Impressed by the olive trees in the groves surrounding Moria hotspot, where she had to live in a tent, 16-year-old refugee girl Parwana Amiri wrote a story and published her first book, THE OLIVE TREE AND THE OLD WOMAN, together with Marily Stroux and the solidarity network, w2eu (“Welcome to Europe”) in Lesvos.
This book is the basis of the film THE OLIVE TREE.
Υποχρεωμένη να ζήσει σε μια σκηνή μέσα στους ελαιώνες που περιβάλλουν το hotspot της Μόριας, η 16χρονη πρόσφυγας Παρβανά Amiri εντυπωσιάστηκε από τα ελαιόδεντρα, έγραψε μια ιστορία και δημοσίευσε το πρώτο της βιβλίο, ΤΟ ΕΛΑΙΟΔΕΝΤΡΟ ΚΑΙ Η ΓΡΙΟΥΛΑ, με τη συνεργασία της Μαρίλης Στρουξ και την υποστήριξη του δικτύου αλληλεγγύης w2eu (“Καλώς ήλθατε στην Ευρώπη”) στη Λέσβο.
Αυτό το βιβλίο είναι η βάση της ταινίας ΤΟ ΕΛΑΙΟΔΕΝΤΡΟ.
In September 2019 the Watch The Med Alarm Phone received a GPS-location close to the northern coast of Lesvos. It was sent from a boat. We informed the Greek coastguard and the rescue teams on the shore. Some hours later we got in touch with the people again and they confirmed they were safe and had been brought to a camp.
It was only a few days later, when some of us went to Lesvos to remember and celebrate 10 years of struggles on this island with the network of Welcome to Europe, we contacted the people who had been on that boat and they agreed to meet us. They told us about the hard trip that was behind them, they told us that they had to try four times before finally reaching Greece. Twice they had been intercepted by the Turkish coastguard and another time blocked by the Greek coastguard near Alexandroupolis.
There was still a struggle ahead of them. They got stuck in the hotspot of Moria. Or better to say outside the hotspot of Moria – the camp had 12,000 people inside and an official capacity of just 3,000. It was crazily overcrowded already at that time, with small summer tents far up in the olive grove outside the camp. The numbers would rise in the next months – by the end of the year 21,000 people were stuck on Lesvos.
We finally shared time with the families who had travelled on the boat. There were several families from one neighbourhood, even three generations. We spent a touching dinner all together. We visited them a day later in their tents, with many musicians we went up to the olive grove, singing and dancing to the rhythms of freedom in all our languages.
Parwana, a teenage girl from Afghanistan, had been on that same boat. When we met, we spoke about dreams, future plans and we shared a lot of the daily problems she was facing. This story continues until today: It turned out that Parwana very much liked writing to express herself. First, she was shy to write in English, but as she is a bright woman, she overcame this fear quickly and started to document what she experienced in “Letters from Moria”.
Parwana’s “Letters from Moria” are published on Welcome to Europe’s blog http://Infomobile.w2eu.net. The letters talk about life in the horrible conditions of a camp made to deter people from reaching a place of safety. She changes perspectives in each of her letters. She writes from the perspective of an old woman, who bakes bread to sell in order to buy medicine for her husband, of a young boy who is afraid to lose himself, of a young woman suffering from the abuse of men all around her and she writes from the perspective of a transgender person.
These letters were written mostly at night by torchlight in the tent that Parwana shared with her eight-person family, in the olive grove. She always waited until everyone was asleep, so that she would have the peace of mind to write in the darkness with her torch. At the end of December, Parwana and her family were finally transferred to a camp on mainland Greece, where Parwana continues to document the conditions and publish her words.
This first book of hers is just the beginning. We are happy to be part of her journey
This story is written by Parwana Amiri, a young Afghan woman who has lived with her family in the Olive Grove from the Moria hotspot since September 2019.
When Parwana noticed how unbearable the living conditions were, she supported the people with her language skills and started to publicize the stories they had experienced.
Her “LETTERS TO THE WORLD FROM MORIA” have been published in a blog since September: Infomobile and and on this Blog.
This little book is based on the real story of one of the many people forced into the Olive Grove
Use olive trees to heat or bake. It is an imaginary conversation between an old woman and an olive tree.
It was drawn by Marily Stroux and printed by w2eu / alarmfone.
You can buy this little book for a donation of € 4.00. Write an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or get it Hamburg at Kölibri.
Where: at Kölibri, Hein-Köllisch-Platz 11 + 12 · 20359 Hamburg or via email@example.com
When: always on OpenFriday from 14-17: 30h
All proceeds go directly to Parwana for the projects in which she participates. The self-organized school WAVES OF HOPE FOR THE FUTURE, founded by ZEKRIA Farzad with 1,200 students of all ages in the Olive Grove, is one of them.
Every mother raises up her baby being proud of it from the first day. When she kisses her baby, her baby kisses her back, and this is the absolute happiness for her. When the child grows, she is watching how it plays with others. She watches it grow and develop. These are the joys of a mother.
I have raised my two children under the hardest conditions of life. I spent everyday praying for them. But while the body of my four year old girl grew, her brain did not follow along. And the same happened to my boy.
I love my children. But society humiliated us for them being different. I will never forget that everybody expected my husband to get married again, because I gave birth to mentally disabled babies.
I didn’t even know that I was getting married. I was so small, getting married was for me was like playing with my dolls, and it was the same for all other girls of my very young age.
When I started to learn about life as a couple, I realised that I was pregnant and when I hugged my Mariam* (names changed) for the first time, I became also aware of people’s talk – mostly the nearest persons around me. They called my baby “handicapped”, “abnormal”, and those words aggrieved me.
To find medical help for the growth problems of our child and escape their stigmatisation and the painful talks around our family we decided to escape, first to Iran and after to Turkey.
We tried to find appropriate treatment for our daughter for four years. For the first three years, no one could tell us the reason of her illness. Finally, they found out, that she had a brain damage.
