayed hidden in their containers and do not want to move elsewhere.
Everybody is trying to get on the bus. I am in now, but my mom has not realized it. She is anxiously looking for me in the crowd and calling my name, “Farishta, Farishta”. In the general chaos and noise she cannot hear me calling her too.
Finally, she realizes I am in and climbs on the bus. It is 10:00 o’ clock now. I remember my mom has just cooked chicken for dinner. Pity, we had to leave it behind. As we ride forth, we see a huge black cloud hanging ove the whole area.
We hear that we are being transferred to Ritsona. I have heard about this camp many times, but have never been in it.
At last we arrive. Here we are in Ritsona now.
There are no mountains around it, but as the camp of Malakasa, it is surrounded by a big wall, covered by slogans and some paintings. There is no shop or market around as we have in Malakasa.
Once off the bus we are guided by the people standing by the gate into the camp. Such a big one.
Everyone is waiting and some walk to the other side of the camp to take refuge under the trees — many big pine trees.
Some people are going into containers which have been opened by camp workers. Others are still lingering outside. We are waiting to see if there will be an open container to go in, but my father is still not here and we are waiting for him.
Some have settled in corners, close to the walls. They have put a carpet or a piece of cartoon and will sleep there.
Many are standing with their babies in their laps and their bags in their hands.
A big van of water comes and everyone rushes to get water to quelsh their thirst. The atmosphere is heavy because of the fires, the heat makes us feel as if we are in a desert. We need to drink, we feel we can die otherwise.
We are behind one of the containers, in front of the wall. I am so tired. I just want to close my eyes. “You sleep,” says my father, “I will stay awake for a few hours more.”
My mom is still awake and afraid for me and my sisters. Here is like a public road, one comes another goes, each moment there is a new call, that there is an empty space. My mom wants to go there, but my dad wants to stay here for tonight and change places tomorrow.
The weather is warm, but we need to have a blanket or some cloth to put over us. My father is afraid of the wind, that it may bring the fire here.
Counting the starts, goodbye night…..
We open our eyes very early the next day. Already, everyone is running around trying to find a free space to settle. It looks as if the sun has broken down the calm of the people again.
My father is collecting our stuff together. The whole situaation reminds me of all that has happened in Moria. Again displaced, searching for protection, looking for water and food. No news about breakfast or food. In Malakasa, some people had no cash card and ate only the meals provided by the camp or the NGOs. Here, in Ritsona, there are shops and people who have money can buy some provisions. Those without money cannot buy anything at all. I want to cry when I hear their children ask for a biscuit, while their mothers are trying to keep them calm and play with them.
When will this story of being repeatedly displaced finish?
For many years, geopolitical games and economic interests have been behind all sorts of tragedies for people all around the world. These are the causes behind the catastrophic scenes of extreme weather and the terrible fires that surround us. They do not threaten only us, but almost half the population in this land is sunk under. Their homes, their memories and their history have gone up in flames.
Again I see food lines forming. That is yet another history of waiting and counting the ours.
Doctors are trying to respond to the arrival of so many people who have not been checked in Malakasa. The newly arrived, on their side, are trying to use their opportunity to get medicine and treat their ailments and pains.
When something gets distributed to a large number of people without an orderly organized distribution method, then many people remain without their fair share.
Nothing remains in its place. I can see even small boys carrying away bottles of water.
Here, the world for girls is different. They are active, they care, they support us, and share. They are a team and do not work alone. They are brave and do not care about what boys tell them.
Yesterday a group of young girls of the Ritsona camp organized a collection of the trashes and the empty bottles of water from all around the camp. They did so ignoring the negative comments they received from some boys.
They even encouraged some more girls from Malakasa to do the same.
But, would they be able to always do as much as they do now?
In Malakasa girls do not support each other and they are all waiting for someone else to stand first line and the rest to support them.
I think that the girls here have already made a big impact on us, with the way they extended hospitality, shared awareness, cared for our needs, and encouraged us to be patient. But how close to each other have we really been? How different have they considered us? They have the same problems as we have, the same anxiety and uncertainty we have been tolerating, with the interviews, the separating walls, the access to education. Will these unite us?
It is evening. ash is falling from the sky, smoke fills the lungs. People get even more scared. As I pass by the mosque I see lots of women staying there.
And what about the infections of COVID19 among us and the new arrivals.
It is sad to hear about the high number of people who get Covid in the local hospitals and the number of people who, unchecked, are displaced now in other areas.
Some girls have their period and are looking for pads. How will they find them and from where?
