Parwana Amiri’s “Letter to the world from Moria”

In this open letter from Camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos, the young Afghan refugee Parwana Amiri describes how the fear, pressure and violence caused by the inhuman conditions of the camp and a hostile European asylum policy inevitably prevails among the people affected by it, and how she tries to fight it all the same.

Author: A migratory girl

Seeking for protection in a world of war

Where is safety?

In a camp with 14,000 refugees coming from different places of earth living under inhuman conditions one piled upon the other, the authorities can do very little to protect us. In fact, the miserable conditions they force us to live in, the inhuman laws and rules they subject us to create a small world of violence – a form of systematic violence against all of us.

If you live this violence day by day, you become part of it. In the end we humans, who are currently refugees in your Europe, must defend ourselves, our tents and our families against a generalised violence from above, but also from all sides. This violence can come come from any side now.

Where is safety?

If you live under conditions not worth for animals, violent conditions, then you can become violent any time yourself even if you share the same pain.

I feel powerless against this violence. I feel it crawling in our veins. I don’t want to become a part of this. I feel shame, when I see anger growing between people who suffer the same pain and shame when I feel anger rising inside me.

Instead of establishing friendly relations between each other as oppressed people that face the same discrimination, we become part of the reasons of fear. We escaped war, but it seems we are in war again. There is no way out. This is the war to survive the jungle called Europe.

It is so painful to witness women and children unable to sleep, afraid of violence. Their men must stay awake to guard in front of the tents, to protect their families all night. A piece of nylon, a zipper separates them from any intruder.

Today when, more than ever before, we need each other, we are afraid of each other. We don’t know from which side we could be attacked. We don’t know who is a friend. We have lost trust in life and people because there is no system to protect us and to make us feel like humans among humans.

Today instead of curing our wounds hand in hand, we put salt on each other’s wounds. We are trapped in a desert where no one will help us and no one will ask about our whereabouts.

I am responsible of myself. Within this violence, I have to do the first step to not become part of this. I have to criticise me first and start the change from inside myself, as no help will ever come from outside. We have to start from ourselves, from our families, our communities, to stop the violence and to raise up against this system.

I don’t want to brake. I don’t want to feel shame for my actions. I will stand firm against you violence and answer it with raised head and open fists. We crossed thousands of kilometres to find a life in safety, but it seems that there is no security here for us.

I stopped believing that we will find a place in peace. We have to find peace inside us and withstand the war going on outside. When violence erupts in Moria, when the police beat us, when people riot or even fight, we cannot count for protection by anyone. We have to find the solution to beat the monster.

Can you imagine yourself living in these conditions, having survived war, facing daily violence… Could you control yourself, stay calm and start peace if after all your fate was unclear for months and years while trapped in Moria?

Living under such anxiety and insecurity, we people are under permanent shock; we experience panic and trauma daily. We inflict injuries to ourselves and others. There are even kids hurting themselves and trying to commit suicide.

Where is safety?

Clubs, tear-gas, wooden sticks, stones and knives… Fists and kicks….

Our shields of protection are naked hands and our dignity. All our wealth is our blankets and our few warm clothes. Fear of losing even these keeps us near our tent 24 hours a day. But even if we decided to move away, where could we go? During the day, the knowledge that darkness is always near and fear of violence shakes our body.

For how long?

Wolves hunt in the darkness of night and the shepherds look after their flock. But here the wolves are the shepards, the shepards are the sheep and sheep turn into wolves.

No sleep. No dreams.

Where is safety?

How long are we going to search for safety by holding guns in our hands? These hands, which long for a pen not a gun!

Open your doors for our lives’!

