Avinash brings us a soulful poem, on being in a limbo, lost, but not quite.
An emotional piece by Mr. Soumyajyoti Bhattacharya, piecing together the pain and guilt of a survivor fighting for each day.
My crime? I can not recall much. But I must have done something wrong. Else why would the world turn against me ? I am not sure what my crime is. I have an inkling though. And here I am. Ready to confess…..
My crime is that I am a Muslim. I love my God, my Father like you love yours. And religion has always been about having faith and being a good son to my God, which is why I am here. I am just trying to tell you I am not someone who obnoxiously parades my values in front of others and tries to push it onto you. I am just here to tell you, I practice faith in a God I have grown to believe in. Does that make me a criminal ? I guess…At least that’s what everyone tells me. I am here to speak with your god, all this hatred has driven me to stop listening to our complaints a long while back.
My crime is that I decided to flee my volatile nation with my wife and kids while I still could. But WHAT COULD I HAVE DONE ? Do they expect me to stay ? Would anyone in the world have stayed while their country was being ravaged day in and day out by fires straight from hell flung on their homes by people who do not care whether you live or die? Greater good they tell me. Ha! What greater good is it where my entire life is taken from me for things I have not even done? What greater good is it where I my family is made to feel like a bunch of unwanted victims of the bubonic plague back when the Black Death ravaged Europe ? I did not ask for this. My family did not ask for this. So why do we have to pay…..But it is my crime I guess.
My crime is when Tariq died, I could not save him. Oh, who Tariq? He was a friend and a wonderful man. Tariq had just gotten married when he got news that we were fleeing Syria. He knew because I told him. He lived in Aleppo though, and he told me that everything will be fine.That was before ISIS took over Aleppo. I have not heard from Tariq since then. He was a Shia muslim. The news tells me ISIS doesn’t like that. This reminds me though. Once, in college, I didn’t want to drink alcohol but I had taken up a bet that I would. Tariq fought with me like the brother he was and convinced me to give up on the bet. He convinced me to do what was right. Before I knew it, He had even paid my debt on the bet. Told me, anything for a brother. Your brother could not return the favor Tariq. Not when it mattered anyways.
When I married Alisha, I had promised her all the brilliance in the world. And I tried to keep my promise. Being a doctor helped of course. That seems like a life time ago though. I love how full and beautiful Alisha always looked. How her eyes always radiated energy. They do not anymore. She has lost weight. Too much actually. If it weren’t for everyone around me looking the same, I would have thought Alisha was exceptionally sick. She wasn’t. Apparently, this is now the trend here. Disease, malnutrition and a general feeling of despair and grief. Alisha’s eyes do not emote anymore, they are hollow…..an echoing gloom of perpetual grief. I failed in the one promise I had made which I always intended to keep. Yes father I have failed.
The world abhors us now, they hate us. They keep us in camps of dirt and inhuman conditions. They do not give us jobs, freedom, respect. Because we decided to save our lives from a war that wasn’t any of our fault. Because we Muslims are all terrorists now, just like all Christians are mask wielding White Supremacists, Jews control our banks and Hindus obliterate any Muslim in India. You say am generalising ? That I sound illiterate? But I was only doing what I have seen you doing-does that make a bad man too? So Father, pray tell. I went to be happy again. Can you get me that? I am a doctor…I need to know I am worth something again, I need to see my daughter laugh again like she did on her last birthday when I bought her that cute teddy bear she lost at sea…Father tell me, do you listen? Or have we driven you to hate us too?
No. I am not this man. I am a well to do student in a country far away from any conflict. But I am not ignorant. Then what is this? See it as what you will. A rant of a teenager sick of being in an ignorant world, a propaganda from globalist liberals, a work message from an NGO trying to make a difference…or just the truth. Honestly, I can never express the pain of the people everyone else have conveniently refused to help by hiding behind masks of terrorism, islam, conflict, policies, economics or geography. I cannot. But what I know is, try and make a difference.
You might need someone to someday make a difference for you too.
