Pilgrims of Hope

Publish date 23-02-2023

by Claudio Monge

The story of Zeydan, the flight from Syria to Europe through Turkey

Zeydan had already arrived in Istanbul for several days. White beard, uncultivated but not too long, to give him something more than his fifty years. Rejected twice at the Greek border, he still hadn't given up, perhaps even guided by a bit of that understandable paternal pride that had prompted him to set out for Europe, to prevent his minor son from leaving the countryside around Aleppo, in search of a future that, at the present moment, the Syrians, especially those particularly distant from the regime of Bashar al Assad, cannot even imagine, in the land that gave them birth.

But even in Turkey, which has entered the final semester of a very hot and uncertain electoral campaign, it is a particularly unfortunate moment for undocumented Syrian refugees like Zeydan. The highly fragmented opposition to the president, who is trying to brig a umpteenth mandate of a power that has already lasted for more than twenty years, has found unity on a few issues, but one of them is the hard line against immigration and the firm intention to ask for repatriation of a good part of the three million and 800 thousand Syrians, for years within the Turkish borders waiting for a redistribution that has never really begun. Living on the street in these conditions is not only humanly humiliating, but extremely dangerous, especially due to the risk of being intercepted by an omnipresent and most often invisible police, because they are in civilian clothes.

Zeydan is a Catholic (we only find out several days after making his acquaintance) and our morning Eucharistic celebration is one of the few moments in which he has the courage to leave his refuge room in search of another kind of shelter that would give some peace to his heart. Zeydan was robbed of many thousands of dollars by cynical human traffickers from his own country, who operate in Turkish territory almost officially and undisturbed, collecting prebends (which they certainly share in part with corrupt officials and members of the local police), in exchange of trips that sometimes don't materialize (twice, our friend reappears in the morning, after announcing that the previous night could be the good one for a departure). Evidently, desperate people like Zeydan are easily blackmailed, because they have no alternatives and can't even come out by denouncing their exploiters.

The impracticality of an Istanbulite route leads Zeydan to bet everything on the Smirniota route: it is a question of reaching Turkey's third largest city, Izmir, with private transport (at a cost four times that of public transport) and then trying to embark for the island of Rhodes, first, and then for Athens from Rhodes. On the occasion of the last meeting, Zayed warns me, without however giving me other details on the precise methods and times. A little uncertainty, a little prudence that leads you to suspect your own shadow, justify the necessary reticence. In the morning I simply find a message in his room, in somewhat broken English, inside a box of medicines: « Fathar Claoudio, thank you for your love… you have done great things and I will not forget it. May the Lord be with you…».

The Lord did not abandon him either: small messages in the following days, such as a "sonar in the night", allowed me to more or less follow his route and to know that, in less than two weeks, with some adventurous passages and even decidedly lucky, Zeydan arrived in the Netherlands crossing half of Europe (although already with the documents, developed in Athens). Now he is already taking action to find a way, having obtained the official status of refugee, to also get his family out of the Syrian rubble. For those looking for the future, there is no time to bask in the small victories of the present!

Zeydan has been robbed of many thousands of dollars by cynical human traffickers from his own country, collecting prebends in exchange for trips that sometimes do not materialize

Claudio Monge

NP Dicembre 2022

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