I am tired, have no place to get a shower, feeling ashamed of how I smell.
It is the second day we are staying in Ritsona after two nights we spend since we arrived. The buses are here to take us back to our homes soon. People have missed even their tents. All the same, many would prefer to live here.
The sun has not risen yet. I keep one eye close, the other
open to check the clock, hoping I could sleep a bit more.
No, I must get up. I need to pray and quickly get ready,
not to miss the dolmush (small bus).
Walking from the house to the gate of the camp, I can see
some shops opening for the day and I can smell the coffee
brewing in the Kurdish mini coffee shops. As I step out of
the gate onto the road with the wall of the camp behind
me, I join a group of almost 20 people, some with bags on
The bus arrives, a white dolmush. Normally it should
transport 12 people, but we all get in, one by one, closer
and closer to each other. With all the seats taken, a
number of us sit on the floor.
There is little light reaching us on the floor. More and
more, we have difficulty to breath, incapable to change
position or stretch our legs. We resign to tolerate it all, as
it will last only for 30 minutes.
Some of the men in the car are almost the age of my
father, some maybe younger. My poor father is sick. He
can’t even walk properly. The same is true for my mother.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here, on the floor of this car. I
would be sleeping like so many youths of my age. But the
story and the wave of everyone’s life are different, some
have no waves in their life and some face a tough sea.
A bad smell comes from some shoes. I would really enjoy
making a joke out of our circumstance, but the silence
around me is heavy and scary. Were I to make a joke, I
might be kicked out of the car. The whole scene reminds
me of old, black and white movies.
Finally, a young man, in his late 20s perhaps, changes the
whole situation. I could hear with gratitude his voice
coming from the corner of the car: ‘’Please, use a spray
for your feet. They smell so strongly we can feel the smell
even though you were shoes. Do something, otherwise we
will get all dizzy before starting our work’’.
He is totally right. There is an awful stench in the car. Yet
it is not shocking. Rather, it is totally predictable. The
space is tight, heavy with the breaths of so many people.
Most of them may have not had the time to wash their
face or brush their teeth. Mercifully, it is still early in the
morning and the weather is not yet awfully hot.
Finally, the door opens and we pour out. No chance to
even stretch our body. Our so-called boss is tough and
heartless. “You are not here for gymnastics, start your
work immediately, this field should be finished today.”
He yells at us, screaming out everyone’s mistakes. He is
one of the inhabitants in the camp, but he just knows
some Greeks and, thus, he has become the manager of
the workers. He must be almost 50. His name is Safi, but
now everyone calls him mister Safi Jan.
Such a strange world….
Here in the onions fields, work is divided in 2 stages. I
wish I could work in the second one, but I am new and for
people like me, no matter how old they are, they work only
in this part, harvesting the onions and picking them out of
the ground. At the end of the workday, you can’t see your
nails any more, as if a kilo of soil has gathered under
them. The second stage of the work is better because you
just put the onions in boxes and then lift the filled boxes
onto a truck.
As I gather the onions from the ground, I think of a
chessboard. Yeah, I love this game and I am a good
player. So I enjoy thinking about new techniques and
tactics while picking the onions. It makes time pass faster
My very life is itself like a chessboard. Here, however, I
am not the player. Neither the ones who are here working
like me are players on their chessboards. We are all chess
pieces in the hands of politicians, who use our name for
their benefit. It is the same in my country. It seems I have
many rights, but I’m not aware of them. This is the reason
why I and many others like me are exploited.
Generally, I am a calm boy and I don’t interfere with
anything or anyone’s life, unless I have a responsibility to
do so. My quiet manner may well be the main reason why
my brothers, smaller or older, whip me with their words.
They are much fatter than I am and more energetic. I used
to think about everything too much and worry about all
that happens. I feel a heavy weight on my heart and a
heavy weight on my shoulders.
During the first hours of our work, with every minute that
passes, I can feel the heat increasing, reaching up to 36
degrees Celsius. The humidity is very high as well, I feel
as if I stand under a hot shower, or as if someone is
pouring water on me.
Getting close to mid-day, there is no eagerness to have
food, only water, and my clothes are wet through.
Few hours left, I tell myself. I should persevere. I need to
get those 20 euros home. We are getting close to the end
of the week and we were supposed to buy my father’s
medicines at the beginning of each week.
Now, I am counting the moments to see when it will be
14:00 so we can stop working. Exactly as I am thinking
this, Safi says, ‘’Today’s work is finished, thanks to all of
This is the best sentence my ears could ever hear.