My Mariam … she is full of emotions, full of love and affection, full of innocence. Her world is simple, but pure. Her view on life is different. Even when humiliating hands rest on her shoulders, she feels that they are innocent, hands full of sympathy.
When I see that she goes near flowers, I become happy that maybe she is getting pleasure from her environment, but then she becomes aggressive to them. Observing her in such scenes feels like thorns piercing my eyes.
Every mother wishes to see her baby crawl, but I couldn’t see it, since she was like a dead body in a corner until she became two years old. Every mother wishes to hold her baby’s hand and teach her how to walk, but I touched her weak joints and she whined and cried in pain.
I swear that I raised this girl 9 months in my belly. I swear that I desired death while giving birth. I passed a long period after her birth, eating dry bread with water, praying that she becomes better, that she becomes a happiness for us and happy herself.
I have lived with such pain. The Turkish doctors told us that there was no hope to treat Mariam.
And, then, in Turkey, another seed was planted and started growing. I have grown Amir* full of hope. Although looking at Mariam made me cry every day, my husband, cleared away my tears, put his hand on my belly and gave me hope. How many nights didn’t I cry for the health for my kids… but in this inhumane world, my souls screams haven’t been heard.
This mother, after 9 months of carrying her baby and 6 days of labor pains, was told once again the same news: She is having an unhealthy baby.
I passed two years full of hope, telling myself that maybe it was not true, that things may change. The doctors in Turkey told us that he had the same problem as Mariam. His brain will not grow and the muscles of his body will not work well. However, there was a treatment for him, especially because he was smaller that Mariam, but that treatment was not possible in Turkey. For that we needed to move on to a European country.
We had been living as refugees in Turkey for four years. We were beggars on everybody’s door. Every day we visited the doctors. However, we didn’t know their language, and we didn’t have an interpreter. We wandered for hours and days to find the hospitals as we didn’t know the addresses, only to understand, in the end, that we were in Turkey for nothing. We saw that all doors were closed to us. So we gathered everything, held our children’s hands and started our migration towards Europe.
Now we ask ourselves: Is this really Europe? Is this the continent of hope? Where is that bright light that we came here to find for our children?
No! Here our heart’s light didn’t turn on. Europe turned our hopes off and we are trapped in darkness.
For four months now every day we go to the doctors in Mytilene. It seems that our babies are pictures, that can be diagnosed by a quick look. Without having carried out any test, they tell us that our babies don‘t have any problems. It is as if you go to the doctor and tell him that you have a headache and the doctor tells you, “where is your pain, I cannot see it”.
No one answers our questions. We are like ping pong balls for them. They throw us from one hospital to another for nothing.
If you have parents, if you are a father or mother, if you love someone around you, you will understand us. You will understand how hard it is to see a seed of your body, growing to become a human that is just alive but doesn’t live. Every day looking at our children’s situation we wish to die.
We didn’t come here for money or luxuries but for the doctors. For us just having a nest to protect us from the cold and to live with our healthy children would be enough.
In search of just a nest…
p.s. Thanks to my friend who shared her story with me. I wish she will find what she is seeking for!
I have existed for billions of years. Every century I raised new generations, but I have never been at the same time as proud of myself as I am today and as sad and disappointed as I am today.
Today, I stand tip-top on some incredible advances and discoveries achieved in this world. Yet, it looks like my residents are returning back to old false thoughts, thoughts thousands years old. Thoughts of egoism, thoughts of greed, thoughts that make you fight between each other, that made you built borders in order not to share between your kind or other creatures.
I am mother of you all. I am equally belonging to all people. You can all live on me. So what are these borders for that you created? Why don’t you open your doors to each other? Why don’t you get rid of racism and come together sitting on one table?
We are a family. Didn’t you realise? Is it possible for one child to ask another child to give him back his mother? Is she mother to just one child? Which mother can be happy to see one of her kids happy and wealthy and another poor and miserable? Which family can draw borders between its members? You are all earths people, how can one be more and another less?
You want to conquer other people, other countries, other planets. Have you pleased me, to now think that you will please other planets? Did you look after me so now you think that you can look after other planets?
Today, more than any times in the past, I need protection from you people and people need protection from each other. Instead of looking after me, you want to conquer me, you think that I belong to some few of you. You don’t want to care and to share…
Don’t you need me all in order to survive? I am soil and water for you, and if the goal is to live and not to turn others into slaves, get a piece of land for yourself and give a glas of water to others.
Every day, with your growing greed I fall into more trouble and you loose yourselves. Your attempt to conquer me burns forests into ashes, forests that have grown over thousands of years nurturing us with oxygen. Seas turn red with human blood, and more lands with their thousand years old history, turn into dry sand.
Your pressure on me is ever growing. With every century of your “progress”, I get closer to the end of my life. You want to exploit me, but don’t you realize that you deplete me every day, that you end my days and yours.
Why don’t you content with what you already have? Why don’t you protect the treasures in your hands? Your life would be terribly short if I belonged to one man only, if you were alone. If you continue the same way, you won’t be able to have me for more than 100 years more. I will die. You will die.
So let the people see the grasses also in future, let them touch the lawns, let them smell fresh air, let them climb the mountains and swim in the seas. Don’t force the future generations to spend all their days and lives with masks! My ozone layer is being destroyed. I cannot escape harmful radiations anymore, all because of you! Every day by making more nuclear power, by building more factories, I come closer to the end of my life.
…This is only an Abstract of the letter.
One can wander to the East or the West, to the North or the South, but where home is, it is the best.
Being a transgender means not to be of female or male sex, neither man nor woman – but of transgender sex. In a society like Afghanistan, being a transgender person is like being an extra-terrestrial, landing on earth from outer space. In Afghanistan people think of sex binary: only female and male are considered as “normal” genders.
In Afghanistan I used false names. I am Mina. This name gives an understanding that I am a girl. Yet, every day, during my whole being, my soul screams: “I am not a girl! Don’t cover your self with these clothes.”
