Tag Archives: kaçakçılar

Dead end

6th post. The Silk Road of the Third Millennium carries human flesh. Its terminal on Turkish soil is Izmir: here, muhajirins arrive. Muhajirins , like Mussa Khan, who try the Aegean route to end up, too often, at the bottom of the sea. To look for him, I need to enter Basmane, Europe’s door of the last

The shapeless silhouette silently creeps in the blind spot of my visual field, mistress of darkness. All around is Basmane, neighborhood of the damned, Europe’s door of the last.

After perceiving his presence, and before I can even turn around, the man manifests himself with a blatant, almost grotesque, greeting. The hand is already stretched out: “My friend! Were you looking for me?”

Izmir, ancient Smirne, for 2.500 years terminus of the dusty road network better known as the Silk Road. The most thriving bargaining place in the Mediterranean, from here the merchandise from China, India or Arabia finally took to the sea, bound for European ports.

History knows no irony. In the past few years, it has been right here in Basmane, in its historic center, that the migrants, the most precious merchandise of the third millennium, have interrupted their journey by land to face the waves of the Aegean.

Low on the horizon, the Greek islands are visible to the naked eye. After months or years of traveling, the undreamt-of European bank is the persuasive singing of deadly sirens: in this stretch of sea, the waters have swallowed thousands of muhajirins . Or harragas , as some call them here, the “men who burn the frontiers”.

From Basmane, traffic networks are woven that stretch up to the Horn of Africa, Pakistan, Senegal. The Silk Road of the Third Millennium carries human flesh. Continue reading


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A meeting with the devil

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

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The Turkish trap

Turkish residence permit for foreigners - P.Martino

3rd post. Still in Van and of Mussa Khan, no news.   The journey amongst the Afghan muhajirins continues: trapped in the Turkish city, in the limbo of temporary asylum waiting to continue their journey, even illegally, through Greece and Italy

The Milky Way is the silvery roof of the sleepless upland: at dead of night the alleys of Van keep swarming with discrete trades, while up above, in the pale and distant sky, the light of the stars keeps pulsing coldly.

I give up on the idea of the expedition to Yuksekova: it is complicated and has little chance of success, so I decide to focus on continuing my researches in the city. I spend my whole Sunday in the streets, and together with Shahin we chase suggestions, images, any hint that can lead me on Mussa’s tracks.

We go back to the neighborhoods surrounding the castle, wander in the suburbs and loiter in theotogar , the bus station just outside the city. It is just a failed attempt, though: muhajirins do not leave traces of their presence. The day winds up in front of the computer: no e-mail, no message on Facebook. Mussa has cut off contact with the world. Continue reading

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The valley of migrations

Sunset in Van - P.Martino

2nd post. At night, in Yüksekova, the army has permission to shoot at sight. If you go up there, be very, very careful”. The journey in search of Mussa Khan continues. An Afghan refugee on the path to a dream called “Europe”. A dream that is all too often paid with one’s own life

Shahin dips the bread in the mixture of honey, cheese and chopped hazelnuts while, with the other hand, he invites me to do the same. “This is the week-end’s breakfast, when we have time to sit and enjoy the flavors of Kurdistan!”. Around us, noisy families crowd the tables that invade the road site, while frenzied children carry tea, as though speed were the measure of their professionalism.

I tell Shahin about my intention to extend my research on Mussa Khan up to Yuksekova. At the table next to ours, someone seems interested. “It is useless to go up in those mountains. You won’t find anything there”. Perfect English, sunglasses, in his 30s, the stranger continues: “Few people know that soil like I do. There are only pastors and terrorists”. His behavior is off-putting, but the opportunity is tempting. Without thinking, I ask him, point-blank: “How do you know so much about it?” Continue reading

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