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People MCH LSE Refuge City ATH Refugee Info 003

Get to know the newcomers, activists and volunteers we met in Athens, Berlin and London, as they share their personal experiences of refuge, welcome and the digital city.


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Kypseli, Athens, November 2018

The right to learn your language is political. My mum is Armenian and my dad is Kurdish. I grew up in Ankara and I never learned my languages. I’ve learnt them here, in Athens.

Politics is for everyone. It’s not personal, it’s for a better life for all people, for a safe life, for freedom. When I opened my eyes to this, it was during the Turkish junta. People I grew up with are still in prison. For these reasons, politics is important. From the working class fighting the capitalist system, to me being allowed to learn and speak my language.


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There was a group of us from the same political party in Turkey that came here illegally in 1992 from Samos. We were caught and when they were arresting us, a policeman was about to slap me, so I slapped him before he had a chance. I ended up in prison for three months. I went on a hunger strike for almost that whole time. Then I got moved to a military camp in Lavrio for another three months. When I was finally granted political asylum, I travelled and lived in other European countries for the Party but I encountered problems everywhere. In Germany and Switzerland, it was more alienating and you had to officially register after 15 days. Every time I came to Athens to renew my papers, I felt something special about this city and I finally moved here in 2005.


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I never wanted to come here. I wanted to cross Greece and go somewhere else, but the borders were all closed. But now Athens is my place. There is no other city like Athens, everything starts here. When I'm abroad I miss it. Athens, everything starts here.. We have lived together as part of the Ottoman Empire so we have many things in common… culture, food. It can be psychological but I don’t feel like a foreigner. Greeks are friendlier than other Europeans. Especially as a single woman, I feel Greece is a safe country. I have slept on the street and no one has ever bothered me. It’s also easier to live in Athens with little money.

(home, Athens)

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After 12 years here, I applied for a Greek passport but my application was rejected because I hadn’t had any health insurance. My healthcare is now covered by The World Bank, as I’m a political refugee. Greece is not paying for this and I don’t get any other kind of support. I haven’t been to the dentist in two or three years. The healthcare system has changed and it’s no longer covered. Anyways, Greek people have been facing these problems for so many years, there has been a crisis here since 2000.

I’ve been told that I can try again to apply for citizenship now but I prefer to keep my asylum status. I still have the same rights as Greek citizens, the only thing I cannot do is go to Turkey.


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The situation in Turkey is getting tougher for everyone. It’s transforming into an Islamic State and for Kurdish people it is even harder. Monitoring and surveillance are everywhere, we are constantly being watched. No matter what you write on social media they can catch you and jail you. Thousands of people get jailed, they are constantly building new prisons.


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My friends in Greece try to convince me to use social media, but I don’t like the idea. Social media is very fake, it’s for those who have a lot of free time. What everyone is saying on social media is not really happening, it doesn’t reflect the reality. When you read newspapers you read different perspectives. There are Kurdish and Turkish newspapers that are also available online so even if the State controls some of the papers, people write things as they are.

(digital lives)

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All my friends are Greek. But I am Kurdish, it's my identity. When I read Turkish newspapers, I feel I'm from there, a reminder I am a political refugee in exile and I am far away. When people hear that you are from Turkey they give you a stony glance but that has to do with the State, not with the people. When the Greeks interact with you, they relax.


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I used to read and write a lot, fairy tales and short stories. My friends have told me I should have them translated into Greek. When you don’t work, you have free time and you can do so many things. But it’s been about three years since I’ve written anything, since I opened the café. Now I’m completely part of the system. I have to work for tomorrow.

I’ve done babysitting, catering... I even started selling cig kofte in Exarcheia with a friend. It’s really good and he’s still doing it, every evening from 7pm. I’m trying to get him to come work with me here in the café because I'm open every day, and I have no days off. I’m thinking of closing on Mondays just so I have the chance to sort out paper issues.


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I don’t feel the café is mine, yet. I feel as if I am a stranger. I don’t know…maybe I’m tired. There were three of us when we first opened the café and I still say, this is ‘ours.’ The place was horrible, it didn’t even have windows or electricity. It was a cave. We worked really hard. And then my partners left, so it’s just me now. And my customers. They are migrants but also Greeks. And these little white pigeons that I feed everyday. But I think you scared them off with your camera!


*Aynour is a pseudonym.

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