Would like to talk about the importance of having different voices in a panel discussion.
It was Saturday evening and I tied my booth eyes to the participants of the program, Luisa a friend of made me worries telling ” maybe there will not be much people participating, everyone may stay on the seaside and enjoy the weather.”
“I imagine to have as much participants, as we may need to put more chairs, so that people won’t on their feet.”
The place of the program was in the centre of Munich, “Bellevue di Monaco” where the pride of protesters passed by, an highlightable point in the protest was, that the number of police and militarisation was more than protesters. The protest was again “militarisation of Germany.” A voice to stop selling and producing weapons. A movement supported by environmental activists as well.
When I entered to the cafe place, I noticed that different people were working, an Asian man, with a Congolese boy and many more. I was already amazed to know about their strategy in communicating and running the place in such an organised way.
The panel started with akademic bold point of great author “Volker M. Heins.” and continued with my poems and texts. But I would say the most important part was to have voice of Arash, his story of being resilient and resistant against all odds.
When we were talking about the borders, the main focus of the participants was to know, what is the solution of this border mechanism. Though we have talked about it in the panel as well, but I would like to say ” you are the solution.” Your perspective and reaction in the time of crisis.
The second issue was about, big media companies and a new pathway of getting informed and updated about what is all going on the world without getting manipulated by mass media.
“You are in the right place right now, and need to increase your participation in such discussion.”
Yes, you are not to be all in the same rhythm of words or voice in a common discussion and even having opposed perspective about a common conversation doesn’t mean being two polar. This is what Arash always considered, he thinks that he is not a good speaker, but whatever comes from depth of the heart is precious to be listened.
We talked about importance of following all other crises beside what we newly get to know about through media, or get effected in our daily life. Because all of them are connected to the other. This brings me back to what was going on the camps of Greece, when there was something critical happening in the centre of Athens, in Victoria square, those who were left behind walls and barbed wires was forgotten and the same was about struggle of those in the camps. It should not be normal, but what can be the most effected way to stop this circle?
Give me back my microphone!! Our voice must be heard
When I received the video from one of the inhabitants of the Schisto Camp, which presented the suicide of one person there, I decided to not let this “murder” be kept away from the public eye, as so many tragedies had been kept before. I also decided to participate in the Protest of the People that was to be organized in the camp to raise hundreds of voices denouncing not only the suicide but all the wrongs allowed. What follows is the chronicle of what happened.
I am in the car going to the Schisto camp. Upon arrival, I immediately notice the common elements between this camp and that of Ritsona, where I live. As in Ritsona, here too, a group of asylum seekers is kept, in the midst of nowhere, away from any inhabited town, on a piece of dry land enclosed by barbed wire and chains. As in Ritsona the people live in containers that offer little protection from the
weather, be it winter be it summer. It seems that it is an open camp, as there are no walls around it and we enter from the main gate.
Silence reigns in the camp, and I start doubting that 1100, or more, actually live here.
Once inside, however, I had a chance to meet people. I ask them about their problems and what they want to denounce at the protest. I also ask them if they have anything specific to talk about in front of a camera. All remain silent. I turn to the representative who makes me understand that it is very difficult to receive any feedback from the people as to the conditions they live under.
The microphone is here, but the time of protest has changed. I need to consult with people and inform them about the time change.
Walking along with containers, microphone in my hand, I call people to come out. So does a man with a loudspeaker.
After a short while, I can see women looking out from their windows. Many more, men and women, are coming out. As we pass by the main construction, we are seen by a few social workers. On their uniforms, I read: DRC (Danish Refugee Council).
One of them shouts that we need to move away from the building and that she will call the manager. The people waiting around seem to get worried.
The manager is here now. I am curious to find out what sort of person he is, what methods he adopts, and whether his style of management is military as is the case of
many managers in other camps.
“Hi, you don’t live here, right?” he asks.
“No, we don’t,” we answer.
“Ok, come with me, both of you,” he says, addressing me and the man with the loudspeaker.
We are in his office now, a small dark space, which seems like a detention center in a police station
“Give me your asylum cards!!” he demands.
“You cannot ask for our asylum cards,” we respond. “Here is not a police station.
You don’t have that authority and we have not committed any crime!”
His voice is getting louder and louder, but this does not worry, stress, or threaten me.
“You want to make problems in a peaceful camp, inciting people, with your
microphone, to protest!!”
“I cannot see any peace here. And you cannot call a place peaceful just because it is silent because people are afraid to raise their voice by themselves and call me to support their protest. It is not peaceful here. Only the voices are suppressed.”
“You don’t have permission to come here, you should not be here and cannot do anything without my permission.”
“Is this a closed camp? If not, then there is no reason to impose restrictions. What is the difference between this camp and the ones which have walls around them? If the government does not designate Malakasa, Polyester, Diavata, Nea Kavala and
Ritsona as closed camps, then such camps are open to people from the outside.”
“You are making a problem in a camp that has no problems.”
“No problems? If there is no problem, then what are these people complaining about? Why do they want to demonstrate?”