Going back from here to the camp, however, I feel like a
prisoner who goes from detention to work and to work
from detention. In the Spongebob animation show I saw,
the hero was in jail and working for a coal mine.
I do not even want to think about myself anymore, either
about life, or about the things that happen around me.
Who can see me? Who dares to look at me? I am just a
17 years old boy, who is burying his dreams every day,
trying to accept his realities and somehow continue to live.
Still, this work of ours could be more dignified, better
organized, and equitably paid. We get much less than we
should rightfully get. I know that we are sold from one
boss to another, from an Afghan to a Pakistani and each
of them gets paid for what we do, because they collect us
and bring us to work, but not in an humane way.
The prospect of integration does not rest only in having
the possibility to work on onion fields, or in vineyards or
olive groves. Integration should be based on the
opportunities offered to use our training, our talents, our
skills and abilities in any given field and for us to have a
chance to live as normal citizens in the community.
To the world politicians – a letter waiting for an answer
My name is Parwana Amiri. I am currently living in Ritsona camp with 3000 more people, hundreds of whom are young girls, like me. I am writing to you, not because I trust or believe you, but because I must give voice to many people around me who still place their hopes in you. I discern this hope in their faces when they laugh, I touch this hope in their veins when I hold their hands, I witness this hope in the sparkle of their eyes as they meet mine. I can feel this hope while all along I can also sense the silent ocean of anger that they are trying to keep under control.
Can you understand, what I am talking about? We are here, thousands of wounded people, asked to prove our vulnerability. Yet, no one really sees us, no one really listens to us, no one really tries to understand our wound let alone heal it.
Have you ever written a letter and been waiting for an answer? It does not matter what the letter is about. You write and you expect an answer; a simple answer would do. We, too, expect an answer to our letters to you. A small change in our condition, even vague distant attention truly directed to our appeals would be enough to give us hope, hope that, despite our being different, we are still accepted, that the dream of integration will not be achieved by forcing us to become and behave in ways alien to us, but by accepting to live with us, respecting us as authentic human beings.
I live on a no man’s land determined to listen and record thousands of different life stories every day. Meanwhile, the only thing you are prepared to do is to pass ever more restrictive legislation regarding us, legislation based on the most limited knowledge of us acquired through the most superficial and short meetings with us. You write those legislations with a pen, but we feel them on our skin, in our bones, and our soul, every day and every night!
I am writing to you from a house inside the camp, looking out of my window at the wall surrounding us. Children are playing outside my window and I am certain that neither you nor anyone else would accept such conditions for their own children.
The sense of confinement is becoming oppressive. Our eyes are prevented from seeing the outside world. People pass by the camp in their cars every day and I wonder if they, too, share a similar oppressive sense of being kept in the dark about what goes on in the camp behind the walls.
I can see the wall from my window. It is 3 meters high. This image will persist in my mind for all time to come, reminding me that I have been forced to live as a prisoner, behind this wall.
We are told that the wall is for our own safety, but we have never been threatened by the people outside. Even if we were threatened, imprisoning us cannot be the answer. That what social justice dictates, not I.
I never imagined that, in Europe, people get confined and locked up because they are threatened from the outside and because imprisonment provides them with safety, a safety they will never truly have. Even the police do not come into this prison. I am not asking you to put yourself in our shoes. What I am asking is that, as you pass by alongside the camp, you stop and reflect. What are the feelings inside you when you consider that people are kept prisoners in your land, while you, as a citizen of that same land, have no clear idea as to who these people are, what their lives have been, or the reasons that made them flee their homes? What do you make of these people dumped in the margins of the capital city, people you do not visit even once per month, or talk to once per season, or see even once per year – rights that even criminals in prison can count on?
I suffer from this imprisonment. Immensely. And I struggle to go to school, to learn, to grow, always afraid of what others will think of me, of my life….
Ritsona is a reflection of the prison system that is part of the industrial complex, rooted in slavery, colonialism, and racist capitalism. The money spent on the wall is the citizen’s money. It is the money for the development of Europe. It should not be spent to maintain old systems of oppressive domination. They should, instead, be invested in improving the quality of life of the entire European society, so that every human being can thrive.
We are demanding our rights to a decent living, to decent jobs, to decent housing, to health care, and to education. As long as we are deprived of these rights, we will continue to challenge the fundamental structure of your society.