I was born, in 1992, in Mazaresharef, the western province of Afghanistan. Being a girl in such a society carries guilt. Being a transgender born as a girl carries double guilt. So when I realised that I was not really a girl, my life became a nightmare. I felt myself separate from everyone, not belonging to any of the dominant sexes. Although I had a female body, I wanted to be with boys, behave like a boy. Playing with them, learning with them, speaking with them was pleasant for me.
While I was little, my family allowed me to do more or less what I wanted. But as soon as my female body developed, they didn’t allow me to be what I wanted to be, as I wanted to be. They were always thinking about their reputation and honour and not about what I wanted. When I became 18, I felt like a prisoner in the jail of my female body and I couldn’t tolerate anymore wearing girl’s clothes. So, I decided to take off my hijab and be what I wanted to be.
I loved one of my classmates and I was all the time with her. She didn’t know everything about me. She just knew my deep feelings for her and she thought that I was like all girls. Sometimes, she felt uncertain and would ask if I was ok. Soon, I decided to speak with her and with my family.
First I told her all my feelings, that I really loved her and wanted to be with her all my life. She was shocked, but she accepted me and wanted me to be what I wanted to be, not what others wanted me to be.
When I then spoke with my family, they told me that they would kill me if I did not do what they wanted. They also told me that there was a suitor asking for me and that he and his family were coming the next day to visit to ask for my hand. I should just dress like a lady and that was it!
I thought ok, I will do what they ask me to do. I will get married, but I won’t have any relation with him. Relations need feelings and I had no such feelings for him or any men. I thought, I will divorce him after two months, I promise!
I did the opposite. I went to a barber and cut off my hair like a boy. Then I wore a t-shirt with a pair of jeans and went home.
I did all of that in order to live in freedom, and I will continue my struggle until I achieve my freedom. Freedom for ever.
In a camp with 14,000 refugees coming from different places of earth living under inhuman conditions one piled upon the other, the authorities can do very little to protect us. In fact, the miserable conditions they force us to live in, the inhuman laws and rules they subject us to create a small world of violence – a form of systematic violence against all of us.
If you live this violence day by day, you become part of it. In the end we humans, who are currently refugees in your Europe, must defend ourselves, our tents and our families against a generalised violence from above, but also from all sides. This violence can come come from any side now.
Where is safety?
If you live under conditions not worth for animals, violent conditions, then you can become violent any time yourself even if you share the same pain.
I feel powerless against this violence. I feel it crawling in our veins. I don’t want to become a part of this. I feel shame, when I see anger growing between people who suffer the same pain and shame when I feel anger rising inside me.
Instead of establishing friendly relations between each other as oppressed people that face the same discrimination, we become part of the reasons of fear. We escaped war, but it seems we are in war again. There is no way out. This is the war to survive the jungle called Europe.
Where is safety?
How long are we going to search for safety by holding guns in our hands? These hands, which long for a pen not a gun!
I am mother of three children and& and wife of a sick husband. He has a hernia on his backbone. He cannot walk. Neither should he get tired. So, I must look after my entire family on my own.
I am a woman, softer than flowers, but this life makes me harder than rocks.
Every day, as the sun rises, my mission starts. I wake up at 5am. I spread the blanket over my children. Then I go to get food. I walk 800 meters to the food line. The line starts at 6:30am, but I want to be up front, the first one among a thousand women.
All this waiting for just 5 cakes and one litter of milk, which I suspect is mixed with water.
My boy has a kidney infection for five years now. He cannot tolerate hunger. I must go back as fast as I can.
When back, I gather all the blankets and spread them on the tent’s floor.
I sweep in front of my tent. With my own hands I made a broom from tree branches. I wet the soil with water to prevent the dust and dirt from coming inside.
I hardly finish and, once again, I must run to the food line for taking lunch. The queue starts at 11:30am although they distribute the food only at 13:00pm. So the whole waiting process, under unbearable conditions, starts for me again. In the line for hours, I do not know what happens to my children: Are they well? Are they safe? Has my son’s pain started?
We have been here for 200 days. And every week, we eat the same food – repetitive, tasteless, with no spices, little salt and oil. Three times a week beans, once meatballs, once chicken and once rice with sausage, which we don’t know for sure if it is Hallal. But I force my children to eat so they won’t stay hungry.
I didn’t know that in Europe people get divided in the ones with passports and the ones without. I didn’t know that I would be treated as ‘a refugee’, a person without papers, without rights. I thought we escaped from emergencies, but here our arrival is considered an emergency for the locals. I thought our situation in the camp is an emergency, but in Europe the meaning of emergency for people like ‘us’ is to be dead.
Under the conditions we live exposed to heat in summer and rainfalls in winter, in the middle of garbage, dirt and sewage water, unsafe in permanent stress and fear facing the violence of the European Asylum System in this small world of 15,000 people – we are all emergency cases.
In fact in Moria, most arrived already with injuries in their souls and sometimes on their bodies. But here everyone gets ill, also the healthy, and our situation let our sicknesses turn to emergencies very fast.
Consider the story behind life in Moria hotspot: Having spent days, weeks or months walking up and down hills, over rocks and in between trees while living in a forest. Standing in queues for hours. Lost between what we think of as protection and what they create to hinder us reaching it.
…This is only an Abstract of the letter.
My pen wont brake unless we won’t end this story of inequality and discrimination among human kind. My words will always brake the borders you built.
Life has normally ups and downs, but my life has always been flat. I have been trapped in a deep valley.
I am getting close to my lives’ end. At an age when every old woman needs to rest, I push my heart to work and earn money for my husband who suffers from heart problems and for our son.
Yet, instead of taking care of my husbands sickness, we must first prove his illness, they say. Our words don’t count, but only papers. Do we need to take out his heart to show he is ill?
After many medical tests we undertook with many difficulties, they told us that his illness should be certified by the doctors of the big hospital. The name of his sickness has to be written in words on a paper. They didn’t tell us, who will cove his transportation costs to go to town? Of course no one will!
When my husbands’ heart suffered, I desired my death as I could not help without a Cent in my pocket…
What if someone in this world would hold my hands, so I could become an ally of nature walking away from the deep valleys, up to the mountains and the sun?
