Istklal Caddesi, Istanbul - Guillermo Fdez /flickr
7th post. Istanbul: connection between two continents, Asia and Europe. Where refugees like Mussa Khan are obliged to pass, especially now that the routes of the muhajirins have shifted towards North. Here, their destiny crosses with the contradictions hovering between economic development and denied rights
Swept by a light morning wind, the Bosporus overwhelms my drowsiness just like a finger snap. The bus runs silently over a single-arched titanic viaduct, metal connection between Asia and Europe, while the sun on the horizon makes an effort to complete its oval, signaling a brand new day.
Istanbul. Constantinople. Byzantium. The most polyglot city in the world reveals itself up until its toponymy. Founded in the 7th Century BC, it was named after King Byzas by his colonists from Megara. In 330, Emperor Constantine renamed it Costantinou Polis , his “Nova Roma”. Twelve centuries later, the Sublime Porte put its present seal on history: Istanbul, from the Greek “istinpolis ”. Simply, “downtown”.
My only objective here is to gather information and leave. Mussa passed on this bridge only a few hours ago, headed North, headed towards the Evros River, the last door of Europe. If he gets in contact as soon as he enters Greece, as he has promised, I could even meet him tomorrow. Finally. Continue reading
Mosque in Van - P.Martino
4th post. The kaçakçılar , human traffickers, have neither business cards nor sales offices. They mingle with the people in the alleys, in the cafés, in the square in front of the mosque. Shifty, invisible, always on the migrants’ route, they could be the only way to find Mussa Khan’s tracks again
Naqeeb gets me out of bed at 6.30 in the morning. “Get up, kardash ! We have to go sign before the line forms. Hurry!” Sign? Line? Too complicated: I follow him mechanically, my thoughts still numb with sleep.
The city is noisily waking up: in the streets, one after the other, the stores’ shutters roll up, minibuses hunk their horns at roundabouts, pedal rickshaws rove offloading goods in the already crammed alleys. Naqeeb keeps stopping to greet people in the Pashtun manner: a big hug followed by a mutual tap on the right shoulders.
On the dolmus , the crowded minibus, Naqeeb finally tells me why we had to get so up so early. “All asylum seekers have to sign a register. Men sign on Tuesdays and Thursdays, women on Wednesdays”. At the police station I understand the reason for such a hurry: many people are still waiting for their turn and the line quickly gets longer and longer before my eyes. “No one can leave Van, punishment for those who do not sign is severe”, Naqeeb says. “To avoid anyone escaping, the police requisitions passports when asylum seekers arrive in Van. We get them back only on the day we leave, decided by the UN refugee agency”. Continue reading
Van, near the border with Iran - johncumbers /flickr
1st post. Months, years, constantly moving. Rejected, invisible, on the margins. This is the destiny of the Afghan muhajirins , on a tenacious search for the dream called “Europe”. With the episodes of the “Mussa Khan” blog, we are going to tell their odyssey through Turkey, Greece and Italy, until the Ostiense Station in Rome
“This is Kurdistan, not Turkey!” His eyes stormy, Taha is very convincing. After three weeks of border crossings and a thousand different languages, I stumble on the easiest of words: “Thank you.” “No problem!” he reassures me with a smile. Then he takes me by the arm and walks me to the city center through a labyrinth of alleys crowded with the tables and stools of tea shops.
Shahin, who for three to four days will be my interpreter, is waiting for us. A recent graduate, wearing a striped shirt and black leather shoes, he doesn’t inspire much confidence with his tremulous voice. His employ is the result of tenacious research on the part of Taha, whom I had met just one hour earlier on the bus. After introductions, a cup of tea, and a shoeshine, we got to work. Mussa Khan will soon be in the area and, before he arrives, I want to have a full understanding of the situation Afghan refugees face when they arrive in Van, Turkey, the arrival point for those coming by way of Iran. Continue reading