“They do not have any problem, I have all the statistics”
“Then, something must be wrong with your statistics. You better speak directly with the people to learn their problems.”
“You do not want to understand me!”
“I am just assuming that as manager of the camp, you are listening to people and granting them their right to act, to defend their rights. You should not repress them.”
“I do listen to people, and I am trying to do all I can to avoid demonstrations”
“Demonstration is a basic right of people if they live under a democratic regime. They have a voice; they want to be heard and it is neither up to me nor you to decide whether they can raise that voice. After a long time of waiting, they decided to act
They have been waiting to see what you could do and now that they have seen no action taken, they decided to protest.”
“You do not understand the meaning of democracy! I face so many bureaucratic problems! I am trying to put pressure on the asylum office, I go there and give them the list to get the passports from there.”
“When you talk about democracy you refer only to limitations. These do not constitute democracy. As for putting pressure, let’s collaborate to increase it.
Allowing people to raise their voice will help you and your “efforts” to make the process faster and easier.”
“You do not want to understand!”
“On the contrary, I understand very well. There are two options.
The first entails your giving me back my microphone and us having our demonstration today.
The second entails your talking with the people so that I can be sure that they have no complaint and that they are all satisfied.”
Silence fills the room. His hands move nervously. He seems stressed, highly anxious, and angry. He makes a call to someone. Meanwhile, many people are gathered behind the door. They are all telling us that they want to be included in a dialogue with the manager of the camp.
This is the power of people, what I like the most and respect the most. But the manager ignores their demand to talk with him. He is asking to speak with two persons only, the “elected representatives”! This does not satisfy the people. They insist that the conversation should be with all. They all want to listen to what happens and to find out what is going to be decided about them. He leaves the office. We remain and wait to learn what will happen and what will be his decision. Finally, he comes back.
“All of you come with me!”
We are sitting at a table now. He is on one side of the table with his interpreter and I am on the other, with my pen and notebook. In addition, two representatives are on
the other two sides of the table.
The people stand all around.
The conversation has started and I am writing all the items brought up, one by one.
The first issue is the burial of the young man. His corpse is in a police station and no information is given as to what will happen to him. The manager explains that this problem is the responsibility of the police, not the camp management.
“Yes, but if the camp authorities will not help,” one of the representatives intervenes,
“whom can we ask for help? The family is not even here.”
“What about the length of the asylum granting procedure?” another representative asks.
“We know nothing about the interviews, the decisions taken on the basis of the interviews. No information has been given to us. And we have been waiting for so long.”
“Yeah, the process takes time because there are about 1100 or even more people in the camp. We cannot process the applications of all of them rapidly.”
“It was equally lengthy before when the number of people was smaller Now with more people, it has become impossibly slow.”
The manager insists that the process is not unreasonably slow. At that point, the people bring out their papers to validate their claims.
“These are my papers. Look at the date of our interview. It took place a year ago and still, ave no answer about their decision.
“I have been asking for a change of my surname that is written wrongly, but, again, I have received no answer. I had to go to the office a number of times just for a simple spelling mistake. Still no answer.”
“Yeah, these are one of the bureaucratic problems we have.”
“Is a simple misspelling a bureaucratic problem?”
“My family has been here for two years and our documents are not ready yet.”
“They don’t give the guardianship of my son to me.”
“Did you ask TDH about it?”
“Yeah, I have been asking for four months, but still no answer, they don’t reply to our mails.”
“Terrible. I really didn’t know that they don’t follow up with the problems.”
“It is good that you know it now. Sorry, but this is what I wanted you to learn by speaking with the people.”
“I have been here since 2016,” says one woman. “This is the paper I got at that time from there.”
She exhibits to our view an old paper that seems to have passed many adventures.
Most likely it will pass many more and will have more stories to tell.
She adds, “I was in Hellions camp four 4 years and then they transferred me here.
After one month, they gave me the date for an interview whose purpose now will be for me to prove that Turkey, not my country Afghanistan, is a dangerous place for my life. That is what the new policy of the Greek government dictates. I am here because my life was threatened in Afghanistan, not in Turkey. Turkey was simply the
territory we had to pass in order to arrive at safety in Europe. This new policy will justify the rejection of my application for asylum and will permit my deportation to Turkey. I have psychological problems. In spite of them, I will have to pass my interview and then, most likely, be sent back to Turkey and from there to my country.
What a prospect! It would have been much better to commit suicide than be killed by the Taliban there.”
“You were in Hellions for 4 years and they never gave you an interview?”
“No, they didn’t. I have gotten it only now that I am here and after the new policy that requires my justification as to why Turkey is a dangerous place for my life”
“Oh, I didn’t know about it. In Helionas there are some more similar cases.
Don’t worry, however, we have not had any rejections from this camp, even after the interviews focus on Turkey and not the country of origin.
“Who says we have not had any rejections in the camp. On the contrary, we have had many families rejected.”
“No, we have not”
“I am asking people to call those who have already gotten their first rejection after the policy change about Turkey.”
“Okay sir, you were saying that there has been no such rejection in the camp and that there is no reason for us to protest. Now, after listening to the people for a bit, do you still refuse to give me the microphone and let us all protest??”