I am the father of two children. I am the husband of a woman full of emotion. But beyond these, I am a human and, even beyond that, I am a refugee, one among thousands of others. Every day, I work for hours to help people access services and solve their problems. Every day, exhausted, I run 900m distance to hurriedly eat lunch, and quickly come back to help some more people.
On the days I work to help people, my wife carries all the housekeeping responsibilities: she looks after the children, waits in endless lines to get some food for all, washes clothes, puts some order in our abode. She does all these with pleasure, just so that I can help translate the troubles of the people standing in the sun for hours, in need for someone to communicate on their behalf. What happens to her children when she needs to go away from the tent and leaves them in our neighbour’s tent? Don’t they miss her? Are they safe and calm in there? Such questions torture me all the day.
But today, I am sorry for myself, sorry that my name is father, that I couldn’t be a good father, that I couldn’t be a good husband. Today, while I was translating to a doctor the ailments of a patient, a familiar sound, of crying, of moaning, reached my ears. I did not have the heart to leave my work half done. So patiently, I continued, trying to keep my attention on the words I had to translate. Yet, that familiar sound set off an explosion in my brain. Finally, when I was needed no more, stressed-out and anxious, I approached the door.
What I had feared, a few minutes before, was indeed true. That was the sound of my wife’s crying as she tried to come inside to see the doctor. In her arms, there was our daughter, unconscious. The girl had been vomiting a lot in the tent, she explained, and when they started out for the clinic she fainted. The guard advised me that she should have taken our daughter to the Doctors without Borders (MSF). But I wasn‘t able to open my mouth to utter the words.
The sight of my wife‘s eyes, now blood-shot, and the sight my listless daughter in her embrace left me speechless, my mind blank. I could not even explain that she was my wife. Only, when she started, suddenly, to shake, did I come back to myself. So I turned to the nurse and did what I did for all the other patients: I described what had happened. The nurse went to have a look, only to tell us that it would have been better to bring her earlier. How could they have come all that distance faster? Did she not know our difficulties? When she went to examine our child, I, too, went back to my work. I didn’t want people to stay on, waiting, in that bad weather.
When my working time finished, we started out for our tent, myself, my wife, my daughter. Feeling a bit better, my little girl lifted herself and asked for a juice. BUT…….
( However UNHCR, the European Union and Greece itself get thousands of Euros everyday. In spite of that, they do not hire enough translators to help sick people in clinics inside the camp of Moria and in the big Hospital. Lack of translators, even in emergencies, is one of the most common problems of people. To rely on migrant volunteer translators is shameful. Europe should feel shame. .When even in its own hospitals nurses speak no English, how can they expect it from people from third world countries?)
I am a young girl full of energy, full of power and self confidence.
Yet, every day, I am surrounded by threatening noises, ugly sounds, anguished screams, which sap my youthful energy away. I am in Moria! Haunted by thousands of unclean eyes. Eyes that stare at my body, eyes that disturb me. I cannot play volleyball; I cannot walk straight. My head down, my eyes averted, crossing roads, even small distances, is like crossing borders.
Walking the 200 meters to the camp toilets, I feel hundreds of eyes fixed on me. Bothering girls is common here. We have to take it silently, the only way to prevent them from following us, bothering us further. While washing my clothes, I am filled with shame sensing the eyes of boys even of older men, like my father, on me. I don’t dare to turn and look back. I don’t want to risk misunderstandings on their part. They may take my gesture as invitation as license.
All sport salons, all playgrounds are allocated to boys. Where am I? This cannot possibly be Europe! At school, I learned that Europe is the mother of freedom. Yet, here, I am persecuted by violent eyes. I don’t have any freedom; I am a prisoner; here is a jail. I will not be able to forget these memories. I could not!
Instead of playing with other girls, I am forced to stay inside. Instead of walking proudly I must walk with my head down, ashamed and afraid . Look at me! See me! I am like you. I am a thirteen year old girl.
I had to wear a scarf, because my hair provokes men’s lust. I resent this. Why should I cover my hair, because they can’t control their lust? I am not responsible for their lust. They should be punished not me! I am a human, but they look at me like a goat, an animal of prey. I am afraid of these wolves. I am afraid of losing my honour, my self-esteem and of becoming a shame to my gender.
But this is enough ! Stand up girls! Stand up women!
We are not instinct of lust ! We are not preies of wolves !
Loudly scream that we want to be safe !
Where is human right?
I am sorry for Moria‘s girls, specially for my sisters.
Just a mother can understand me. My baby got sick and she started vomiting and having Diarrhea for three day. I was seeing her crying, but I could do nothing. I was seeing her vomiting, but I could do nothing.
This is the third day that I am going to doctor waiting for four hours in the back of the door, but no one cares. In one day I had to bring her about 14 times to the toilette and every time I had to wait 10 minutes in the queue.
In Moria we have no place to stay. We are without shelter among thousands of adults and strangers. We sleep on the floor, in tents and anywhere we can find until we may get a place in a overcrowded container.
The way from Afghanistan to Greece; stories of unsafe border crossings
The reasons for my people of escaping their home are different according to their individual stories, their families, jobs and the situation in their villages / towns or origin, but the main factor is the internal and cross-border war – not just for us Afghans but for most of the refugees.
“Put yourself in our shoes! We are not safe in Moria. We didn’t escape from our homelands to stay hidden and trapped. We didn’t pass the borders and played with our lifes to live in fear and danger.
Put yourself in our shoes! Can you live in a place , that you can not walk alone even when you just want to go the toilette. Can you live in a place, where there are hundreds of unaccompanied minors that no one can stop attempting suicides. That no one stops them from drinking.
No one can go out after 9:00 pm because the thieves will steal anything you have and if you don’t give them what they want, they will hurt you. We should go to the police? We went alot and they just tell that we should find the thief by ourselves. They say: ‘We can not do anything for you.’ In a camp of 14.000 refugees you won’t see anyone to protect us anywhere even at midnight. Two days ago there was a big fight, but util it finished no one came for help. Many tents burned. When the people went to complain, no one cared and and even the police told us: ‘This is your own problem.’
