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Notes from #Pazarkule / #Evros, the First Day

Pazarkule. Turkey. February 29, 2020. Rain is pouring down. While driving on the way to Edirne, we saw at least 20 taxis passing by, that have Istanbul’s plate number. On the side of the highway, we could barely see shadows of people who are walking to the border. 

Originally publiehd by GÖÇMEN DAYANIŞMASI.

Police blocked the way in Karaağaç, the closest village to the border. From there on, people who came with taxis and buses were going towards the border by walking, in groups of 5 to 30. Although a few, some people were walking back from the border, telling that they were deceived; Greece police were throwing gas bombs over there.  

A taxi driver from Ankara cautiously said that he brought passengers for 1600 TL (around 230 euro). This is not the only example, we saw how people could turn their needs and desires into a relationship of interest; from the people who are selling water to the ones telling “we make them pass if there is any passenger”. On the other hand, it is still possible to travel to Edirne (the city close to the border) at moderate prices by train or bus. 

After leaving our vehicles to a spot out of sight, we passed 2.5 km by walking. This area is closed to traffic. The temperature was around -1 C. 

From the center of Edirne to the border gate there are 4 checkpoints of police and gendarmerie. But we haven’t seen an identity check or any other control being made for people who are walking towards the border. 

As we approached the border, the crowd was growing. As we realized the border fence were cut next to Pazarkapı customs, we headed towards the other side of the border. People in crowds were sitting around campfires they made. So many fires burning close to each other was making it difficult to breath, leaving the area under smoke, but they also took the temperature to a bearable level. People were wet, the ground was densely muddy. It was difficult to see all the people there in the dark, we estimate that there were around two thousand people around 6 in the morning.

Lots of young people were just in front of the fences built in front of Greece gate, waiting with joy and worry. Time to time they were shouting slogans, demanding the border gate to be open. Meanwhile in the side of Greece, riot police came out from two buses and filed into two lines. After a while, they were trying to disperse the crowd by throwing göz yaşartıcı gas bombs. 

We were stopped while video shooting in the buffer zone, and taken into a small interrogation. The military officer who took our identities said that the border is only open to migrants, and that it is not alright that we are in the buffer zone as being TR citizens. Though, they were not firm on technicalities. 

Although there were lots of Syrian people amongst who we talked, there were also many people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and different African countries.

Despite the mass of crowds, there is no infrastructure all around. Toilet and basic hygiene is a serious problem at the moment. There is no water, neither food. Hunger has become a critical issue.

After getting a sense of how things work in the space, we went to Edirne city center to get the possible needs. After getting bottled gas, lentils, bread, and other kitchen equipment, we took a break to rest for a bit.         

On the way back to the zone, we got close to the border point as much as possible, passing in between fields. This time police and gendarmerie made long interrogations about who we are and why we are here. When we talked openly about our intention, we got warned not to take too much attention. Now, we could settle a space 500 meters close to the border.

After people recognized that there were loaves of bread loaded in one of the cars, a crowd started to gather around the car. When we tried to explain that we are going to cook soup and distribute bread together with it, we were answered: “nevermind about the soup, my kids are hungry, give me the bread and I go”. 

We made another walk towards the border, spoke with people and recorded voice. Two Irani people, among those we spoke, were looking for a bus to return to Istanbul. They decided to work for a few more months, gather money and cross by the sea in the summer. With the enthusiasm of being there, another one decided to stay there one more day waiting, and return to Istanbul the next day if nothing changes.

Across the street, there were three buses we learned to belong to the Migration Management Directorate. However, we could not discover why those busses were waiting there.

The hope to cross to Europe left its place to misery little by little. Many people are leaving the area or getting prepared to leave the area, with the disappointment of not being able to cross the border and with the regret for having spoiled the order they have built so far in Turkey.

Still numbers of arrivals increased dramatically in the daytime. Around 17:00 we estimate the number of those who gathered at the border gate to be around four or six thousand. This is an estimation made based on what we could observe. Meanwhile, maybe around the same amount of people are spread around the open fields in the border zone.

On the other hand, traffic police removed most of the cars outside of the border zone. We are not sure how long we can remain here.

Although cooking is a major need, we don’t know how far we can respond to it. We decided to wait a little bit more and cook evening soup. 

Within the current uncertainty, it is not possible to estimate, for how long people will keep staying here. However we maintain a nice presence. The question of whether we want to keep being active here addresses all of those who read this text. Still we value maintaining existence here, as long as the situation continues.

We don’t know if it is possible to set up an info point. But it looks like it is necessary to organize financial and human resources and ensure a rotation during the week if this activity shall continue. It seems important that at least two or three people are present here everyday. Especially those who can speak various languages, in order to spread correct information.

no border pazarkule/edirne, February 29, 2020.


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