Deprived of home and country

Tuncer Köseoğlu

The Turkish original of this article was published as Yurtsuz kalmak on 15th September 2015.


The genocide of the new century is happening right in front of our eyes, and we keep passing by without paying much attention to it. As long as there appears no picture of the drowned baby Aylan lying on a beach, we don’t see, we don’t really want to see this genocide. If there is no material to share on the social media so as to cleanse our hearts and conscience, we don’t really care that much about what is happening. Yet just two days ago the azure waters of the Aegean turned into a grave for 34 people, most of them infants. Before I was halfway through this piece another piece of sad news came from Datça. The sea had taken another 22 refugees, including four babies. My fear is that before I finish writing dark news will have arrived from other waters about immigrants embarking upon a voyage of hope.

My fear is that more sad will come before finsihing this piece, about the refugees who are on the journey of hope.


As for the West, it is two-faced, hypocritical. The EU’s mighty Germany opened its borders for the sake of Aylan’s photo only to close them in a week, and as other European countries followed in its footsteps, fears of a flood of refugees brought freedom of circulation to an abrupt end. So it appears that being able to turn your back to this ongoing genocide must be the first condition for belonging to the modern world. While Turkey has unconditionally opened its gates to two and a half million refugees, a tenth of that proved to be too much for advanced Europe. They are busy dishing out pictures of a Danish policeman sitting on the ground to play with a refugee’s child in order to tell the world how humanistic they are.

 by serving the picture of a Danish policeman sitting and playing with a refugee child in the middle of the road. And it falls to us to watch and admire!


Last week I was in Greece — in Molyvos, one of the most beautiful ly touristic destinations on Mytilene (Lesvos). Molyvos is to the north of the island, just across from Assos. Its beaches are where refugees first arrive. Around a thousand refugees keep arriving every day on primitive boats or rafts that are little more than oversize truck tyres, capable of carrying ten people at most. Those who are able to make it ashore feel like they have won a major battle. The locals have got used to these waves of immigration, and indifferent to the refugees, though some persist in trying to help them as much as they can. Everywhere on the island, you see refugees, children as well as adults, trying to make it to the main harbor. Landing is no end to their tribulations. They often have to walk for another 60-65 kilometres under the hot sun.


Hope-seekers in Molyvos

I am having my early morning coffee in a kafeino in Molyvos. A group of refugees passes by, water dripping from their clothes. They are happy at having been able to come ashore without losing their lives. “Kalimera [Good morning],” their young men shout at those sitting in cafés.   

One of them wears a printed t-shirt with a picture of Yılmaz Güney [Turkey’s legendary film director]. It immediatelt reminds me of his masterpiece Umut [Hope]. It is about Coachman Cabbar and his struggle for survival after his horse, his sole resource, dies. He hopes to win in the National Lottery, and when that fails he starts to look for treasure in order to feed his family, losing his mind in the process. Deluding himself into believing that he will strike gold any moment, he assumes the same expression of delirious happiness that I have also seen on the faces of the refugees landing on Mytilene. For those who have been deprived of home and country, the only hope left is to ride those rubber boats to a new life.  


While on the island, I spoke with many refugees and heard their stories. Some among them had been trying to find a job in order to hold on in Turkey. What they all wanted was to provide a better life for themselves and their families without fear of killing or being killed. Can there be anything more human? Torn by wars from their homelands, who can possibly oppose these peoples’ desire to make it across borders in search of a better life? If bombs do not distinguish between people, why should borders do so?


United  on the same sidewalk


Refugees converging on Mytilene’s main harbor start looking for a ferry to take them to Europe. All nearby streets and parks are full of them. Days and nights pass in that same anxious waiting atmosphere. From time to time tensions escalate between them and the Greek police.  Most refugees are dressed like middle-class Turks. Their past education or social class is no longer relevant. Neither are their religious beliefs. Nobody questions the others’ faith, confession, race or class. All are in a rush to go to another country in order to build a new life. For war does not differentiate between wealth or poverty, or between this or that status or social class. Because the war does not make a difference between class, statue, wealth or poverty. It unites everybody on the same sidewalk.

In our country, too, there are those who want to start a civil war. It is the PKK that has launched this bloody process without any just or ethical justification whatsoever. As for those who keep supporting it in one way or another, they should not forget that one day we, too, can end up on those sidewalks. If we don’t want to find ourselves on the sidewalks inhabited by people equalized by having lost home and country, it is not absolutely necessary that we should love each other. But at least let us all oppose the PKK’s bloody attacks without any “if”s or “but”s. And also let us refrain from attacking people or their livelihoods because they happen to be Kurdish. Just like taking to the streets to “hunt Chinese,” going on a “Kurdish hunt” is also a crime against humanity. That fire is bound to consume the hunters first. And that is what they actually want. This is the key role that the PKK has assumed. If a ring of fire arises all around the country, there will be no going back to what was there before. If we don’t want to end up having been equalized on another country’s sidewalks as people from Turkey who have been uprooted from their homeland, it is sufficient for us to lay claim to our country on the basis of our common rights of citizenship. Not coming to be cut loose and adrift from where we know as home, depends  on our leading free and equal lives by upholding that common citizenship.