“A farewell to our friend Muhamad Gulzar, killed at Evros Border
The rumor of a second refugee killed at the borders, spread three days ago. How could we imagine that it could be our friend? How could this happen? And yesterday the first messages. His wife, appearing in a Sky News reportage. A distant take, outside the hospital, crying and mourning. It was for her, we learned, that Muhamad crossed the borders once again, this time from Greece to Turkey and back to Pakistan. To bring her here and be together.
Last Wednesday, in the morning, our friend Muhamad, our Muhamad from the room 611, was shot dead just for being a migrant. A struggling man, an innocent person, declared as an “enemy” and “invader” of Europe. A civilian shot down like a wild animal.
The bullet came out from a gun at the greek side, a gun that once pointed to the air and once pointed to the group of people crossing the border – was it border police, was it a militia, a greek or foreign fascist volunteer or was it a young soldier ordered by the government to use “live ammunition”?
The government said it’s fake news and turkish propaganda. The European Commissioner the day before said that the Greek government is doing the right thing, it acts as a “shield of Europe”.
We, friends of Muhamad Gulzar, who met him at the squatted hotel City Plaza in Athens three years ago, we say that our brother has been murdered. We cannot find the actual murderer, but we know who is responsible. We cannot know who was carrying the weapon, but we know that Muhamad was killed by a bullet came out from a gun, that once pointed to the air and once pointed at the running people, in a disgraceful human hunting at the borders of Europe in 2020.
Muhamad, for you, for your wife and family, for all of us and for the children to be born. For all the people, despite nationalities, skin colour and religions, we are saying that we will struggle more and we will fight harder. We shall overcome the barbarism spreading so fast in the world. And we will remember you running free over the bloody borders. In Greece, in Turkey, in Europe and everywhere in the world, everywhere where people struggle for a better life, without war and racism, without oppression and humiliation of the people.
Your friends and comrades from the ex City Plaza squat, Athens!”
News about people being shot by Greek border guards on the Greek-Turkish land border appear with increasing frequency. On social media information circulate about at least 8 people brought to hospital with gunshot wounds. Videos how that people have been killed, being stripped naked, beaten and tortured and pushed back from Greece to Turkey in mass expulsions. The murder of a young Syrian on Monday has already been analysed in detail by Forensic Architecture. In some areas around the Evros river people were blocked from two sides when special units of the Turkish police were mobilised to oppose the Greek pushbacks. Migrants report that they have been beaten also from the Turkish side and a video shows how families were transported to the border in busses and forced to get out.
Moreover, people seeking protection have also been criminalized and prosecuted. The number of cases is unclear but some newspapers reported about 17, others 45 and even about 183 people who crossed the border in Evros region and have been sentenced with charges of 3 to 4 years of prison with fines around 10,000 Euros. On Monday, seven men were sentenced to 3 years imprisonment on Lesvos for “illegal entry”, where three more trials are planned against unaccompanied minors in May. Many other trials are expected to follow.
The eternal mantra that the events of 2015 must not repeat has become so deeply imprinted into the public’s mind that any violence seems to have become acceptable as long as refugees are prevented from entering Europe. This is visible not only through the absurd hysteria about refugees at the border, but also the almost fascinating irrationality. With its violent isolationist policy, the EU is not only exposing its much-vaunted fundamental human rights values to ridicule, but is also becomes the toy of the Erdogan government.
Accompanied by a chess-like played media coverage, refugees were released from deportation centres and collectively transported with buses to the Evros border and the Turkish coast while others joined on their own. The departing boats were filmed by state television companies and sent to the EU as a threat. It was a military counter-strike in the Syrian war. Refugees are being abused as a bargaining chip by the Turkish government to blackmail the EU and NATO to cooperate in the Syrian war.
What’s much more frightening than Turkish power politics is the helplessness of the EU: Receiving the approximately 13,000 people from the border would be an easily achievable and legally required act for the EU with its almost 450 million inhabitants. But today, it apparently rather accepts those seeking protection to be shot than to break its dependency on Erdogan.