In this situation the first thing that comes to my mind to tell you is, we didn’t come here to Europe for money, and not for becoming a European citizen. It was just to breathe a day in peace.
Instead, hundreds of minors here became addicted, but no one cares.
Five human beings burned, but no one cares.
Thousands of children didn’t undergo vaccination, but no one cares.
I am writing to you to share and I am hoping for change…”
“They demand us to struggle and to invent a Europe of solidarity, overcoming the deathly migration regime.”
When we came together on Sunday in the harbour of Thermi to remember the dead of the European border regime, we could not know what would happen only shortly afterwards again: that people would lose their lives, when a fire broke out and many containers burnt down inside Moria camp.
Faride Tajik, an afghan mother lost her life. Whether she died together with her child is still unclear.
It was no surprise and no accident, it is not the first time and not the last time. This cruel system of deterrence and blocking of the European migration regime killed them. We face again the cruelty and the deadliness of this border regime in these days. On Tuesday 24 September, during the memorial in Korakas , we learned that a 5-year-old boy had lost his life when he was run-over by a truck in front of the hot-spot Moria. On Friday 27 September a boat was sinking close to Chios and 7 people, among them two children lost their lives.
On Sunday, when several containers already burned in a huge fire with a lot of smoke, those imprisoned and locked in the closed sector of the camp, started in panic to try to break the doors – and the response of the police was throwing tear-gas to add it to the smoke to a toxic mix.
The spontaneous speech Kashef held in the end of the memorial can be seen in a way as a comment on this before we all knew it.
We came together here in the harbour of Thermi for remembering the dead of the European border regime.
Together with family members and friends of missing people we started to build memorials, first in Korakas on Lesvos, then in Evros, later again on Lesvos. We wanted to build a space where we can mourn for a certain time with the relatives and show our concern and anger about these lives lost. Lost because European politicians are not willing to find solutions in human ways to welcome fleeing people. Now we look back at 10 years during which we remembered all these human lives, lost for nothing.
We wish that such memorials don’t have to exist anymore, that people don’t lose their lives senselessly crossing borders.
The memorial in Thermi was destroyed in August 2018 by fascists who proudly announced it in an anonymous phone call to a local newspaper. But destroying a memorial cannot erase the memories of the people and we will continue building memorials and keeping the names
Since we started to remember here in Thermi in 2013 every year we had to come back. Every year the death by the border regime continued. Every year we came and we renewed the promise not to give up until the killing stops.
Sylvie who survived when a boat was sinking in the North of Lesvos on 23rd of April 2017 was with us in the memorial again – it was the third time she commemorated together with us. Sylvie and another woman from Congo who was 8-months pregnant had drifted for many hours in the sea until they where finally rescued. Sylvie held a speech in the memorial and she spoke also during the festival the day before about her experience. The main message of her speech:
“When I was in the water for so long, I just believed that I would survive. It was this strong belief that helped me to hold on for so long until rescue finally came. I want to share with all of you that there is hope to survive, even in the hardest moment and I want to encourage all those who suffer not to stop to believe that there will be a way.”
Baris a Kurdish Violin player who was in Belgium before and had returned to Istanbul was on the same boat sinking on which only Sylvie and Joelle survived. When he had asked for a visa to continue his studies in Belgium and continue playing with his music group in Gent, he was refused the visa. Because of this, he was obliged to try the dangerous way through the sea to get back to Belgium.
His body was found embracing his violin case. His family has buried him in Istanbul. His music friends in Belgium played a Kurdish song in his memory that we want to share. In Baris memory and for all humans who lost their lives trying to reach a safer life in Europe. We will never give up remembering all these lives lost on the European borders.
video by Ehab Onan
Since the EU-Turkey-deal in March 2016 the European border-regime caused death also in the “hot-spots” on the Aegean islands. In 2019 again we are aware about people who died in the sea and caused by the inhumanity of the living conditions.
We remember today Jean-Paul Abouateng, 24 years old from Cameroun. A radio-journalist and father of a baby. He died in January this year in the hot-spot Moria during the cold season.
In April 2019 the family of a nine-year-old afghan girl, missing near the shore of Lesvos, searched with many people for weeks the beaches until she was found dead.
In June 2019 a boat with people from Cameroun and Congo sank near Lesvos, nine people died, among them two little girls.
We remember today:
Cele Nsanga Tesi
In August 2019 a 15-year-old Afghan minor was killed during a violent fight among minors inside the so-called “safe space” in the hot-spot Moria. He was travelling with his two younger brothers to join their family in Europe.
On Tuesday, while we were down in Korakas to renew the memorial there, we learned about a 5-year-old afghan boy, who just died being run-over by a truck in front of Moria, when he played inside a cardboard. Only a few days after authorities have shut down the kindergarden of “teamhumanity” were hundreds of children had played safely before.
This Europe is not safe, human rights and refugee rights have lost all relevance! The victims ask the ones alive to take action against this Europe of Frontex – borders and walls. They demand us to struggle and to invent a Europe of solidarity, overcoming the deathly migration regime.
We invite you to have a moment of silence together with us – and then to move on: to tear down the borders and to build another, a welcoming Europe.
Αιτία θανάτου: Η πολιτική αποτροπής και κράτησης της Ευρώπης!
Χθες, Κυριακή 29 Σεπτεμβρίου 2019, ξέσπασε πυρκαγιά στο λεγόμενο hotspot της Μόριας στη Λέσβο. Μια γυναίκα και πιθανώς και ένα παιδί έχασαν τη ζωή τους στη φωτιά, ενώ παραμένει ασαφές πόσοι άλλοι τραυματίστηκαν. Πολλοί άνθρωποι έχασαν στη φωτιά όλα τους τα υπάρχοντα, ακόμα και τα χαρτιά τους. Οι άνθρωποι που βρίσκονται εγκλωβισμένοι στη Λέσβο έφύγαν λόγω των πολέμων και των συγκρούσεων και τώρα βιώνουν τη βία στην Ευρώπη. Πολλές και πολλοί τραυματίστηκαν ξανά από αυτά τα τραγικά γεγονότα, ενώ αρκετές και αρκετοί αναγκάστηκαν να διανυκτερεύσουν στο δάσος φοβούμενοι για τις ζωές τους.