Parwana

Parwana Amiri arrived in Greece in September 2019 at the age of 16 after fleeing Afghanistan and was stuck with her family for months in Camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Camp Moria on the Greek island of Lesbos is a symbol of the desperate situation of many refugees who are stuck on the Greek islands and on the borders of Europe. Many refugees arrive on Lesbos and reach the EU from Turkey via the Mediterranean. Since 2015, the camp should serve as a short-term registration and reception centre. Since the EU-Turkey Agreement 2016 11For background information see Pro Asyl: EU-Turkey-Deal: A humanitarian disaster with an announcement, in: Pro Asyl, https://www.proasyl.de/en/pressrelease/eu-turkey-deal-a-humanitarian-disaster-with-an-announcement//(02.07.2020).
however, many of the refugees are stuck in Moria for months and years, as the agreement stipulates that anyone arriving on a Greek island after 20 March 2016 will only be taken back by Turkey if they have not been taken to mainland Greece before. The camp, which was originally set up for 3,000 people, is now inhabited by more than 18,000 people (as of February 2020). 22See UNHCR: Entschlossenes Handeln nötig, um alarmierende Bedingungen auf den Ägäis-Inseln zu beenden, in: UNHCR Deutschland, 07.02.2020, https://www.unhcr.org/dach/de/39239-griechenland-entschlossenes-handeln-noetig-um-alarmierende-bedingungen-auf-den-aegaeis-inseln-zu-beenden.html (02.07.2020).

Greece’s asylum system is completely overburdened due to its European external borders and the proximity of its islands to mainland Turkey and the Dublin Regulation which makes it responsible for the asyslum procedures as the first EU country of reception, and there is a lack of common European solutions for a fair distribution of the refugees to ensure that they are granted humane conditions and a fair asylum procedure. Instead of finding a safe place and being able to build a new life, as the refugees had hoped to do when they fled, they are stuck for months or years in the inhumane and dangerous conditions of the camp with no prospect of improvement: there is a lack of education, medical assistance, safe housing, waste disposal, space and everything else needed to recover from the traumas in the countries of origin and on the flight and to build something new. Camps like Moria thus become dead ends and almost in-between places where the disenfranchisement of refugees is particularly strong. Parwana Amiri writes: “We escaped war, but it seems we are in war again. There is no way out. This is the war to survive the jungle called Europe.”

Shocked by the inhuman conditions in the camp, Parwana Amiri began writing her letters from Moria to the world only two weeks after her arrival. In the letters she describes her own everyday life in the camp, the fear, the violence, the lack of everything, the crampedness; tells about her flight and also reports about the fates of acquaintances and friends. In particular, her stories reveal the particularly precarious situation of women and sexual and gender minorities in the camp. She appeals to the European outside world to put an end to these inhuman conditions by a more open asylum policy. She initially wrote her texts in Persian until she was offered the opportunity to publish the letters on the information website for refugees and migrants Infomobile of the NGO Welcome to Europe and to translate them into English. In 2020 her texts are also to be published as a book. 33See Dumont, Julia: Afghan teen writes: ‘Letter to the World from Moria’, in Infomigrants, 31.01.2020, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/22415/afghan-teen-writes-letter-to-the-world-from-moria (02.07.2020).

In the tenth letter from Moria to the world, Parwana Amiri describes very impressively how the fear, pressure and violence caused by the conditions of the camp and a rejecting European asylum policy inevitably persist among the people affected by it, and how she nevertheless tries to resist this circle of violence.

    Footnotes

  • 1For background information see Pro Asyl: EU-Turkey-Deal: A humanitarian disaster with an announcement, in: Pro Asyl, https://www.proasyl.de/en/pressrelease/eu-turkey-deal-a-humanitarian-disaster-with-an-announcement//(02.07.2020).
  • 2See UNHCR: Entschlossenes Handeln nötig, um alarmierende Bedingungen auf den Ägäis-Inseln zu beenden, in: UNHCR Deutschland, 07.02.2020, https://www.unhcr.org/dach/de/39239-griechenland-entschlossenes-handeln-noetig-um-alarmierende-bedingungen-auf-den-aegaeis-inseln-zu-beenden.html (02.07.2020).
  • 3See Dumont, Julia: Afghan teen writes: ‘Letter to the World from Moria’, in Infomigrants, 31.01.2020, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/22415/afghan-teen-writes-letter-to-the-world-from-moria (02.07.2020).

Amiri, Parwana: Letter to the World from Moria (No. 10), in: Infomobile, 10.12.2019, http://infomobile.w2eu.net/2019/12/10/letter-to-the-world-from-moria-10/ (02.07.2020).

 

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