Mrs. Morgan Nicole Henschen shares her thoughts about our engagement with the Syrian Refugee Crisis, in this emotional piece.
Mr. Siddhaarth Sudhakaran, a member of Aurora Charitable Society, writes a beautiful poem inspired by his many readings. In his words: “It’s inspired by an article I read long back about the massacre of a Kurdish village during the early stages of the civil war. An extremist section of the Syrian rebels carried it out since they were worried about the influence of the Kurdish fighters in the war. It kind of increased my disdain for the blind Western support to the rebels and the war in general. My poem is basically about a female peshmerga fighter as her village is being encircled. The identity of the attackers I chose to leave ambiguous.”
The deafening boom of the guns, I hear yonder,
Never allowing my thoughts to ever wander;
From the cries of my people, the death of our dreams.
To live as free people, is utopian it seems.
My comrades are out there defending our pride,
Outnumbered we may be, but we’ll not hide.
We shall walk free, though I know not when;
And live amongst a brotherhood of equal men.
A frail wail, so familiar pierces the dreary air,
Momentarily lifting me from the depths of despair.
Inside I rush, to pacify my petrified progeny;
To my parched ears, his cries are calming company.
Holding him to my bosom, a lullaby I sing,
Of dwarves and fairies and the fortunes they’ll bring.
Little does he know, my labour of love;
Of the impending doom, few hours from now.
O Heavens, What is that dreaded noise I hear?
Synchronized, Soulless sounds getting clear, more clear.
Interrupted they are, only by rounds of random gunfire;
The avalanche of advancing boots, they seem not to tire.
Holding my child close, I come down on my knees,
“I surrender myself to Thou , Do as You may please”
Upwards shifts my gaze in search of divine intervention,
“But let my son live long to breathe the air of liberation.’
– Siddhaarth Sudhakaran
Mr. Aditya Shankar writes an impassioned wake up call to all of us, about the Syrian Refugee Crisis. This piece was previously published in his blog, which is linked below.
I remember this artist making a real life sculpture of poor Aylan on the seashore out of sand. The caption of that sculpture was “Humanity washed ashore, SHAME SHAME SHAME”. I think I would’ve captioned it “The Death of Humanity”.
This article is long overdue. Believe me when I tell you, this is not something to be read with a pinch of salt or with a mug of coffee in your hand like a good book ; it is something of a wake up call.
March 2011. A peaceful protest against the dictatorship soon turned sour and escalated. The Government started violently dealing with the vocal citizens and rebels began fighting back. The “Assad regime” was accused of using all of the available militia and its technology to control the crowds; the use of chemical weapons against the Syrians was perhaps the first sign of a non negotiable situation. The peaceful protest against the brutal and unforgiving dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad led to civil war & by extension this undeniably mournful Syrian refugee crisis.
Now that you have a small backdrop into a deeply distressing matter, let me ask you one simple question — how would you react knowing you’re innocent, that your children are innocent and you had nothing to do in a war where you’re suddenly forced to pick a side (neither of which will guarantee your safety) and suffer for a collective decision that you were never a part of?
I’ll tell you how I would react, or I’d much rather give you an example. When you’re blamed for something you haven’t done, and you’re wrongfully punished for the same, what would you do?
Simple, get angry or get even, right?
Yes, that’s exactly what I would do, and in most situations I would choose the latter.
Let’s put something as simple as that into our topic of conversation. Syrian citizens, scores of which are perfectly innocent of all the crimes its government blames them for, are forced to accept the punishment wrongfully dished out to them and are forced to leave their country of birth just because some people couldn’t iron out their difficulties by simply talking? Do they get angry or get even? Neither, because all their energies are spent in a harder battle of survival. Why is that? Are they not entitled to their opinions? Do they not deserve to be heard and respected?
Syria, for all its problems, is actually a very well educated country; majority of the population is well above the established literacy rate and can contribute a lot to the world in terms of development. So why is a country like Syria, for all the good things it can contribute, being made to suffer like this? The answer lies very deep in a web of political drama and domination. The Assad regime’s sole purpose was to eradicate the majority Sunni population and that wasn’t appreciated, not the premise, nor the method.