Τις τελευταίες εβδομάδες, είδαμε δύο ακόμη θανάτους στο hotspot της Μόριας: Τον Αύγουστο ένας 15χρονος Αφγανός ανήλικος σκοτώθηκε κατά τη διάρκεια μιας βίαιης διαμάχης μεταξύ ανηλίκων μέσα στον αποκαλούμενο «safe zone» του στρατοπέδου. Στις 24 Σεπτεμβρίου, ένα 5χρονο αγόρι έχασε τη ζωή του όταν το πάτησε ένα φορτηγό μπροστά από την πύλη του στρατοπέδου.
Η φωτιά χθες δεν μας προκάλεσε έκπληξη, δεν ήταν ένα τυχαίο περιστατικό. Δεν είναι η πρώτη και δεν θα είναι η τελευταία. Πυρκαγιές στο hotspot της Μόριας έχουν ξεσπάσει ήδη αρκετές φορές στο παρελθόν, με πιο τραγικό το περιστατικό του Νοέμβριο του 2016, όταν μεγάλα τμήματα του στρατοπέδου είχαν καεί ολοσχερώς. Το σκληρό καθεστώς αποτροπής και κράτησης της Ευρώπης αφαίρεσε και πάλι ζωές.
Εν τω μεταξύ, στα μέσα μαζικής ενημέρωσης, αμέσως εφευρέθηκε μια ιστορία, λέγοντας ότι οι ίδιοι οι πρόσφυγες έβαλαν τη φωτιά. Αναφέρθηκε ακόμα ότι εμπόδισαν την είσοδο στην πυροσβεστική. Έχουμε μιλήσει με πολλούς ανθρώπους που ήταν μπροστά στα γεγονότα. Μας λένε μια πολύ διαφορετική ιστορία: Η πυροσβεστική έφτασε πολύ αργά, πράγμα που δεν εκπλήσει κανέναν, δεδομένου του υπερπληθυσμού αυτού του τερατώδους hotspot. Παρά την επίσημη χωρητικότητά του για 3.000 άτομα, τώρα διαμένουν τουλάχιστον 12.500 ανθρώποι υποφέρωντας κάτω από φρικτές συνθήκες διαβίωσης. Στα βίντεο από κινητά τηλεφώνα που τραβήχτηκαν από τους εγκλωβισμένους στο στρατοπέδο, μπορεί κανείς να δει πως σε αυτό το χάος, οι κάτοικοι και η πυροσβεστική έκαναν μαζί ό,τι μπορούσαν για να αποτρέψουν τουλάχιστον μια ακόμη μεγαλύτερη καταστροφή.
Είναι προφανές πως δεν μπορεί να υπάρξει ένα σχέδιο έκτακτης ανάγκης σε ένα στρατόπεδο που έχει υπερβεί την χωρητικότητά κατά τέσσερις φορές. Όταν αρκετά container άρχισαν να καίγονται από μια τεράστια φωτιά που δημιούργησε σύννεφα καπνού, οι εγκλωβισμένοι που βρίσκονταν κλειδωμένοι στον κλειστό τομέα του στρατοπέδου άρχισαν να πανικοβάλλονται προσπαθώντας να σπάσουν τις πόρτες για να γλιτώσουν. Η μόνη ενέργεια από τις αρχές ήταν να φέρουν αμέσως την αστυνομία η οποία έκανε ρίψη δακρυγόνων, κάνοντας την ατμόσφαιρα ακόμα πιο τοξική.
Θυμός και θλίψη για όλους αυτούς τους παράλογους θανάτους και τραυματισμούς προστέθηκαν στην ήδη εκρηκτική ατμόσφαιρα της Μόριας, όπου χιλιάδες υποφέρουν περιμένοντας για μακρύ χρονικό διάστημα να αλλάξει κάτι στη ζωή τους. Εκείνοι που ποινικοποιούν και καταδικάζουν την κατακραυγή με τη μορφή ταραχών κόσμου που μένει στη Μόρια δεν μπορούν ούτε να διανοηθούν την εντελώς απάνθρωπη ζωή που βιώνουν καθημερινά. Η πραγματική βία είναι η ίδια η Μόρια, οι συνθήκες της οποίας δεν είναι παρά αποτέλεσμα του καθεστώτος συνοριακής πολιτικής αποτροπής της ΕΕ.
Υψώνουμε τις φωνές μας αλληλέγγυες και αλληλέγγυοι με τον κόσμο της Μόριας και απαιτούμε ξανά: Η μόνη πιθανότητα να τερματιστεί αυτός ο πόνος και ο θάνατος είναι να ανοίξουν τα νησιά και να υπάρξει ελευθερία μετακίνησης για όλους και όλες. Όσες και όσοι φτάνουν στα νησιά πρέπει να συνεχίσουν το ταξίδι τους μήπως και καταφέρουν να βρουν κάπου ένα μέρος ασφάλειας και αξιοπρέπειας. Απαιτούμε τα πλοία της γραμμής να μεταφέρουν άμεσα τους εξαντλημένους και εκ νέου τραυματισμένους ανθρώπους στην ηπειρωτική Ελλάδα. Χρειαζόμαστε ακτοπλοϊκά δρομολόγια, όχι την Frontex. Χρειαζόμαστε ανοιχτά σύνορα, έτσι ώστε όλες και όλοι να συνεχίσουν να κινούνται, ακόμα και πέρα από την Ελλάδα. Εκείνοι που ξεφεύγουν από τα νησιά δεν πρέπει να φυλακίζονται για άλλη μια φορά σε στρατόπεδα στην ηπειρωτική Ελλάδα, με συνθήκες ίδιες με εκείνες που υπάρχουν στα νησιά.
They died because of Europe’s cruel deterrence and detention regime!
