19/03/2018 10:16 GMT | Updated 19/03/2018 10:18 GMT

An Encounter With A Familiar Turkish Border Guard

We sat on the floor waiting for the police or the smugglers, whoever came first, because at that point both were the same for us

Milos Bicanski via Getty Images

This is Mohammad’s story. In a series of blogs this week he will be talking us through his journey from Syria to Greece and the difficulties he faced along the way. You can find the first blog here

As per usual on arrival back in Turkey, we were arrested for 24 hours. Once released we arrived at Basmania Square and everyone went to talk to their smugglers. I talked with mine too. His name was Nasser. He told me to take a taxi straight away and go to a location he would send me. There was a journey that would start that very same day.  

On arrival, a Turkish man was waiting in the street and took us to a small apartment where we were to wait until midnight.

At 12:30 the van began to move. We were thirty people inside it, every single one of us hoping to cross the border this time. I felt exhausted because I hadn’t slept for two nights. At 4am, the van stopped and the door opened. We found ourselves in front of the same house from which we had started our journey.

After four hours of dreaming and hoping, I opened my eyes to find myself in the exact same place that I had begun. It was a shock but since I had left Syria I had become used to this.

During the time I spent in that apartment I met an Iraqi man, who had come with his wife and two sons. They were from Mosul, a city that had been destroyed by the Iraqi army and the militia fighting against Isis. He told me that he had had a big house in his city before it was destroyed in this crazy war.

He said: “I am 54 years old. I witnessed the Iraqi war against Iran in the 1980s, the first and the second Gulf war. I heard about the Vietnam war in the 1970s but I have never heard about or witnessed as crazy and wasteful a war as this one. I had two brothers who died during the war against Iran. In that war, the enemy was clear and known but now, you don’t know who is your enemy and who is your friend. When the Americans occupied Iraq in 2003, many Iraqi people went to stay and live in Syria. My sister was one of them. We used to say Syria is a paradise but now... What happened to Syrian people? How can you destroy your beautiful country just to get rid of Bashar al-Assad?”

I couldn’t answer him or say anything. I just nodded my head agreeing with what he told me.

At this point I was wondering how many more people would join us in the apartment as there were already 27 adults and seven children. Right after, nine new people arrived: four African men and an Iraqi family of five people.

It was time for another attempt; the van arrived and passengers began to go inside in pairs. My nephew asked me to wait until the end but when it was our turn to get in there was no space left for us. We were told to stay in the flat while they sent another car for us. At least we were not the only ones, we returned to the flat together with two more couples. 

We sat and waited for the promised car, which never arrived. It was in that moment when I began to look for another route to Greece.  Later that night Nasser called me and said, “Get a taxi for you, your nephew, and one of the couples. The others are not my business”

After being sent to another dead-end location, we were directed to a new one. This time it was an old house close to Basmania. There were about 70 people and there was a new “surprise”, one of the smugglers was drunk. When he saw me, he came and told me to leave my chair with one of his workers because there were a lot of people and there wasn’t any space for it. I didn’t have any option but to do what he said.

At 3:30 am, the van came and we began to get inside. My nephew carried me in. It was so crowded that there was barely there any air to breathe. After an hour of driving, the van stopped and the door opened. My nephew held me on his back and started walking towards the place where the boat was supposed to be on the beach. After 1km, one of the smugglers started to run and scream; the police were there. The smugglers ran away and we stayed because we didn’t know what to do. We sat on the floor waiting for the police or the smugglers, whoever came first, because at that point both were the same for us.

I recognised one of the policemen. He was at the station where I was arrested the previous time. When he saw me he yelled: “Oh my god! It is you again. You are crazy” and spat at me.

It was nearly 7am when we arrived at the police station. It was August, the hottest month of the year and the sun was rising when they put us in the yard. By 10am it had begun to get hotter and people were trying to find shade and protect themselves from the sun.

My nephew picked me up and put me under the stairs of the station, I was so exhausted that I fell straight asleep. Hours later a policeman kicked me to wake me up shouting: “Wake up! This is not a hotel!”. They gathered us and sent us by bus to another station. Same procedure again.

So, it was yet another attempt failed, I was starting to give up hope.

You can find part five of Mohammad’s blogs here

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