Drifting from my personal disgust of the Assad regime, I’ll jump right into the details.
A wave of Syrian refugees has caught Europe and the United States flat-footed, leaving the European Union scrambling to devise a plan to deal with those arriving on its shores and Americans debating our role in the matter. A humanitarian reaction is natural–but woefully inadequate, because refugees will keep coming as long as the Assad regime continues to brutally repress Syria’s Sunni majority. Only by bringing the conflict to an end will the flow of ever more thousands of refugees stop. This crisis was neither unpredictable nor unavoidable.
Let me put things into perspective with a few numbers-
Syrians have been fleeing, or being forced from their homes in massive numbers since 2011. Nine million Syrians have reportedly been displaced. More than half remain in Syria, while the vast majority of the others have taken refuge in nearby countries. Lebanon, which has only about 4 million citizens, hosts more than a million refugees. And another major contributor to the crises has been Germany, they’ve been the role models for the rest of the world to follow. If 8,00,000 migrants seek asylum in Germany, it would amount to about one refugee for every 100 Germans.
National history is key to understand a country’s response to unexpected waves of migration. Historically, migrants often rely on their neighbour — or their ’motherland’ — to host and understand them. Thus, crises in Algeria and Pakistan usually lead to responses from the French and British states respectively. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine is seeing Poland lead Europe’s response. Migrants tend to follow these same geopolitical trends. But the Syrian crisis has had no natural leader. Germany has therefore become the de- facto leader, most welcome to refugees from a country — Syria — that didn’t neatly fit into the sphere of influence of any other European country. To comply with this new capacity as a refugee-hosting country Germany has amended its asylum laws in the same manner as France, Britain and the Netherlands have for their former colonies.
We all saw the saddening picture of the 3 year old Syrian boy named Aylan Kurdi washed ashore after trying to flee to Turkey. I know I can speak for almost everyone when I say that truly made me sad. It is a sad, sad world where a person’s body is washed ashore like it is a log of wood that drifted along the currents of the ocean, let alone a 3 year old boy who might have just uttered his first few words, a boy who could have become a national icon; someone who had a huge future to look forward to. The possibilities are endless, and yet, the poor child and his family had to pay for something they had no say in. How does one justify this?
Politics is an ugly game, and when it starts going south, everyone plays the “blame game”. How do you know whom to blame and more importantly whom to hold accountable? That is something even the most ardent followers of the crisis couldn’t answer, because quite simply, this wasn’t the idea of one man — it was clearly a syndicate that drove Syria to its knees.
In all our worldly desires of power,domination and lust we forget the very reason why we’re considered the most developed species on the planet — compassion and the ability to comprehend and process our feelings in a way animals cannot. If a thirst for power could drive you to pushing your own people to extinction with a war, what good are you? Isn’t it the biggest irony there is? Your lust for power and the need to rule is completely undermined if they are no people to rule!
Forget power and lust, for now there are lives at stake, solidarity and respect must be paid to the ones that gave their lives for no reason other than the unfortunate sin of being born in the country.
The only way to end this crisis is to end the war, and for all my advocacy of peace and a fruitful dialogue, it is time to fight fire with fire; because in all this spite and trauma the only loser is Humanity. How many more young boys and girls like Aylan have to suffer before our natural instincts to grow as a species kicks in? How many more innocent men and women should be made to suffer for something they didn’t do?
This whole episode should be put behind us and we should move forward like one family if we’re to survive this ; and even as I type this and consider the crisis as the final nail in the coffin of Humanity, I still have a small faith in the fact that the coffin hasn’t yet been buried. Let us hope that that sad day never comes where we are forced to bury our very humanity.