Yesterday, on Sunday 29 September 2019, a fire broke out in the so-called hotspot of Moria on Lesvos Island in Greece. A woman and probably also a child lost their lives in the fire and it remains unclear how many others were injured. Many people lost all their small belongings, including identity documents, in the fire. The people imprisoned on Lesvos have fled wars and conflicts and now experience violence within Europe. Many were re-traumatised by these tragic events and some escaped and spent the night in the forest, scared to death.
Over the past weeks, we had to witness two more deaths in the hotspot of Moria: In August a 15-year-old Afghan minor was killed during a violent fight among minors inside the so-called “safe space” of the camp. On September 24, a 5-year-old boy lost his life when he was run-over by a truck in front of the gate.
The fire yesterday was no surprise and no accident. It is not the first, and it will not be the last. The hotspot burned already several times, most tragically in November 2016 when large parts burned down. Europe’s cruel regime of deterrence and detention has now killed again.
In the meantime, in the media, a story was immediately invented, saying that the refugees themselves set the camp on fire. It was also stated that they blocked the fire brigade from entering. We have spoken to many people who witnessed the events directly. They tell us a very different story: In fact, the fire broke out most probably due to an electricity short circuit. The fire brigade arrived very late, which is no surprise given the overcrowdedness of this monstrous hotspot. Despite its official capacity for 3,000 people, it now detains at least 12,500 people who suffer there in horrible living conditions. On mobile phone videos taken by the prisoners of the camp, one can see how in this chaos, inhabitants and the fire brigade tried their best together to at least prevent an even bigger catastrophe.
There simply cannot be a functioning emergency plan in a camp that has exceeded its capacity four times. When several containers burned in a huge fire that generated a lot of smoke, the imprisoned who were locked in the closed sector of the camp started in panic to try to break the doors. The only response the authorities had, was to immediately bring police to shoot tear-gas at them, which created an even more toxic smoke.
Anger and grief about all these senseless deaths and injuries added to the already explosive atmosphere in Moria where thousands have suffered while waiting too long for any change in their lives. Those who criminalise and condemn this outcry in form of a riot of the people of Moria cannot even imagine the sheer inhumanity they experience daily. The real violence is the camp itself, conditions that are the result of the EU border regime’s desire for deterrence.
We raise our voices in solidarity with the people of Moria and demand once again: The only possibility to end this suffering and dying is to open the islands and to have freedom of movement for everybody. Those who arrive on the islands have to continue their journeys to hopefully find a place of safety and dignity elsewhere. We demand ferries to transfer the exhausted and re-traumatised people immediately to the Greek mainland. We need ferries not Frontex. We need open borders, so that everyone can continue to move on, even beyond Greece. Those who escape the islands should not be imprisoned once more in camps in mainland Greece, with conditions that are the same as the ones here on the islands.
On Saturday 28 of September 2019 we organized a small Concert in an old Olive Factory on the road to Panagiouda, close to the refugee camp of Moria. The Event lasted from 16 to 23 o clock. We had an exhibition of 10 years w2eu in Lesvos. 10 years of solidarity and struggles for freedom of movement. The Movies from the night before where screened again in den small Room. In the main Room played Live Music with Renovatio, Kashef, No Tunes, Musikarama, RAD featuring Shajan, Hot Band and many more. One day they before the Concert we went to Moria with Music activity to invite all the children and the adults to the Concert. Finally we where surprised to see so many families with their children to followed our invitation to the Event.
Our hope for Saturday was to come together in solidarity, people from inside and outside of Moria so called “Hot Spot”, and celebrate continuity and stubbornness we have learned together in these migrant struggles.
Finally the Event exceeded our expectations without comparison.
In the following days, more movies and pictures will be added to this post, so keep looking for more.
In the evening of 27th of September, an open event took place in the city of Mytilini, with short-movies about the hot-spot prisons of Lesvos and Samos – but also about reasons to flee and about daily experiences of discrimination. So many people came to see the screening that the place was finally so overcrowded that it was difficult for everybody to fit in.
The film-makers commented on their own movies. It was the first time they did a screening of their work all together and it brought together movies from different islands and time-periods. There will be a second chance to see the movies. Tonight they will be shown during the festival “melody and the rhythm of freedom for all“ in the old olive factory near to Panagiouda at the sea side.
The olive-grove besides Moria hot pot is huge. More the 13.000 people stuck are under horrible conditions inside and outside the monstrous hot spot prison Moria. In the olive grove, the informal camp behind the official one, the tents with plastic-covers grew to an own village. With several self-constructed bakeries, street vendors selling vegetables and other stuff along the main street, barbers and various other small businesses… Everywhere dust and the smell of wet clothes, electricity cables, paletts of wood,. Overcrowded and hard to imagine and to describe, if you did not see and smell and feel it live. Everywhere children in all ages. Most of their time people spend cueing for food, water, showers, toilets, clothes – and waiting and hoping for a chance to get a transfer to the mainland to finally continue their journey.
And then there is the sound of music. Appearing first in one corner within the tents. Then in the next and in the next… Small groups walk up the hill, mixed teams of musicians and people making connections and chatting in various languages. Many among us who crossed this rocky path before three years, before 10 years – remembering and feeling shared pain with the ones now here. Moving among the tents; through the tiny roads jumping over ropes. Stopping, being invited for tea. Meeting friends from the days before and meeting relatives. And then starting to play, to bring people together. We want to share this moment in which you can just forget for some minutes this whole shit. In teams as mixed as our group to show that solidarity has no borders.
The kids understand it immediately: “You know `hurriya´? No Moria – we want hurriya, freedom,” is what a small boy says when we walk a while together. A family father tells us how important it is to see the different communities dancing together, while only yesterday he saw a fight in front of his tent. An afghan lady, grandmother of a family here with three generations expresses her joy: “My heart is growing in this moment of joy to see all of you together and to hear this music. It is becoming big enough to go on and to know I can reach everywhere.”
