Marta and TSOS
Marta is a member of the support community for Central American refugees arriving in the southwest US. In this interview, Marta shares her own story of crossing the border at a young age with her daughter and her life in the US. Marta was self-employed for many years and later went on to serve in the US Army in Iraq. For the last 9 months, she and her husband Israel and son Josue have worked tirelessly to help make sure the current refugees arriving are cared for after they are released from detention centers and begin their lives in the United States.
Marta shares her perspective on the current refugee crisis in the United States. She speaks of how things have changed since she entered the country and how difficult it is to find any legal path to entry into the US, let alone citizenship or residency. Marta and her family make it their life’s work to help others start a new life and enjoy the privileges they have now gained.
Layla left Ethiopia 10 years ago to look for work opportunities. She left behind a father and three brothers. She went to Syria on a three-year work contract. She worked in a house and learned Arabic. She then went to Turkey by boat and then went on to Greece for 5 years. She worked and learned the Greek language. When she became pregnant she had to stop working. She travelled to Serbia to Macedonia to Austria all on foot. Then the Red Cross moved Layla and her daughter to Giessen, Germany where a roommate periodically beat her baby. Seeking safety and security, Layla moved to Frankfurt and lived in a small hotel without even a kitchen. The mattress there was very dirty and made her sick with allergies. She was transferred to a gymnasium. At that time she was pregnant with her second daughter. A man brought her to the women’s shelter because the gym was crowded and felt unsafe. To ensure her daughter was fed, she traveled 50 minutes each way, twice a day (almost two hours) to take her daughter to kindergarten. All Layla seeks is peace of mind that her own home can give and for her children to attend school. She wants to work, rest, and be accepted in Germany.
Bilal and TSOS
Bilal was 23 years old when he drowned in Greece. He was cheerful, intelligent, and full of energy.
He was a journalist in Afghanistan who received a death threat from the Taliban. His family decided that he should flee the country alone for survival since they couldn’t afford for the whole family to go.
He escaped from the camp in Moria by finding a hole in the fence. He outran the police, found a ship in port, and jumped on it as it was leaving. He later had 10 unsuccessful attempts to leave Greece for Germany. He was caught by police from Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria. He said he would try 40 more times and wouldn’t stop until he escaped.
He explained the dire situation of refugees in Greece. Many have used up their money but cannot get work from the camps. On top of that, there is great difficulty in seeking asylum. He says Syrians are allowed in easier due to the war, but Afghanistan is just as dangerous. He came to Greece for safety—not enjoyment—but hasn’t found it. He sought human rights in Europe and was greatly disappointed.
Faroosh and Elina
Faroosh was a cameraman for a private television program in Afghanistan working on a documentary about the Taliban. When he and his crew were discovered, the Taliban attacked them and he and his wife fled to Turkey, walking 12 hours to get there. Upon arrival the police arrested and harassed them. Turkey was not a safe place. After several suicide bombings in the area, they decided to move on to Greece, where they are in a refugee camp without any progress in their situation. They have no money to move forward and no ability to work and the economic situation in Greece is not good.
“We were an educated family and we want to have a good future and fair life here, but I haven’t found those things here…We believe we deserve a better life than this.”
Emal and TSOS
Emal was a gate security guard in the Afghan army and a supplier for American forces at the airport. Before leaving Afghanistan, Emal was kidnapped by Daesh, beaten, thrown into a pile of bodies, and left for dead. He woke up weeks later in hospital with adent in his skull, brain damage, and mental/emotional problems. When he was able, Emal fled with his wife and six kids, but they travelled with smugglers in separate cars and got separated. Iran police deported his wife and children back to Afghanistan. Emal continued on and eventually made his way to Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece with his sister.
ILHAN and TSOS
Ilhan, his wife Nura, and their children resided near Kabul, in a region where both the Taliban and ISIS were active. As Shias, Ilhan’s family faced numerous menaces, including threats from ISIS that they would be beheaded if they did not display ISIS flags. Ilhan’s sister Radwa, who is deaf and mute, was forced to marry a regional leader. In addition to being threatened on religious grounds, Ilhan’s family was also threatened by an elder of their town. Out of desperation, Ilhan’s family sold their house appliances, escaped Afghanistan, and arrived at the Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece. Ilhan’s family fled with Radwa, as well as with Ilhan’s nephew Ziagull who, like Radwa, is mute and deaf. Ilhan says that if his family returns to his hometown, “they will definitely behead us this time round.” Ilhan has been tortured three times. He feels stuck and wonders how he can help his family. Ilhan wants to live in a peaceful country, where his family is free and is not threatened because they are Shia.
Salman and TSOS
Salman and his family are from Afghanistan, where he worked as a doctor. He worked for fifteen years for a mining institute, and before that he worked in various hospitals with Americans and Germans for another combined 15 years. The family ran into problems with the Taliban, who threatened violence if he didn’t close his drugstore. During that same time, his son witnessed a suicide bombing at his school. Their daughter was forced to abandon her education when the Taliban poisoned the water at her school. They fled in attempts to live a normal life again and escape the threats on their lives.
They now reside in Oinofyta refugee camp and describe their difficult living conditions. Salman has a variety of health issues that were caused by the stress of their flight. Their greatest desires are to be able to study and resume living their lives they had, far from violence or panic.
Fawad and his wife, Zakeela, have three children. Zakeela was a beautician, and Fawad was a singer in the Baghlan district in Afghanistan. The music he produced was not in accordance with the strict restrictions of the Taliban. They threatened his life and assaulted him many times, so he decided to leave with his family to Kabul. Fawad’s day job was as an FM radio producer; at night, he moonlighted as a singer and musician. He produced music for ceremonies and weddings, often performing for the women’s part, which the Taliban did not accept. Eventually, his life was again threatened, and the family fled the country. Coming to Greece was a difficult transition for them since they had a good house, car, and income in Afghanistan. As of 2018 the family made their way to Paris after several failed attempts at the Croatian border, where police ordered to beat and fingerprint anyone attempting to cross. The family spent 10 days hiding in forests, hiking, sleeping in one small tent with two blankets, and no food or water.
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