Article Originally Published in: https://medium.com/@shankar_aditya/syrian-refugee-crisis-a-final-nail-in-the-humanity-coffin-85362d6a228c#.s3r99odyi
Mr.Prasanna spent the summer in Turkey, volunteering with groups which were helping refugees. This account is of a friend he made there- a lovely young woman, and a refugee who fled to Turkey, Nour. This piece was written and posted to the blog of his friend, Mr. Zac Defrisco, and you can read more of his blog on the link at the end of this article.
I met Nour at an anarchist collective in Basmane which serves as an unofficial hub for volunteers. For a couple months we would see each other from time to time and talk briefly, since I was always in a rush off to somewhere. The first thing I noticed about Nour was her English. Her English was remarkably good. The way she used it had an uncompromising sharpness to it, as if the words she used were still bright and fresh; untarnished by over generalization or cliche. Nour also had an unusually good memory. Sometimes I would see her weeks apart but she would pick up the conversation exactly where we had left off.
I didn’t know anything about her past, but when I decided to start a project of asking refugees for their stories, she was the first person that came in mind – mostly because her English was so good. This is her story.
Nour was a quiet child, the youngest, and the only girl of four siblings. The first thing she told me about her childhood was that she was spoiled. “Growing up, I had a laptop, video games, dolls, a phone… so many things.” One night her mother bought her a kite. She couldn’t wait to play with it, so that night she ran through the streets flying her kite. Nour also had a bike and would ride it everywhere. For fun, she would go to the store for her neighbors and bring them back food using her bike. The neighbors tried to pay for her bike service. But Nour would deny their payment. “It was just for fun,” says Nour.
Nour was a sensitive child. She would break down and cry when other children were mean to her. If she saw a sick animal, she would take it in the house and care for it. She particularly hated seeing hurt animals. “Actually, I’m still like this,” Nour admits while pointing at the scraggly cats outside her window of her home in Basmane.
Like many sensitive children, Nour was also intelligent. Once her whole family went to a big park in Damascus, Syria’s capital city. There were lots of tall trees and enormous bushes. While playing, her and her cousins got lost. Scared and disoriented, the children around her started panicking. Nour calmed the group, telling them, “Don’t worry, we’ll find a way back.” She was then able to remember a sign she saw while they were playing. She recalled the sign like a photograph, and used the memory to guide the other children back to her family. For as long as she could remember, Nour was always like that. Her parents recognized her intelligence and put her on a path to become a doctor or lawyer.
Nour grew up a big apartment in Yarmouk, is a Palestinian neighborhood close to Damascus. Her father had a successful dry cleaning business. It was part of a famous chain called, “Snow White.”
Yarmouk was the kind of neighborhood in which children played freely on the street. Nour spent her childhood outside playing soccer, hopscotch, and hide and seek. She and the neighborhood children went to a special school for Palestinians set up by the UN free schools program. It was supposed to be only for Palestinians, but because it was better than normal Syrian school, sometimes Syrians would secretly go there too.
One day, on her way to school Nour met a British man who worked for the British Council. His name was Michael, but she just called him, Mike. “Mike was tall and blonde, and very kind. Very cool,” Nour recalls. When he would see her, he would give her candy or biscuits. Once he gave her a Bryan Adams tape. Nour still remembers the words to that tape. After around three months, Mike disappeared. Nour knocked on his door but nobody answered. “I knocked and knocked but there was nobody. He probably moved back to England. I was so sad.”
Like many children, things changed for Nour when she started going to middle school. She had to leave her elementary school, which meant leaving her friends. She was lonely. Sometimes she got bored. She would ask to go the bathroom and skip class instead. The teachers said she was smart, but she hated school.
High school wasn’t different. She hated that too. “I didn’t learn anything there,” says Nour. “The school was dirty and the principal was frightening.” The girls were naughty and the principal punished everyone collectively. The principal would hit the girls. “It was an awful place.” Nour would skip class a lot, but that hurt her grades. When she did stay in class, she only listened and didn’t participate.