Sticking to the Birth Defect of European Migration Policy
While people are dying, beaten and instrumentalized in a dirty geopolitical game, the core failure is that the EU continues to firmly hold on to the EU-Turkey deal. Instead of learning from the fatal errors, the architect of the deal Gerald Knaus now speaks of an “Agreement 2.0 between the EU and Turkey”. Apparently, there can be no thinking out of the box, since the basic principles of the European border policy are based on blackmail and dependency on authoritarian regimes that do the dirty work for them. As soon as this relationship begins to falter, it becomes obvious that the policy is built on the basis of disenfranchisement. Shooting people at the border is only the logical consequence of a policy that systematically denies access to asylum.
In doing so, the EU fails to recognise the real dangers: Its policies lead not only to the death of refugees, but also to the fascistisation of Europe. A direct line can be drawn from the racist murders in Hanau to fascists hunting refugees and attacking support structures on Lesvos. It is therefore not surprising that right-wing networks in Germany are calling for people to go into battle at the EU’s external border and hunt people down. Luckily, they are received roughly by the local Antifa.
Hundreds of groups worldwide sign multilingual Statement demanding peace, fundamental rights and freedoms of every person on the move. We also sign the call of our Turkish friends (https://crossbordersolidarity.com/#english):
Five years after the so-called “refugee crisis” and almost four years after the EU-Turkey deal, we are once again witnessing the violence caused by security-centred migration policies. Since last Thursday (27.02.2020), thousands of people have been moving towards the Turkey-Greece border following the announcement that migrants wanting to reach Europe will no longer be stopped on the Turkish side. The announcement from Turkish government officials came after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers in the Idlib area, where conflict escalation has seen the civilian death toll rapidly increase by the day, with basic infrastructure and health facilities being blatantly fired at. Turkish government keeps its borders with Syria closed while seeing no harm in pushing thousands of migrants towards the doors of Europe, into a limbo.
Migrants and asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and several African countries have been reaching the border-crossing areas of Edirne, Çanakkale, and İzmir; some were brought there by buses of municipalities, some arrived by private taxis, or walking. In the Edirne area, they have been allowed to proceed to the border zone by the Turkish authorities, but Greek police forces prevented them from passing with gas and sound-lighting bombs. At the same time, Turkish authorities restricted the access of journalists and reporters. Those stuck in the grey zone between the two states under heavy rain and with scant food supplies have been shouting for the opening of the borders. Some of those who reach the land border were told by the authorities to cross by sea despite hazardous weather conditions.
In Greece, the scenario is also worsening. The government has recently passed a new stricter and even more inhumane law on asylum entailing detention upon arrival to the Greek territory for all new asylum seekers. In the past days, local communities on the islands of Chios and Lesbos have been clashing with riot-police in opposition to the establishment of new detention facilities. Under the burden of the so-called “refugee crisis” since the EU-Turkey deal, they have been protesting against the deterioration of their own living conditions and of the living conditions of those seeking asylum there. However, xenophobia and racism have never stopped infesting the public discourse. In reaction to the latest events, Greek government officials have been fuelling hatred and fear by spreading the myth of an invasion by “illegals” at the behest of its neighbouring country.
Xenophobia, racism and their normalisation must be opposed everywhere they surface, be it in Turkey, Greece and anywhere else. The instrumentalization of the lives of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees reduced to a threat and a bargaining chip must end, both in domestic electoral campaigns and in the relations between the Turkish government and the EU. The security policies that push thousands of already displaced people into a limbo and the border regimes that cause the endless cycle of violence against them must cease. What we demand are peace, fundamental rights and freedoms of every person on the move.
Borders are killing, open the borders! Stop the war on refugees & migrants! Transnational solidarity against racism and war! For a free world without borders, exploitation, and exile.