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Notes From #Pazarkule/ #Evros, Ninth Day

Pazarkule. Turkey. March 8, 2020. Today we learned that it had become even harder for the refugees to leave the designated area to come to Karaağaç. They are now only allowed to use the main checkpoint. They are also required to give fingerprints and accept bodily checks. The soldiers also take pictures of their eyes. As our friend told us, exists started at 10 o’clock in the morning and went on during the day despite the long queues. Our friends waited two hours in the queue and only after that, they reached to Karaağaç. They were still in a positive mood when we met them there.

Originally published by GÖÇMEN DAYANIŞMASI.

One of our migrant friends told that while they were waiting in the queue a gendarmerie yelled at him saying ‘why are you laughing?’ He answered ‘I am not laughing at anything but why are you yelling?’ Then a higher officer took him to a corner and beat him. In an earlier conversation, this very same friend told us that the soldiers were helping them to cross to Greece. They even gave them hooks and ropes to take down the last remaining fence in front of the border gate. Our friends often tell us about incidents of ill-treatment by the same soldiers who ‘help’ them to cross to the Greek side.

We also learned that although independent aid organizations were not allowed in the fenced-off area, Yavuz Selim Association was given permission to enter and distribute aid. Our friends from the inside also told us that the Beşir Association had been present on the ground since the first day and they distributed blue clothing items today.

Our friends went back around 23.00 and reported that their fingerprints were not taken went they re-entered.

Today we came across a Women’s Day demo in downtown Edirne. Migrants, borders or the war were mentioned neither in the press release nor on the banners and posters; despite the existence of such a large group of migrant women just by the city.

Today we also had a chance to chat with refugee women. Our female friends who came from the zone told us about their experiences, stories and how they live through this as women. While we were filming, one of the women told us that she studied cinema for one year in Iran and offered to use the camera and make the shooting. We gave her the camera. Thanks to this, the women we were chatting got to know each other and they were relieved because they spoke the same language.

They told us that in Turkey migrant women were ill approached particularly by men. Their common experience involved being sexually harassed by their bosses. They also mentioned that they had to work for very low wages, could not even get their salaries paid and did not have any access to mechanisms that would guarantee their rights. They also did not have much solidarity from Turkish women. This lack of contact made them feel isolated. Two of these friends told us that although they had Masters degrees and appropriate expertise, they could only find unskilled work. A younger friend said that she wanted to continue with her education and it was not possible in Turkey. They also told us that their future seemed full of uncertainties but they still held the hope that they would be able to cross the border and realize their dreams. Despite all the hardships they had to endure, their only wish is to have an ordinary, quiet and safe life.

They told us that the conditions in Pazarkule are particularly harsh for women and children; that the sanitary and accommodation conditions were very bad. Women in the area (including themselves) would not go out of their tents often, because they were not feeling safe. There have been incidents of sexual harassment and one woman managed to run away from those who tried to rape her.

On top of all these problems, the aggression from the Greek side is very tough. Our friends told us with much regret that last night (March 7) the intensity of teargas was really bad, and women with babies lacked protection. Another friend told us that, the same night a mother with a baby in her arms took refuge in our friend’s make-shift nylon tent. The baby had difficulty breathing and the mother was waving a t-shift to air the tent. The baby was now fine, though.

When we asked about how the women in the area were interacting, they told us that a group of women visited tents to discuss acting in unison. However there was not consensus because everybody had different motivations. Our friends said that they understood these women too because they all were in a struggle for themselves and their children and they would do anything to win this struggle.

When we chatted about the Women’s Day, they emphasized that their expectation from all women was that women would not discriminate against them. They also expect solidarity between women without any reservations on the basis of language, religion, and nationality. Their wish for all women in the world is to live in equality and freedom. We also learned that some women organized a Women’s day demo in the area. There is a need for more activity directed towards women and other vulnerable groups in the area.

We also think that sharing our experience in coordination would be useful for new initiatives:

-Our chat with female migrant friends today reminded us of the importance of maintaining gender equality in our work.

– All newcomers need orientation about what has been going on here and the material conditions. Short visits only allow getting used to the field, but longer stays are emotionally and physically very tiring.

-Therefore, we prioritize groups that can stay between 2-5 days. We can manage our activities in groups of 2-5 people. More people are not necessary and larger groups increase the risk of facing interference from officials. If people want to be in the field and commit time and labour, there are plenty of political and practical arenas to contribute. We have at the moment a pool of volunteers that would be enough to do rotations in the coming weeks. If we need further volunteers, we will issue a call again.

No border pazarkule/edirne, March 8, 2020.


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