However, outside of class, Nour was became interested in everything. She studied German and took a class in first aid. During this time, the Second Intifada was raging in Palestine and she wanted to be in the resistance. She held meetings. In addition to studying German, Nour went to an American school to learn English. She still remembers Barbara, the American principal of the English school. “She was so sweet. I loved her so much. She was the opposite of the principal of her Syrian school!”
Nour also became interested in boys. Worrying for her future, her family wanted to put a veil on her, but she refused. “There was one boy who fell in love with me to the extent that he was stalking me,” recalls Nour. “But I didn’t care. I didn’t love him back.”
By Nour’s last year in high school, her grades went from bad to worse, to the extent that she couldn’t graduate. But her family wouldn’t give up on their only daughter. Upon not graduating, they sent Nour to a private school. Seizing upon this blank slate, Nour decided to turn her life around. She went from skipping class to studying all night. “Once I stayed up studying for two nights in a row without sleeping.” In the private school she graduated first in her class. Everyone was surprised. They suspected that she had cheated. “But I didn’t, I just studied!” exclaims Nour laughing.
After graduating legitimately, Nour was able to go to university. In the beginning, she refused to be distracted by men, focussing solely on her studies. Her father and brothers warned her not to, ‘go to anyone’s home or car.’ She thought this was a good idea and decided to always follow this advice.
In her second year their advice was put to its first test when she met a Syrian man. “We actually met online,” said Nour, somewhat quietly. Nour’s friends had showed her a site called, Arab Talk. She started going there regularly, just to talk with people, but wound up meeting someone especially interesting. “After three or four months we fell in love.”
Following her family’s advice, she never went home with him but sometimes they would meet at a restaurant. Eventually the man met Nour’s parents but, “They weren’t into him. They told me, ‘You can do better. You’re going to become a lawyer.’” His family didn’t like Nour either. She was Palestinian and he was Syrian, which members of both families had a problem with. Particularly the man’s mother.
Nour’s boyfriend was the jealous type. He wanted her to wear a veil, and didn’t want her to wear makeup. He also didn’t want her to have a Facebook account. Nour didn’t have an account, but through a friend, she saw his profile. Then she understood. “His profile was full of girls and he was clearly cheating on me.” Nour was heartbroken. “I cried so much because of that guy.”
In her third year of university, Nour began to focus on criminal law. When she was a girl, she had read Agatha Christie. “Her investigations were a big inspiration for me,” she says. Nour wanted to eventually become a judge, a job that would suit her strong personality and rationality. Recalling her decision, Nour explains, “I had ideas about developing my country. I believe countries should be built with fairness. The world would be better if it could be fair.” Nour eventually wanted to become a judge for the United Nations. On the final exam for her third year she got 96/100. “I tried so hard to get 100% ! But the professors never actually give 100%. That’s their style.” says Nour.
During her fourth year of university, the first signs of war came to Nour’s neighborhood. “When the protests began, nobody knew that war would follow.” According to Nour, when a protest went through her neighborhood the police did nothing until someone shot at them. Then the police returned fire. The shooting continued until 2:00am.
In the coming weeks things only heated up. “When the first bomb exploded people ran out of their apartments to try to find where the sound came from. People were shouting, but just as when she was a child in the park, she wasn’t scared. “To be honest, I didn’t care that much,” admits Nour.
Things were different when more violence came to her neighborhood. She felt faint. “Everybody was hiding. There was fighting. There was gunfire. The sounds of automatic weapons echoed across the buildings. There were also heavier weapons, like the kind of weapons that attach to cars.” The buildings shook from the noise and the shelling. The power went out. Nour looked out her window and saw that the battle was directly under her building. After six hours it finally stopped.
Soon after that, Nour was at her university waiting to meet up with her friends. She had been waiting for a while. “I kept wondering, ‘Where are they? Where are they?’ Then I saw them. They were flying. Then I woke up in the hospital.”
In the hospital Nour didn’t appear too hurt from the shell that had killed her friends, but she had a high fever. “Something was seriously wrong with me. My muscles were feeling weaker every day.” The doctors decided that the fever had moved into her nerves. They did an operation to try to save her nerves, but after the operation, Nour was unable to move her feet, wrists, and hands. From that day forward, she has been unable to walk or use her hands.