We are challenging the world to understand the complex ways race, class, nation, and ability are intertwined and how, only by addressing this complexity we can find the means to move beyond divisive categories, to understand the inter-relationships of ideas and processes that are presented as separate and unrelated and, together, fight for our common good.
From a mountain of strength and carried by a wave of force, I, Parwana Amiri
We need bridges that connect, not the walls that separate
A few days ago, I woke up as usual and got ready to go to my class. As I walked along, I noticed some bulldozers and many workers working by the back gate, constructing something. They had already laid down some long, red metal rods. When I asked them about them, they told me that they were going to build a wall all around the camp. They also told me that wall would be 3 meters high and the project would finish in a month.
The Ritsona camp has been an open structure for years. It should not, under any circumstance, become a closed structure. This assertion is not based on a theoretical and idle consideration of the
concept of detention. It is based on the paramount concept of social integration as a policy and aspiration for immigrants and refugees. A closed camp not only makes the goal of integration with the local society impossible, it also violates the most basic human rights of the inhabitants of the camp and deprives
them of that minimum freedom of movement they have had. The people of Ritsona have not committed any crime for which they need to be kept apart from the rest of the world around them. The people of Ritsona need to be seen and acknowledged in their humanity and the rights that derive from their humanity.
Silence reigns in the camp. The only pre-occupation of all the people relates to their interviews and the process of their asylum applications. Very few of them, if any, know about the construction of the wall. No announcement has been made in this regard.
What they might be aware of is that the minister of immigration, Mitarachis, has declared that only the camps on the Greek islands will become closed structures.
The money spent on the construction of walls could be used, instead, to make a better life for those living in the camps, a life that safeguards the integrity and dignity the people. It could be used to cover their
medical needs, their educational needs, their psychological needs. There is no justification for walls that imprison and stigmatise those who, leaving behind threatening existences, sought refuge in this country.
These walls should never become a reality. We should not become prisoners with no offence or crime. We should all come together and, united, standup against it.
Give us your support. Give us your solidarity. Don’t allow them to cut us off. Don’t accept this indignity of exclusion, of violation of rights, of injustice.
A refugee is someone who, once, had a normal life, a home for his family, a school for his children, a hospital. He enjoyed respect and dignity. He had friends, relatives and basic humans rights. He had dreams, hopes, plans for the future. What he did not have was safety. That was taken from him by political and economic games.
A refugee is that brave father and that courageous mother, who
pluck their courage to protect their family and choose to leave their
country and undertake a voyage with death lurking along the way.
A refugee is a person who struggles many years, in many
countries, his safety always threatened, his days filled with the
sounds of bombs and explosions. A refugee is a person who has
seen the hospitals and schools destroyed under fire.
A refugee is a person, who amid the bombs, the explosions, the
fires, he does not give up his hopes for a new life for himself and
his children, for safety, for peace, for nights with dreams rather
than nightmares. A refugee dreams of a day when the news do not
report numbers of killed or injured, do not recount bloody suicide
A refugee is a human being who is as normal as thousands of
other human beings who constitute the population of this world.
The difference between him and those others is the place where
his luck decided he would be born.
A refugee is a mother who gives birth to children whose lives she
will not enjoy. She does not rejoice at their birth. A pregnant
refugee woman can listen to the heartbeat of her baby inside her,
but she cannot hear her child’s laughing or crying in the crowded,
noisy and chaotic world of refugee life.
A refugee is that powerful, courageous and freedom seeking
member of a family, who cannot accept that his rights and freedom
A refugee is an orphan child, a single mother, old parents,
vulnerable people, victims of wars who gathered all their courage
in a back pack and who, holding their children’s hands, passed
thousands of miles of distance, walked over mountains, often losing their way, tolerated hunger and thirst, crossed borders, faced all sorts of difficulties, including humiliations and indecencies
by border guards who treated them as criminals. The women,
among them, faced the worst physical violence, being raped not
only during the voyage, but even in the camps where they found
themselves enclosed. Those women did not face violence from
strangers alone. Even more tragic, they faced the violence from
their fathers, brothers and husbands, violence unleashed, in them,
by the horrible conditions of their lives.
Yet, in spite of all these hardships, a refugee is the one who did
not resigned, but held in the back of his mind the promise of light
that for millions of refugees was the light called Europe.
Thus a refugee is someone who after many failed attempts, after a
number of pushbacks, even deportations, insists on reaching that
promised light, that Europe.
And what does any and every refugee find reaching that promised
land of Europe? Certainly not a new life! What awaits him are
discrimination, inequality, repression, segregation as if prisoners,
exclusion and deprivation of the most basic human rights — all
these in a climate of total uncertainty about their future.
