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All roads lead to Athens

Necat Ayaz

Besides thousands of them have already crossed the dangerous waters of Maritsa river and the routes for islands, still thousands of them have been preparing themselves secretly in Greece’s eastern neighbor have been waiting the day of liberation from persecution. No matter from where they will cross the Greek soil, it is already clear that for most of them the roads will lead to Athens.

There was a long queue of people coming from the different nations of Western Asian and Eastern African countries. They had been waited outside of the border camp for hours in this cold day of winter which had already began to show its face. If someone had looked at this picture in other parts of the world, they would have easily confused them with civilians captured by enemy army and were being relocated to another place. This long queue of men, women and children was asylum seekers had been waiting to be released from Orestiada First Detention and Identification Center. They hoped to receive their releasing documents as soon as possible and find a place in the buses parked just outside of this large camp. They were informed in advance that they would pay the cost of the long journey which would end in Thessaloniki for someone and in Athens for the others. Yet, they did not care much the cost as they did not care the weather being to be colder with the beginning of the evening.

The road to Athens

Being able to received the last documents having both title of Hellenic Republic and the coat of arms of Greece with a white cross on a blue escutcheon and were also stamped, signed, and dated by the police officers, they were ready for the journey. Turkish, Kurdish, Arabs, Afghans, Eritreans and many others made a mass at the door of the bus. Now they needed to pay the cost of the travel which was very expensive comparing the countries where they came from. Of course this does not interests the ticket seller woman and she repeated many times that she could not make any discount facing someone who did not have enough money most of whom were African. The struggle of these miserable people trying to find the required amount of money in order to not to miss the chance of set off this evening, was touching. After the payments were made and all of the happy refugees who would make this journey as free persons got on the bus headed towards the west.

The more the bus went further from the border with Turkey and the infamous detention center the more the unwanted guests of Greece became comfortable. All they planned and discussed many times related what would they do in Athens during the long days in camps would become a reality in the morning

The more the bus went further from the border with Turkey and the infamous detention center the more the unwanted guests of Greece became comfortable. All they planned and discussed many times related what would they do in Athens during the long days in camps would become a reality in the morning. Unfortunately there was a problem for someone, which must had been dealt immediately. This is not a country where every refugee easily to be given an accommodation by the state migration service. The asylum seekers are invited to receive their international protection applicant cards from asylum services in Thessaloniki and Athens which also include an interview date. The problem is that the date of interview for most of them is 4 or 5 years later and they are not presented any decent accommodation but the refugee camps mostly known for inhuman conditions and also far from the city centers. This fact is enough to create stress for every asylum seekers but especially it disturbs someone who still does not find any place where they may stay or does not find anybody to meet them when they reach their destination.

A train station near Greek-Turkish border

Hesen (36) was one of the persons who had tried hard during the journey to find someone who might guide him in the heart of Greece. He has been tried in Turkey for more than six files and the prison sentence demanded by prosecution is clearly more than his remaining life. He says that he had no any contact in Greece to ask help and called many via his phone to ask for any contact in Athens. At the end, he could find a man who was Turkish via one of his relatives had residence permit in Germany. He still was not sure whether he would be met by him but when he got off the bus he saw at once the man who was waiting him. Then, the same man took him to the flat where he used as pension for refugees. He says that the fear of unable to be met at the end of the journey comes from the reality of being in a new country and in an environment of a new language which you are not able to speak even a word. Experienced this disturbing reality, and was not able to found any organized social solidarity developed by Kurdish refugees disappointed him and contributed to growing of feeling of loneliness. Before he came here, he had imagined that there would have been more or less strong community ties of Kurds arising from the common persecution they had been subjected.

Experienced this disturbing reality, and was not able to found any organized social solidarity developed by Kurdish refugees disappointed him and contributed to growing of feeling of loneliness.

Although the overwhelming majority of Kurdish refugees coming Athens pass this routine process and take the same route, there are still some others coming here without witnessing the treatment in infamous detention centers and camps. Most of them pay more money to smugglers to realise this in order to escape from of being fingerprinted by Greek police. Nevertheless, very few of refugees are able to finish very difficult journey without being realized and detained by the police.

Hellenic Coast -Guard

Dildar (32) is one of these lucky persons who could reach Athens by using railway crossing very near to the border line. He has been judged in Turkey for his political activities as a member of regional executive in Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP). He told that he got the train going to Athens in the morning and, he had to hide himself in the toilet whenever the train stopped at the stations in order not to be checked by the police or the conductor. At the end, he was able to reach Athens without being realized. Unfortunately he was not lucky enough to be met by a friend in this new city and also he could not stay at a hotel given the fact that he didn’t have any official paper proving he was a refugee. He had no opportunity but to spend a night somewhere outside which was a harsh reality frightened him very much. After his long attempts to find a secure place, he found a park by chance and tried to sleep on a park bench. Spending one of his longest night outside in a country where he was a totally a stranger and not having any official paper in his pocket, he became very happy seeing the first lights of the early morning. In the next morning, he was met by another Kurd in the park and both of them went to the Kurdish self organized camp one hour from Athens.

He told furiously that he had been tortured for more than two weeks in 1999 and as a result of these cruelty he even forgot what was his name when he was brought to his dark cell. Remembering his past sufferings, he resisted all of the attempts of guards and shouted out to them that he would prefer to die in the middle of the sea instead of to be sent back to Turkey.

There are some Kurdish refugees who came to the heart of Greece from Islands situated near to the coast of Turkey. Çetin (25) who had had ongoing trial and hearing that he was sentenced by the court, immediately came to western coast of Turkey and from there crossed to Lesvos Island by himself. He was tried to be stopped by the Greek coast guards before reaching the island but all their efforts were in vain to push him back. He told furiously that he had been tortured for more than two weeks in 1999 and as a result of these cruelty he even forgot what was his name when he was brought to his dark cell. Remembering his past sufferings, he resisted all of the attempts of coast guards and shouted out to them that he would prefer to die in the middle of the sea instead of to be sent back to Turkey. Upon arrival on the island, he was put to the one of the worst camp in Greece where he could not sleep almost for three days due to lack of space for everyone. Three days later, he was able to persuade an officer to be taken to a more spacious place. When the good-looking officer saw that he was the only Kurd inside so many Afghans and Arabs, he helped him. After spending three weeks at this new place, he was embarked to a big ship carrying hundreds of refugees to Athens. Çetin had enough luck to find an empty place in an occupied building in Athens due to his political background and his ties with Kurdish political activists in Athens.


Moria camp in Lesvos

Hesen, Dildar and Çetin are just three of members of Kurdish community growing rapidly in Greece especially with intensifying of crack down on Kurdish movement following unilateral  termination of peace process in Turkey. Besides thousands of them have already crossed the dangerous waters of Maritsa river and the routes for islands, still thousands of them have been preparing themselves secretly in Greece’s eastern neighbor have been waiting the day of liberation from persecution. No matter from where they will cross the Greek soil, it is already clear that for most of them the roads will lead to Athens.

Înfowelat

About Necat Ayaz

Necat Ayaz is an exiled Kurdish writer and journalist originally from Turkey. He is editor and founder of Infowelat online magazine since 2013. He has been living in Athens, Greece since 2019. He is the author of Katalonya: Dirok Ziman Otonomi (Catalonia: History Language and Autonomy) and Ispanya”da Ozyonetimin Tarihi (The History of Self-Government in Spain).

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