In the hospital she became extremely depressed. Her hands and feet were curled and paralyzed. Her friends had been killed in front of her. “I had a fiance who left me after hearing about my condition. I was so tired.” Her mood was black. The doctors worried about her and sent her to Lebanon. Her mother and one of her brothers, who had been hurt by a separate explosion, came with her.
In Lebanon, Nour moved to a Palestinian area. Technically it was an old Palestinian “refugee camp.” In reality, it was more like a poor suburb. As the months and then years passed by, and the war in Syria became worse, Nour refused to abandon her dreams. “If I stopped caring about my future, I would whither away.” says Nour. She repeated this many times throughout the interview.
Nour still wanted to complete her school and become a judge. She was only four classes away from graduating. However, now she had the added complication of needing an operation to fix her hands and feet. “The only place I can get this kind of operation is Europe,” explains Nour. Unfortunately, being Palestinian as well as being a refugee, banned her from using any kind of legitimate travel options.
Currently, our international legal system has removed all obstacles for the Western college student who want to spend their spring break partying in Berlin, but locked out the college student who needs to finish their studies to become a judge in a nation in need of justice, as well as an operation to save her feet and hands.
After waiting for three years in Lebanon, Nour decided to try another way. The plan was to go to Turkey, from Turkey to Greece, and from Greece to Germany, where she could have her operation, and continue her studies.
Nour couldn’t fly straight from Lebanon to Turkey, so she had to go back to Syria first. It was a little tricky because of the travel restrictions for Palestinians, but she was able to find a way for her mother, her brother, and her to do it. Her first stop was Damascus. After three years she was finally back home, but she couldn’t stay. If the rest of her family knew that she was in Damascus, they would prevent her from going further. “They knew how dangerous it was. I couldn’t even say, ‘hello’ to them. It was so hard.”
From Damascus, Nour, her mother, and her brother, flew to Qamishli; a border city between Syria and Turkey. In Qamishli they joined a group of 35-40 people. A lot of the group consisted of children. The smugglers gave them a little food, though it had gone bad. There was no bathroom, especially not for people who couldn’t use their legs, and Nour was also on her period. They stayed there for a night waiting for the smugglers to tell the group when and and where to go. The smugglers told the group they would have a 10- 15 minute window in which they could travel. They warned the group, ‘If you fall, get up right away. If you see someone fall, just keep running. You don’t have time to stop.’ The man carrying Nour wasn’t sure if he could make it in time. The smugglers also told them that the route was through a minefield, so they had to twist and turn through the wilderness in a specific way to avoid the mines. Nour became afraid and got a fever. Suddenly the smugglers told them to go.
The first man carrying her fell down twice. He hurt his hand. Nour was passed to another man. She was carried over his shoulder. It wasn’t very comfortable. Then she was passed to another. She recalls, “We could hear the Turkish border patrol coming so we all laid down. The patrol didn’t see us.”
Finally, they were able to cross the border into Turkey. Smugglers immediately packed them into a windowless minibus and drove to Mardin, a Turkish city close-by. The bus was designed to hold 20 people, but 40 of them had been packed in. In the bus Nour couldn’t breath well, but she was so happy to have crossed the border. The smugglers told them, “Tomorrow you’ll be in Izmir. The next day, you’ll be in Greece. After that, Germany.” It sounded so simple, but the border crossing took a toll on her frail mother. Nour’s mother became sick and disoriented. Nour couldn’t leave her. Her friends left with the smugglers the next day. “They are living in Germany and the Netherlands now. They call me sometimes.” says Nour in a matter-of-fact tone.
After her mother recovered, a relative that told them to go to the coastal city of Didim, which was only 11.5 kilometers away from the Greek island of Farmakonisi. The relative told them that he would help them find a smuggler to Farmakonisi. They stayed in Didim in a hotel, waiting night after night. After waiting for 12 nights, they decided to go to Izmir to find a smuggler themselves.