“I want to know who got rejected, I want to see them. How can I otherwise believe that it has happened”
“Okay, they have already been called. They are coming.”
“Hello, I am the mother of the family that got rejected. My husband is in Athens. The lawyer called him to follow up on our process with the second rejection.”
“Give me the paper that says you are rejected!!”
“We have not gotten the decision of rejection, but when the lawyer called us, he told us that our case was rejected”
“Oh, I really did not know about it. Bring me your papers, after the decision is made and communicated to you.”
“We cannot wait until all families will be rejected and then search for a solution to stop this outcome. If this process is wrong and you believe it is so, then let us take action to stop it.
Who will pay the value of those lives that are now in danger – the lives that are put at risk of life and death as people are trying to cross deadly borders to arrive at the center of Europe? Who will pay the value of many children’s education and future as they are now over age and have no chance to go to school?
You are trying to hide all these problems, telling us that you are not informed and claiming that your statistics are right. If that were the case, we would have never been forced to act, to protest, and to stand up for justice.”
My conversation with the manager is almost over. There are no more words left. It seems that he has understood all that he needs to know.
In the end, never reflecting on the system, he goes to his office. Before leaving the camp, I give him my book. After that day, I became concerned that the camps foreclose any discussions about
the meaning of human rights, freedom and justice.
Furthermore, they foreclose any possibility about exchanges that would allow us to explain the reasons we are here, our previous lives, our background. The very existence of camps set apart by
barbwires and walls prevents and collaborative action that would eradicate violent acts such as suicides and fighting among groups. People who are kept in detention, not reception as they call them centers, are already criminalized. Prisons breed violence and people that are detained there are often pushed to frustrated violence and when they get out they are changed to the worst.
So how does one persuade people to think differently? About life, about hope, about brightness and good days. We still need to call for change, less violence, less repression, call for reform and rehabilitation. By visiting different camps, I am getting more and more convinced that behind the policies applied and the privatization of institutions dealing with immigration, there is money to be made. The more we are, the higher the possibility for profits. We are like enslaved people in a society which
claims to be democratic. In the path of challenging the basic structures of this society by resistance and action, I am only the tip of an iceberg.
If you would be one of us, here in Ritsona camp, far from the town, isolated, without access to any decent services that would cater to your basic needs, would you remain silent? Would you stay silent if your children wasted away, idle, with no schooling or learning? If you were promised that they would go to school, yet that happy change was postponed for months, would you stay silent? And if you realized that there was no other justification for this postponement except the unwillingness of state authorities and municipalities to take action, would you be silent? Would you be silent if the refugee
camps, where you lived, were presented as hygienic bombs that should be closed up and divorced from the rest of the population?
If you would be one of us – families, vulnerable women, single mothers, unaccompanied children, young girls and boys facing all sorts of risks, including drugs and prostitution—all waiting for years to learn what sort of life lied ahead, would you stay silent? Would you stay silent in the face of empty promises from state representatives, the ministry of migration and the camp authorities? Yes, their promises and lies kept our mouths shut, but their discriminatory actions (for example, giving priority to the Syrian community as legitimate asylum seekers over the people who came from other wretched parts of the world) created divisions, hatred, segregation and suspicion among communities. Would you stay silent in the face of this nastiness?
If you would see your life threatened by the fights among frustrated and angry communities, your many calls to the police unanswered and any police present take no action to establish peace and order, would you stay silent? And would you stay silent when the riot police was finally sent in to attack protesters claiming equal treatment in asylum procedures? I know you would not, because every human being demands to be treated equally, especially refugees who are living in the same camp and are all similarly vulnerable.
Dear State, we have no trust in you! You have broken your promises several times. You have been playing with our future and our lives, keeping us waiting and repressing us with your political games, putting your representatives to speak with us through “our”
representatives that you have chosen, not those that we would chose to speak on our behalf. You have turned communities against each other so that we cannot be united in our struggles. You know all our problems perfectly well because you caused them. You
enclosed us in an industrial area, you separated us from local people whom you made afraid of us. Even worse, when you finally grant refugee status, you send us out to the world to “get integrated” without any means to do so, withdrawing even the meagre financial support we could count on while living in camps. What hypocrisy!!!! Our lives, instead of becoming lives, they become nightmares.
We want to raise our voices and we would like to engage with you in a true, direct and comprehensive dialogue. We do not want to face the representatives you sent to meet with us. They have no respect for us and our demands, only humiliation. Till that happens, we think it necessary to demonstrate for three days continuously. We call on all communities to stand up for equality for all — all of us suffering in uncertainty and getting totally demoralized by the repeated postponements in the legal process reviewine our cases. We are protesting for three days from morning until afternoon hungry, thirsty, tired and constantly worried about our children left behind.
I would have never imagined that I would witness such scenes in the margins of great Europe. My diary is full of black, colourless memories you have caused and created.
Let me ask you this:
Can we be one of you?
Integrated with you?
Can we live together?
In the same society for ever?
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?
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.
”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.
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?
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?
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
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?
(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.
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.
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.
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.