A refugee is a single woman, an unaccompanied girl who is put in
the so called “safe zones “ where life is threaten by those very
people who live inside such a zone. A refugee is single mother
living in a tent near a tent of men who drink alcohol and lose
control over their actions.
A refugee is a fighter who struggles to keep his hopes and not to
give up. Yet even those fighters can be defeated and find solace in
But there are dreams behind their clenched fists, there are
demands behind their repressed voices. There are pains behind
their smiling faces. There is passion in their writings, there are
sparkles in their eyes, there are wings in their soul, there are
screams in their strained throats.
A refugee is a girl like me, who is writing every night what she
experiences everyday. Every night, before she falls asleep she
proclaims her dreams in the hope that she will reach them one day. She is fighting against injustice, like many who are fighting
After a bomb attack, in the city of Herat, Afghanistan, which injured my leg terribly, I went to Iran. The doctors there wanted to amputate my leg. Luckily for me, there were some American doctors who did not agree and only operated on it. For five months after the operation, I had to use crutches and, after that period, I could start walking properly.
At that point, I decided to stay in Iran because I could find a job there. My family did not agree with my decision and were very displeased. The truth is that I was dealing with many difficulties, with many problems: I was not given an identity card; I had no access to social benefits and no access to education and health care. Not succeeding to get an identity card, I was disappointed and discouraged and felt humiliated by the reactions of the people around me.
I have many bitter memories from my life in Iran. The worst one is the treatment I faced when I went to buy bread from the bakery. The police saw me and started chasing me. Somehow, I managed to ran into the building where I worked. The police followed me inside and asked my fellow workers whether they knew and saw me entering. Thank God, they directed them away from my hiding place and I was rescued. That incident was very stressful and scared me terribly. I really didn’t want to be arrested and be deported back to Afghanistan.
I was working in Iran for 4 years, but I was not content at all and could not envision a decent future for me in that country. It was then that I spoke with a smuggler and arranged for me and some of my friends to cross the Iranian border into Turkey. While passing the border, the police shot on us.
Fortunately none was injured. What a horrible scene!
Three months after I arrived in Turkey, I started working in a restaurant that was run by Turkish people in Van city. My salary was satisfactory, but I had to work like a machine to survive. That could not be called a life. I worked for three years in that restaurant, but there was no change in my life. I just went on and on, without any improvement in the conditions of my life. Every day
was the repetition of the previous one. I felt powerless with no strength, no desire or inspiration to continue that life.
Nevertheless, during those three years, I managed to put aside some money and I decided to use my savings to pay smugglers to get me out of Turkey.
After spending 3 nights in a forest my group was arrested by the police. I did not give up. I made two more attempts and the third time around I succeeded to cross from Turkey to Lesvos, Greece.
I arrived at the Moria camp, on Lesvos, in July 2019. They gave me a tent as a single man. Many people in the camp who suffered disabilities and were vulnerable were transferred to other places. Although my disability made life in Moria very difficult for me, I was not given the opportunity to be transferred from the island to the mainland. So, I decided to continue my journey illegally.
And I managed to get by ship to Athens and, from there, to the Ritsona camp, a few kilometres outside the city.
I reached Ritsona on 18 March 2020. Upon my arrival, however, my cash card, which allowed me access to the allotment given by the Greek government to refugees, was cut off. The camp didn’t want to register me since my trip over had not been authorised by the camp in Moria.
Here my world is dark and, as time goes by, I am getting more and more depressed. I found a bed to sleep in one of the prefabricated houses, but I was not allowed to stay there during the day and I had to leave the house.
From morning till evening, I wandered around the camp keeping myself busy moving from one place to another, speaking with the owners of the small markets that had been organized by refugees in the camp.
Later on, I decided to find another solution to my need for a shelter. I constructed a small makeshift tent to give myself a safe roof and avoid becoming a weight on the arms of other people. Of course, I have no oven here, no heater, no toilet, no electricity. I am absolutely alone and there is no consideration for my life.
I fear that I will lose my hope, my motivation and my concentration about my life, as there is no activity for anyone of us. I am interested in history and, as much as I can, I have been reading and researching on my own.
I don’t know how long this uncertain condition will continue. Stuck in this prison, how could I gain some freedom? How long should I and many like me live here?
While all the European countries present themselves as defenders of human rights, why are we left totally alone?
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.
”Here is the world of moving statues. Here is the world of ghosts”
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.
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”?