In Izmir, they were able to find another smuggler, and joined with a group of 50 refugees. When night fell, they were led to a boat. It took the group an hour to walk to the boat. On the walk, Nour was carried by a Turkish man. “He was very scared. I could tell it was his first time doing this kind of thing.”
When the group reached the boat, it was obvious that it was far too small to hold them. There were 50 people, including children and babies, but it could only fit around 20. The driver of the boat told them they had no choice but to get in. The only alternative was to go back into the forest “…but the forest had dangerous animals and mafia prowling it,” explains Nour.
The smugglers draped Nour on the side of the boat and tied her legs together to keep them from flailing. She was very uncomfortable. “I prayed because I thought that this could be the last [hour] of my life.” After the boat starting moving, Nour started checking the GPS on her phone. She realized they weren’t going to Greece. “We were just going along the coast! We spent 30 minutes along the coast of Turkey. I think the boat driver was too scared to go to Greece.”
After half an hour, the driver thought he heard the Turkish Coast Guard coming. He panicked and crashed the boat against the rocks. The overcrowded boat quickly began filling with cold winter sea water. The driver jumped into the sea and swam away. Other men did the same. Those who couldn’t swim away began screaming. “We were sinking into the rocks, but I wasn’t scared. Believe me, I wasn’t scared.”
After 30 minutes, the Turkish Coast Guard actually came. The Coast Guard and the refugees tried speaking to each other, but nobody could understand because of the language barrier. “All I understood them say was, ‘No Greece.’”
After the Coast Guard rescued what was left of the group, they were taken to a detention center. “We were wet and it was cold. They made us sit on the floor, which was also cold. We were made to sit there for 12 hours; wet, cold, and starving. I realized I had lost everything in the boat crash: my passport, my papers, my clothes, everything. I had nothing left.” After being released, the Turkish guards told the group that they were free to leave, but not to try to go to Greece again. Nour told them, “Of course I won’t leave. I love Turkey.”
After the failed attempt to go to Greece, most of the group went to Izmir to get their money back from the smugglers. The smugglers were reluctant to comply until a rich man in the group was able to make some convincing threats. With most of their money back, the group went back to Didim and found a different smuggler. “A deal was made and we were put into a hotel room. We had to stay very quiet there. We couldn’t turn on the light at night, and in the day there wasn’t much light our room. There were no windows.”
Again, a small windowless bus came to pick the group up. But this time Nour couldn’t get in the bus. She was claustrophobic. “I just couldn’t go in.” She recalls. “It was made to fit 15 people, but there were 40 of us.” Her mother went in the bus, but the smugglers decided to put Nour into a separate car. “This would have been OK,” says Nour, “except the driver wasn’t sober. He had brought his girlfriend along and they were drinking together. What should have been a short drive took an hour. We drove through strange back-streets and weird places.”
Nour finally made it to the boat, but before they could take off, they heard the police coming. They ran into the forest. “We could see that the police were looking for us. We stayed still in the forest. It was so cold. Then we could hear the mafia looking for us. We knew it was the mafia because they acted and sounded different. “…We could see their flashlights searching the forest for us. We got down and hid.” While they were hiding, Nour could hear the howls of wolves and wild dogs. She was especially worried that a snake would find her in the darkness.
“We weren’t sure what to do. We decided to walk back. Since we came by car we knew it would be a long walk back, especially in the forest.” Her mother had to carry Nour and she fell many times. Her brother tried to carry her, but being weak from a bomb explosion in Syria, he also fell.
“After walking for hours like this we saw yellow lights. It was a house! We approached the house and we were attacked by guard dogs.” Suddenly the guard dogs were called off. A man approached the group. “He saw that there were children with us and hurried us into his house. Being in the house was wonderful. It was so warm. So, so, warm. …The man of the house told us how dangerous this area was. He told us that there were, ‘Lots of mafia and wild animals.’ …He drove us the hour back to Didim.”