The idea for this music-flashmob around the hot-spot of Moria was born with the restless question how to act under these conditions when the islands became big prisons and no form of protest seems strong enough to change it. Even when Moria burnt down several times, even after hundreds of protests, the islands were still kept closed. Governments changed, but freedom of movement for everyone never was considered an option. Instead the infamous “EU-Turkey ´Deal´ built more walls, enforced more deportations. Back under a right-wing government, nowadays things get even worse. We have seen revolt after revolt – and also a lot of violence among the people when the pressure on the people held under inhuman conditions was so much that daily problems could cause huge conflicts.
When musicians and friends finally gather all on the top of the hill, the crowd dances together and then starts to move. We walk down the hill, singing songs and playing rhythms about freedom in all of our languages. There is a moment when the beat starts growing, we reduce the speed. The sleeping anger and the desperation are too strong and we feel it is not the right moment to get louder. But we can all feel it, this sleeping lion of anger and the natural strive for freedom to break the chains, that is as old as oppression exists.
We invite everybody we meet to come together for a festival the next day. Because today we will continue. We will break isolation and come together for a festival in the old olive factory near Panagiouda, a spot between Moria and the camp “Kara Tepe”. We will continue to share our thoughts and dreams and tell each other stories about these struggles – and we will dance to the rhythms for freedom for all to make our hearts strong enough to go on until freedom of movement is everybody’s right.
In the afternoon we sit together and share some thoughts and feelings about the day:
“First I went to visit my aunt and when I saw her together with her family stuck in these miserable condition it was a shock for me. I wanted so much to get my relatives out of there or at least improve their situation there. Many of us have family members and friends in the camp in Lesvos. And then I looked around and saw all the others, in even worse conditions because they had no one to visit them – and in this moment I felt so powerless and scattered. It feels so huge the problem.”
“When I went up the hill of Moria-camp I was remembering so much the time when I had been arriving and was stuck in Samos. My mind was full of memories – also of so many bad moments. And I could really feel the people. And I told them: ´I am one of you, just some steps further.´”
“I saw the camps on the Aegean islands the first time when I was working as a translator as I arrived from the land. Working for this organisation inside a hot spot, it was forbidden for us to be in contact with the people – even to say hello on the street. And now this was the first time to be able to talk and to just behave like normal human beings with each other – a relieving experience.”
“I was playing music for many times in camps on the greek mainland. Again and again it is shocking that I am often the first greek person the people meet and speak to. It feels like a huge hug when people in poorest conditions invite you to sit with them. I felt this here again.”
“My first experience of the day was to be forced to queue again like in the past when waiting for my permit to leave the island by boat from EASO – which is one of the crazy ways to try to control us. Even when we are allowed to travel, with our asylum seeker cards they put us again in this dehumanising situation of queuing and feeling powerless, just waiting for being accepted or denied. I thought I give a shit on your decisions, in the worst case I will just stay with the people. And then we started playing music. And I forgot all this horror immediately. It was the first time when I was not only playing music but also singing in Farsi since I arrived in Greece in 2016. I think I did it because it felt so normal at this shared moment. Not like a music-show, but I was singing with my people, my family.”
“The moments of music we shared are a message by themselves. A message of freedom. But we need to move on more steps, come back and do it again, so that the moment of freedom turns into a condition of freedom, where the imagination overcomes the repression and one can dream and hope again.”
When we walk down to Korakas’ lighthouse the sky is cloudy. Already from up you can see the colours of life-vests, probably from the last landings tonight and yesterday. We find leftovers that create a feeling as if there are still many more people with us. Those who continued to go towards their destinations and those whose journey ended here and their voices were silenced by the sea. Tonight 335 newcomers on nine boats arrived safely on the island – seven of the boats here in the north, with many very small children on them, picked one by one by the friends who are constantly here assisting in rescues and landings.
Together we renew the memorial we had set up here 9 years ago when we came with little Marila and her parents in October 2010. We remembered together with them the night on 27 October 2009, when they had been on a boat together with Afghan women, their small children and some minors. Short before landing at Korakas, the boat turned over and all people fell in the sea. Yalda (8), Neda (10), Mehdi (4), Zakia, Tsima, Sonia (6), Abdulfasl (3) and Zomaya lost their lives. The baby Marila and her parents were rescued by Stratis, a brave fishermen who jumped into the water to save them. One year later they came together to meet again. And we put this memorial on the lighthouse to commemorate.
Now we came back – most of us not the first time since 2010. So the air is also full of memories of the time in between, in 2015 and 2016 when so many people climbed up this road and went on to reach other places in Europe. Also Marila and her family finally arrived in Sweden.
We renewed the memorial, where the names within 9 years in the hot summer sun and the sea-salt had nearly become invisible to bring them back into the memories. We then read out a text of Khaled Hosseini, a letter of a father to his son. He wrote it after the picture of small Alan Kurdi went around the world on 2nd of September 2015. He dedicated it to all the families torn apart when forced to flee and to all those who lost their lives at sea.
While we are down in Korakas we receive the news about a 5-year-old afghan boy, who just died being run-over by a truck in front of Moria, when he played inside a cardboard. Only a few days after authorities have shut down the kindergarden of “teamhumanity” were hundreds of children had played safely before.
Later on when we speak about our impressions of the day, Ehab remembers his own trip when he went to the island of Samos:
“When we entered the boat, we thought we are all alone and no one thinks of us. Nobody knows that we face the danger of death. I realised in this moment when we stand all together there in Korakas in all our sadness that this was not true. There are people who care. This is maybe the moment in which you feel that there is humanity. We have never been alone.”
“When I went down to the shore, I started to pick up the leftovers of those who arrived recently. I found an asylum seekers card of a child in Turkey. And when I picked it from the ground I had the feeling as if I would destroy somehow a museum. As if it has to stay there because it belongs to a documentation of what was and the next person should find it there to understand. In this place down there, immediately you can feel the people, it seems you can see them in front of you and hear them how they talk. You can feel the continuity of all this and that people will continue to be on the move. You can feel them all as if they are with you. These memorials are a very strong part of this struggle not to forget.”