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EXODUS FROM ATHENS

According to Hebrew bible narrative of Exodus, Israelites leave the slavery from the hands of the Pharaoh through Yehova, the god who promises them the land of Canaan. Prophet Moses guides the Israeli people through the Sinai Desert during the Exodus from Egypt. At the end of this long journey, the people are able to arrive the Promised Land and start there a new life as a master and the free people of this land. Kurds fleeing from persecution do not have any guiding prophet when they make a dangerous journey from Turkey to Greece and when they try hard to exit from Greece. There is not also a promised land where they have a chance to live as a people deciding their internal affairs freely. Many of them are dispersed between the refugee camps around the Greece and many others stay in Athens unable to enjoy any social or political solidarity networks. They are completely lonely deciding how to exit from the Hellenic state where they feel trapped over time.

A view from Athens

Zana, who is a is 24 year old man, has been staying in Athens for 6 months but still could not find a way to exit from this city. He has a very interesting story about what he faced after being able to cross the border. He was detained on the border of Bulgaria when he had tried to enter this country. The police treated him not like an asylum-seeker but a criminal trying to cross the third country with false documents. He stayed a week in detention and then one month in prison in Serez. He narrowly escaped from the trap of the police which persuaded him to sign a document to release him. Indeed with the document he signed he would be deported to Turkey in just a few days. A lawyer whom was hired by his cousin living in France visited him in detention center and objected this decision. Aftermath, he was sent an another document from Turkey showing that he was sentenced by a court because of a social media sharing, his deportation was stopped.

An bilingual signplate in Athens showing exit

He was very happy when he came to Athens after so many days and nights spent in prison. France was his destination from the beginning as his four brothers and her close relatives have been living there. He thought it would be easy to go to his destination and he began to look for the possible ways for this journey. First he tried the sea lines between Greece and Italy and made a long journey to a western port of the country. With passing of every passenger his hope grow but when his document checked by the police officers he was easily identified. Despite the first failure he was still optimistic about arriving his destination and he searched other ways to do this. A short time later he appeared at Athens International Airport where he thought it might be easier to exit this county. He tells that he passed the ticket barrier, x-ray checks and reached the gate where the final control would be made. He was very excited as he was very near to the plane which was just on the other side of the gate. During the ticket and identity checking he was asked questions in Italian by the woman working for airline company realizing his identity card was Italian. Unable to answer the questions, he lost the chance of boarding the plane and turned back after being detained for a short time.

Dildar, 43 years of man from Western Kurdistan known as Rojava recently, has also been in continuous effort to move from Athens. Before he came to Athens he crossed the borders of three states and had had many difficulties during this long migration. Like other asylum seekers coming through the long way, he considered that it would be quite easy to make a fly between two European states. First he appeared at the airport he had a Greek identity card and he had considerable chance of passing the identity check given that it was the beginning of October, the time still the tourism season was not finished. By carrying small luggage behind him in the small corridor, turning his eyes away from the police officers strolling around and pretending to be a Greek citizen, he was able to reach the gate. He had just one step to the boarding and what he had had dreamt for the last 3 years could be come true in minutes. All his hopes disappeared just in seconds when the police officer looking at his identity card asking so many questions in Greek. Unable to answer the questions, he was denied to pass the last check and was sent back after a brief detention.

After the first failure, he did not stop his efforts to exit from Athens and instead he increased his trials in airport. He has tried to fly with other identities of some other European Union”s member states but has been stopped by the police or airline companies” officers doing identity checking. He says that he spent a considerable amount of money to be able to do these trials at the airport. He has not any other plan but to continue to try to fly to his destination. He has had lived separate from his wife and children throughout this long period and in order to rejoin them he is planning to ask asylum from Holland. Dildar is not sure when he will be able to carry out this plan and his hope has been diminishing with every failure at the airport.

Athens International Airport

Çiçek, 38 years old Kurdish woman from Turkey came Athens after staying one year in Kurdish region of Iraq. In the first months, she could not find enough money to afford for tickets and necessary documents to fly. She had had on the move during this time and she had tried hard to find a place where she could have stay permanently. It was one of the early days of October when she reached the departures gate of the airport. She had heard many stories about the best ways to pass all the security and identity checks and kept all these things in mind while she was walking towards the gate.

Before reaching her point, she was stopped by the police at the long corridor heading towards the gates. At the first sight the police suspected her and upon the detailed checking of identity she was prevented to go further. On the way back to Athens she decided to have more trials to reach Switzerland which is her final destination. She has tried for coming weeks and months albeit without any success. Spending so much money and returning back from airport after every failure has diminished her hopes and have had negative effects on her psychology considerably. She says that after one of her trials in airport she even considered to go back to Turkey where she was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment sentence due to her pro-Kurdish political activities. She does not know when she will be able to reach her destination and also does not have any idea what to do if not able to realize her travel.

Signboard showing gates in the airport

Kurdish refugees coming to Athens in large numbers, after a while begin to feel trapped here. Athens where they enjoy the political freedoms for the first time, increasingly becomes a besieged city for them. All their efforts to exit from the city hit the thick walls of European border regime under the heavy control of the police some of whom are members of Europol as claimed by the some refugees. Exodos is a very old word coming from the Antic Greek and survived among many other antic words. This word which means exit is visible in every place of Athens today. There are sign boards on which exodos are written at the roads, shopping centers, museums, cafes, auto parks. But, despite all their attempts, for many Kurdish refugees exodos from Athens is still not possible.


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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