Back in Didim, Nour’s relative introduced the family to a different smuggler. By this time, the borders between Greece and Europe were closing completely, so people were getting desperate, including the Arab workers of the smugglers. Unusually, the Arab smugglers would be travelling with them the whole way to Europe, because this was also their last chance to escape.
On the journey to the boat, an Iraqi man carried Nour. In the darkness of the forest at night, he thought Nour was a boy. “It was better he thought I was a boy, if you know what I mean.” recalls Nour. “The man kept telling me, ‘Don’t be scared, don’t be scared,’ but the smugglers were carrying weapons to protect us against the mafia, which scared me.”
When they got to the boat, Nour was put in the center. Someone was sitting on her legs, which was painful, but she didn’t want to say anything because if they tried to change positions, they might rock the boat and collapse it. After they set off to Greece, something went wrong and they spun in circles for while. After that, the motor died. People began to panic. They were saying the boat was sinking, though Nour could see that it wasn’t. Their panicking however, did start to collapse the boat. Things were getting dangerous.
The Coast Guard eventually found them and brought them back to the same detention center. This time the group was held for two days. Again, they had to sit on the freezing floor. Again, in wet clothes. Again, without food.
“We were so hungry. …Then the guards told us they were going to send us to a hotel. Instead, they put us on a bus that drove for eight hours. We were still without food. …and they began beating people. They beat a two year old child for playing. I was sure they were going to beat me as well.” Nour began to feel sick and faint again.
When the bus reached Izmir, they dropped everyone off on the street and drove away. Soon after, a smuggler took Nour and her family into an apartment. He told them he could take them to Greece. They gave him the last of their money and he ran off with it. “We had no money left so we had to sleep on the street in Basmane.” Her brother and mother were frail. They were defenseless. It was a dark time.
Then an Arab journalist discovered the family and put them in a hotel. A Norwegian journalist was also able to help. “Things are better now but I still don’t know how I’m going to pay the rent this month.” says Nour.
Two months ago, a man from the anarchist collective was brought to the family. He introduced the collective to Nour and her brother. Describing the collective Nour says, “They has helped me so much. They don’t have money, but they do their best. There are people from different countries and they have different skills. It’s nice to hang out there, and it helps me improve my English. …they don’t treat me like a ‘refugee.’ When I’m there, I’m just a friend. …Sometimes we hang out there, sometimes we leave Basmane together and get some fresh air by the sea.”
Since living on the street, there is no doubt that Nour is in a better place now. A friend has set up a crowdfunding page to help her raise funds so she can legitimately get to Germany, get her operation, and complete her Law degree. (Which you can find here:https://www.youcaring.com/noor-oghlo-592524) A British doctor has recently visited Nour and told her that with help she, “is likely that she could make a full recovery.” Other volunteers and friends (usually volunteer-turned-friends) have started looking for other ways to help her. She is also fortunate in that her mother is also the best cook in Basmane.
When speaking of Nour, there is a universal love for her. She has a way of bringing everyone together and putting a smile on their faces. One volunteer-turned-friend writes, ” [Nour] is one of the smartest and most vibrant people I met during the month and a half I just spent in Turkey.” Another writes, “…after the bombs, the fleeing, after crossing the formidably lethal Turkish border and having her dinghy sink on her way to Greece in the night, she’ll tell you in perfect English with a smile on her face that these hurdles just make things a little more exciting.”
However, while the support of friends and volunteers is good to have, it never lasts long. Both of these friends have left Turkey since meeting Nour. As will I, and all the other volunteers she meets in Turkey. Luck and fortune in Basmane is relative. While Nour has the support of an international group of kind-hearted people, she still doesn’t know how she’s going to pay the rent this month. At the moment this future judge still balances on the fine line between living in the street, or sleeping with a pillow.
This article was originally featured on, and has been used with permission :https://fromizmirwithlove.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/nour/
To help Nour: https://www.youcaring.com/noor-oghlo-592524)