This is the story of Asmar, a 26 year old migrants who has been stuck on Lesvos for a considerable amount of time.
After every disaster or crisis on this Island comes the question: who will take migrants from greece to other european countries? This year, with Covid-19 and the fire in Moria 1.0, it became painfully aparrent that in all these talks, people are used as pawns to trade off. Even though many cities in europe said they have the space and the will to take larger numbers of people off the Island, national goverments continued to block such proposals. And when they did choose to take a number of people, more often then not this concerns vonourable people, unaccompanied minors and maybe some families. But what about the single men?
By not taking single men from the Islands, they can manage to the lowest amount possible, and still being able to present their decision in a humanitarian fashion. Meanwhile the single men have to stay in the prisons that are called detention centres. With no special reason that would give them access to something that gives them an edge in their asylum procedure a lot of them are deported. Because men are seen as traditionally less vonourable, european cultural stereotypes are coming into play. But they are not based in reality. Men also endure life changing trauma’s, and many of them have also lost so, so much to be able to get to europe.
As NBK, we stand for a world without borders, sexism, classism or patriarchy. It is important to us that everybody understands that we do not write this to say that the countless woman, children and members of the lgbitq+ community on this Island dont deserve help, or that single men have more of a claim to freedom then aforementioned groups. This story is about how the state uses ancient and very entrenched racist and colonial ideas to create a false dichotomy. A dichotomy that allows them to keep thousands in a prison, whilst keeping up a humanitarian appearance. This humanitarian illusion is a lie. Europe and it’s member states only goal is to further the goals of the people in power and the corperations that sponser them. Power at the expanse of Asmar, and thousands like him.
My name is Asmar, and I am 26 years old. I come from Syria, the city of Deralzoer’. I left my city because of the war.
When the war broke out, I was 16 years old. From that moment on, I was scared all the time. War, for people who are not soldiers and even for them, means fear. Everytime I left the house, even for cigaretts, I would hug my mother like I would never see her again. War also means violence, this means that whenever you walk on the street, you can see dead bodies of people with missing limbs or heads. War also means destruction, and every time you leave the house it might be the last time. This is what happend to me. One day I came back to find my family’s house a pile of rubble. My brothers head was in the street, and my mother was buried under the rubble. My little sister had survived, but was in the hospital. On the way to the hospital the army stopped me, to ask where I was going. I explained that I wanted to go to see if my sisters was ok, or dead. After one hour of questions, they finally let me get through. In the morgue, I found my mother, one brother, two sisters and my aunt. After I went to the room where they kept my little sister, who survived. First question she asked me was, where is mother? I had to lie to her, because she was to injured and I didnt want to tell her the truth. I asked her what happend, and she explained that there was a red flash and then a loud bang. Everything went black and there was explosion.
After three days, she was discharged from the hospital. I was forced to take her to my house, but she still couldn’t move. The bomb has cut her muscle underneath the knee. Her body was also still full of scrapnel. When Isis sieged the city there was no electricty, no water, no internet. Actually there was nothing. The doctor has written a paper for me to get medicine for my sister. With the city being under siege, there was no way I could get this medicine. And one time, I walk in the street at eight o’clock pm, to try to find this medicine for my sister. Eight o’clock is a very dangerous time get out, because the city is full of snipers. Everything that moves gets shot. Dogs, cats, children,woman,men everything and everyone. Everywhere are checkpoints. I passed one of them, guarded by military who are not known to be nice. The first thing he said to me was: “give me your id card motherfucker”. I said, I will give you my id card, but please don’t talk about my mother. She died last week and you killed her, please show some respect. He said: I will go to the graveyard and fuck her there. I got so angry, that I beat him up. I broke his nose, and I find a rock and broke his legs and I started to run. His collegue chased my and tried to shoot me, and I am very luck to not get shot. I had to leave the city. I send a message to my friend to tell my sister I am very sorry but I have to leave the city. I went out of the city in the night, to try to swim river. This very dangerous, because of the snipers between the Syrian army and the Isis snipers. It took two hours, but I managed.
First, I went to Turkey, but actually I wanted to go to Europe. I stay some time in Turkey, to get a job to send money back to my sister. She needs a surgery to be able to move the leg again, go to school and have a good life. The good thing was, I got a job and managed to send her the money and she was able to move again, and go to school. After that I started to think more and more about Europe. Europeans think Turkey is a safe country for me, but it’s not true. Why?
