Greece – Afghanistan

The world must pay attention

How do Afghan refugees in the Mavrovouni/Kara Tepe camp on Lesvos react to the Taliban's takeover? A conversation full of worries.

Almost 3200 people are currently living in Mavrovouni/Kara Tepe Camp on Lesvos, most of them have fled from Afghanistan. The camp was built after the fire of Moria on a former military site near Kara Tepe directly on the windy coast. Actually, it was only supposed to be a transitional camp - the living conditions are poor, there is no improvement in sight and autumn is just around the corner. In the meantime, the refugees organize electrification, garbage collection and schools themselves.

In the camp, too, the Taliban takeover is putting many people in fear, yet they show solidarity with the daily protests that are currently taking place in Kabul and other Afghan cities. In Moria Academia, which is supported by medico, women and children can learn and raise their voices; they call the place "Free Afghanistan".

medico: In recent weeks, the eyes of the world have been on Afghanistan. Now the Taliban are in power and many people are afraid of what is coming. How have you experienced this time here in the camp?

Milad*: A lot of people are worried. Nobody here from Afghanistan expected the takeover to happen so quickly. Now many refugees are worried about being deported to Afghanistan and being confronted with the violent ideology of the Taliban. The Greek government has advocated deportations to Afghanistan until the very end. The Afghan refugees reject the Taliban ideology, we are not like that. No one here wants to live under the Taliban regime. That's why people are very afraid right now. Before the Republic of Afghanistan was established, there were also problems. But when someone was deported back then, the worry was not as big as it is today. Nobody knows how the Taliban will behave as a government. And still the Greek authorities are pushing for deportations. But that is only one concern of the people.

We fear enormous violations of the rights of children, girls and women in Afghanistan. Around the world, many women have raised their voices - including here at the camp. Two weeks ago, we organized a protest here at Moria Academia. Many Afghans came together and were able to talk about the situation in Afghanistan, about their fears and concerns. Many women dared to say out loud what they thinking. It was a very emotional event. At least that is something we can do here, this place is our free Afghanistan. We can't fight the Taliban with weapons, but we can fight with our ideas and pen and publish that on our own media channels. I know how important it is to bring Afghans together and raise our voices at every opportunity.

That means you had the opportunity to organize protests here in the camp?

Yes, there have always been smaller events on the situation in Afghanistan. But unfortunately, the Greek authorities most often prevent the refugees from raising their voices. If possible, they do not allow meetings or interviews with internationals, so that no information from the camp leaks out. Even at such events, which are not against the Greek government, the EU or about the situation in the camp, we get problems. It was difficult to organize the protest event, even if it was not directly linked to Greece or the issue of asylum. It was a private matter: As refugees, we talk about the situation in our own country. But it was still not easy. We are glad that at least we had this event.

Did refugees from other countries show solidarity with you?

We have many friends here from different countries. They accompanied us at the last event and they support us. We are there for each other in difficult times. Many people here - no matter where they are from - are against extremism and against the Taliban. That's what connects us.

And how are you doing at the moment?

I, as a democratic and educated Afghan, would never want to live under the Taliban regime. I am very concerned about my friends and family members in Afghanistan and what will happen to them. For me, my application for asylum and that of my family have been rejected twice. We have been here on Lesvos for over two years now, first in Moria - then it burned down and we had to sleep on the street under the open sky for days. And now I'm here. I really do wonder if they will not give me protection. Now they are deciding whether we will be deported to Turkey. For some time now, the Taliban have been trying to build a good relationship with Turkey. There are negotiations with Qatar and Turkey to control the international airport in Kabul. If that happens, then Turkey will certainly deport many people to Afghanistan. Greece is also encouraging Turkey and is currently trying to establish a good relationship so that they can take over the airport and deport as many people as possible to Kabul. So it's a very concerning situation right now for all the refugees here.

What would have to happen now?

There are protests against the Taliban in many cities in Afghanistan. But they were shooting at people. I think the world must not leave Afghanistan alone. What the U.S. and Europe did with Afghanistan was like a game. Now Afghanistan is going down and they have to prevent it. The world must pay attention! The powerful countries have to protect the humanity there.

Of course, there are also people who was raised with the Taliban in the past twenty years and now support them. But this group is small. The people who are going to pay, who are being targeted right now, are democrats and also the young generations who grew up in the last twenty years.

*Name changed. The camp administration and Greek authorities put pressure on all people in the camp who speak out publicly. They also negatively influence the asylum procedures. Therefore, we do not mention real names here.

Interview: Anita Starosta
Translation: Nele Eisbrenner

Published: 08. September 2021

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