Struggles all around refugees
“Germany, Germany” - that’s what everybody knows to say.
“My Father and my uncle are in Germany and I will come soon”. But who, when, if, where somebody
will go – God only knows… or in our case “Melek Taus” only knows.
Since September about 400 refugees live in the camp of Serres. All of them are from northern Iraq speaking Kurdish. They all belong to their ethnically Kurdish religious community of Yazidis and here we are. In the centre of their believe stands “Melek Taus” the Peacock Angel, the seven miracles and sheik ʿAdī ibn Musāfir (1073–1163). Because it is already complicated enough to organize a refugee camp itself it helps a lot to have only people of the same religion together even if this situation of being separated is not possible forever hence religion will bring up a lot more complications in future…
“Muslim people no good, no good.”
That’s also what everybody can say of our Yazidis.
Why had Kurdish people from Iraq to flee? Four letters should be enough as explanation: ISIS. Or what they always mention “Daesh”. Exactly in the area of the Kurdish minority in Iraq ISIS is being active in the moment. Hence a lot of people and inhabitants fled to turkey. Suddenly their normal life turned into the life of a refugee. What is the life of a refugee like? Uncertainty. You get sent from one place to the other, one person says this, the other person that – nobody knows. And you? You just want to reach your destination, have a normal life, security.
“Anywhere. Anything is better than this” he said as a tear trickled down his cheek (source).
After the “mass invasion” of refugees coming to Greece the past years a lot of camps are in terrible circumstances. But I am asking, what do you expect as refugee? Especially when you know that you will be not the only one who flees. To fall back on the quote, would it really have been better if he stayed in Syria?
But let me tell the story of a little boy.
He came from Shingal in Iraq. He was one of the Yazidis which could escape the genocide of 5 000 and more Yazidis in august 2014 hiding in the mountains of Dschabal Sindschar for seven days without water and food. When he fled with his family they had to walk by foot for 10 hours until turkey. Next step was Antalya, then Kastellorizo by boat, Rhodes, Athens, New Kavalla, Serres. Because the Greek camps were not prepared for this unique cold winter 2017 the refugees were living in tents until the middle of December. But the boy was so excited telling me about his stages showing me pictures and telling me in every case he wants to go back to the island Kastellorizo because he fell in love with this place. In fact being Refugee must be fun then or not? You get to see a lot of places, you can travel for free, get food for free and at the top of all you don’t have to work! All you can do is to sit around and wait because you don’t even have a chance to work if you wanted. Well, maybe some people appreciate this but I think they belong to a little part. I admire all the refugees so much, especially the young people. They have no idea what will come in their future, they have terrible traumata after what happened in their home country or on their dangerous travels. Still they all seem to be okay. They have no other chance than accepting everything in fact because nobody would care, nobody really can care…
Nowadays with all the laws and structure you nearly have no influence on where you will go in Europe. As a refugee you have to accept everything because you have no possibility to change laws or decisions. The only way if you don’t want to follow is trying to immigrate illegally. But that’s leads to another topic.
But don’t you loose the sense of life being in this situation? As I experienced in our refugee camp there is no sense to care about the camp in terms of cleanness or tidiness because everybody thinks and hopes to be away soon. In our case there is no sense for most of the refugees in learning Greek because all everybody wants is to go to Germany or at least not staying in Greece. If I would be a mother my only sense of life would be to give a better future to my children. I met a girl who did not have any parents anymore, what is her motivation to go through all this? It is so hard to put oneself in the refugees shoes…
What we try now with our project of “Coming together – bringing down barriers” is to make the young people come out of their camp in Serres, getting to know new things, to meet us as foreigners, to make them meet Greek people and introduce them to the local community and to get them entertained. As well we try to start a Radio Broadcast with some refugees to make them feel needed and to show them they can achieve something if they want to.
“When I work, I feel at least a little relief.”– NEA KAVALLA Banan, mother of four sons and two daughters between one and 12 years (source).
As well as I noticed by talking about refugees with the local community there are a lot of fears. When I told a woman in the middle of the twenties that we are doing a project with refugees she stared at us like we are crazy asking if this would not be dangerous coming in contact with them. Of course it is dangerous you have to watch out because while you are doing projects with them every second an Iraqi axt murderer can come around the corner to kill you… All the fears are based on prejudices. “They bring diseases, they have a different religion which we are not familiar with, they are criminals,…” You cannot deny that in regions with a lot of foreigners the tendency of being raped for a woman is a lot higher. But still you cannot say all the refugees are rapists. To change the opinion of the local people they have to meet and come in contact with the refugees. That is part of our project to involve the local community. I can tell in the beginning I was quite sceptical too when we went inside of the camp, but when you see how nice and happy families they are when you try to organize something for them and when you see all the families which are like yours and mine you notice that prejudices are justified in the fewest parts and it is not worth it being stuck on them…
Nowadays integration is all what politicians talk about. Integration is necessary to become part of the new society. Today if a country decides to accept refugees it is not only because the countries want to be nice, they also want to profit from something. That’s only the case if immigrants integrate and become part of the society. This is also indispensable to prevent problems in society. If there are two parallel worlds living next to each other a big tension will be created. To prevent this refugees have to learn the language, to find a job and they have to involve and getting in contact with the local community. But why learning the language of a country you don’t want to stay? This is the case in Greece right now. And that is our problem. We offer in our youth centre of PRAXIS to teach young refugees Greek. But most of them say no. No to learn Greek. Even if they will live here for a long time. Or maybe forever. But they do not know. They do not want to know. Nobody wants to know.
How lost must their mind be if you know you can neither return to your home country because it is destroyed nor can you go where you wish to go – we cannot imagine.
How desperate would I be if I knew my dad and some of my siblings are allowed to go to Germany but I am not allowed because – nobody knows.
How desperate would you be if you knew you are stuck in a camp for a lot of years – that’s why nobody tells.
#NETHOPE – that is what their open WIFI in the camp is called. The most important thing for the refugees is to keep alive their hopes. When I talk to them they sometimes ask me if I think that they can get to Germany. I never know what to answer because on the one hand I don’t want them to loose hope but in the other side I don’t want to make them too much hope. As well in the back of my head I sure that the refugees will probably be stuck in Greece for a lot more years… so my feeling tells me: “Don’t encourage them in their hopes to reach Germany, prepare them for staying in Greece.” … At least it is better being in Greece or wherever in peace than having war around. After a while refugees have to understand that not only economical strong countries can make them happy. Only demands will not help anybody. They have to learn to take what they get and make the best out of it. On the other hand countries have to accept that not only the strong ones can take refugees. Everybody has to give his part to fight in fact against ISIS and support innocent people like you and me. But this is a long way. And both sides have to accept, understand and both sides have to come to compromises.
Charlotte Selensky is 19 years old. She is originally from Karlsruhe in the south of Germany and is currently a European Voluntary Service (EVS) in Greece with the Orgnization Praxis Greece under the Mediart project. Since February 2016, Charlotte and her volunteer peers have been working with Iraqi refugees in the camp of Serres (north of Greece). Charlotte has several hobbies, from sports to culture. She plays violin and piano, and has been involved in the local community through her many volunteering actions and engagement in her school newspaper, school council and more.
Charlotte's story is inspired by the project "Coming together - Bringing down barriers" of Praxis Greece.
Activities building skills among youth organizations and young journalists; to enhance youth representation in media and promote freedom of expression, media and information literacy and youth-generated media content.
Activities joining youth organizations, employment experts and different national stakeholders to engage in dialogue and work together on unemployment solutions and skills needs.
Activities empowering youth to participate in the communal and national development, revision and implementation of national youth strategies and public policies.