1. Turkey organised a lot of militia for Isis. This makes it dangerous for me to be around. In 2016 they killed a friend in his house because he spoke on social media about the situation in Syria. You can look it up for yourself, the facebook account is Arraka Tthbh besmt.
2. The police came to my house by mistake. They where looking for Isis members and got the adress of my neighbour, but raided my by mistake. For two weeks I was in the police station, until they found out I’m a normal person , and I also don’t like Isis.
3. Every week we find a bomb in different area, and the police come to take it away. For example, close to Taksim I sit with my friend and close to us a suicide bomber blew up a club less then one kilomoter away from us.
This is only a synopsis of what happend to me. A lot more happend, but that’s a story for another time.
As mentioned before, when I arrived in Turkey I started thinking of going to Europe. At that time, to me Europe was a place where I can find safety and where I can express myself to full extend of my personality. I keep working to save some money to find someone that could bring me to Europe. At that time, I had no idea what that meant. All I wanted, was to be safe and not feel like I’m in a zoo. But, the important thing, when I come here everything changed in my mind about fucking Europe.
When we crossed the sea we managed to get picked up by a Greek Coastguard vessel. They said to us; Don’t worry, you are safe now. You are in Europe. I remember vividly that at that time, this made me very happy.
After the police take me with a bus to Moria Camp. The first thing thing I see, spray painted on the wall was the sentence: “Welcome to prison Moria”. I stay three months in a small tent with twelve people in the winter. When the winter rain, we had to run to catch the tent that was being blown away by the wind. And after there was a fight in the camp. Some people where fighting with the police. One of these people that was caught up in the fighting, had the same name as me. The police couldn’t find him because he left the camp, so the police found me. The cops took me in for questioning, and they put me in prison for a year.
After one year in prison, I go to court and the court just told me that they made a mistake. Just like that I lost one year of my life. Without any reason or apology. For one year, my family doesn’t know if I’m alive or dead, where I am or what I went through.
In my head, Europe was a nice place, where people can be whomever they want to be. A safe place where people have rights, and where you can trust the Goverment. They day after I was arrested, was the day I was supposed to have my asylum interview. In the police station, I asked the cops if they would at least let me reschedule. You have to understand, that the asylum is a very strict process. They didn’t let me, and when I got out they told me my case was closed. Why? Because my life did not matter to them. For them, I’m just another migrant. And they could care less if they fuck my life or not. Europe is not at all how I imagined it to be. So far in all to those years I spent in Greece, I have only seen contempt, racism and violence. Both to police, and migrants among eachother. Also the asylum service can be violent in it’s own way. With them, I feel the same way as in the police station or in the prison. The people that work in the asylum office, act in the same way as the police. They don’t care about you, or why you are here. They only thing they care about is drinking coffee,smoking cigaretts and talking with friends. When you want to ask a small question, they will say that they are busy. They make you feel small and dependand. Small and insiginicant. They dont treat me with dignity and make me feel like thrash. Why? Because I came here and I don’t look like them? Europe claims to be a place where they repect human dignity. But I’ve found very little in Greece. The cops, and the other people that work for the goverment or EU don’t do not reflect the values that they say they represent.
When I look at the news every day I see some European country announce that they will take one hundred minors, or twenty five families or whatever. My question is why does Europe only cares about minors or families? Because you think the single people are more dangerous? To be honest, the minors are not less dangerous than the single people. The first thing a minor will exclaim to you when you approach is that they can fuck with you very easy, because they are a minor. Some minors are as dangerous then single people. Why do you not care about single people? Every refugee has a story, and it does not make sense to me that we should be selected based on factors that are not within our control. There are a lot of organisations that work with and take care of minors and families, but none that takes care of single people. When you are a single person on this Island, nobody cares about you.
We do not come here to take your space, your money, your children of your jobs. We come here to find safety and security. Something our goverments, sometimes because of war and sometimes because they are oppressive, cannot provide. From the first time I saw Moria, I knew that Europe might not be what I imagined it. How can Europeans and their Goverments allow this to happen to people? Do their leaders truly do not know how it is to expirience life like this? Why not, do they trade places with us for one week. We will share the same shitty food, shitty bed in the same shitty tent with 15 people. Use the same shitty toilet, and surrounded by the same fences. After that, you can explain me why you decide to treat people like this. And it’s not only about people from Syria. It’s the same for people from Irak, Kurdistan, Palestine, Afghanistan and the whole continent of Afrika. You can explain me why you decide to send weapons and bombs so that countries can make war. You can finally explain to me, why I have to suffer like this