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Nafarat: trip from Turkey to Germany – Part 1.1 Basmane


This is the story of 11 Syrian and 1 French friends. The journal from their trip, between July 15 and  August 15, passing the borders,  from Turkey  to  Syria.

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The introduction: “11 Nafar and 1 human”

(Nafar in arabic is the one without name, without right, it is a number in the mass, and it is how the smugglers are calling their clients, in arabic. “He is only a pocket of money”).


We are a group of 12 people, 12 young persons full of hope and dreams, that met in Syria or in Turkey, and decided to go together to Europe. In the group, there is a doctor, a judge, 2 architects, a lawyer, 1 painter, 1 designer, a film maker, a social worker, a cook, an actor and a first-aider. Half of the group couldn’t continue their studies because of the war. Most of them escaped to Turkey some years before the decision to try their chance and cross the sea. But staying in Turkey means accepting to stay where there is no opportunity to work legally or to study. It means accepting to wait, only wait, for the situation to change. But our youth won’t last that long. In the group there are 11 Syrians and one French. For her, with her passport, the borders are open. In this system she is a human, she has the right and the possibility to be wherever she wants to. For different reasons, but with the common will of living this experience all together, we left Istanbul and are now on our way to a country where the nafarats could be humans again. At least, this is the goal.

Part 1: Izmir. Destination: Greece.

Basmane, Izmir (1/3)

Our bags are ready. We took the minimum: our passports (which are not worth much), our phones and batteries, sleeping bags, a first aid kit, 2 cameras to document the “trip” and few clothes. We studied the maps and the routes for the last month. We contacted some smugglers that could make us pass to one of the Greek islands, for a thousand dollars.


We left Istanbul by bus and arrived to Basmane, the neighbourhood around the train station of Izmir. We hoped to leave on the same day or on the next one. Finally, we had to wait there for 6 days. Describing the atmosphere of Basmane is not easy. Hotels everywhere, all full of migrants waiting for their turn to get into Europe. The ones who couldn’t afford a hotel or find a room are passing their day following the shadows, on this very hot summer day. The first shop we saw had written on his window, in Arabic, “here we sell life jackets”. We knew we arrived. On the square, the streets, the round-abouts and on the park, you can see groups of “nafarats”. You can recognise them by their small backpacks, their big black plastic bags where they carry their life jackets (that you can buy everywhere, as well as the pneumatic “rubber ring”), and their smart phone. No doubt that the smart phone is facilitating the voyage for migrants. You need it to contact the smugglers, to check the maps and reassure the families.


The main language of Basmane is definitely Arabic. Hard to still believe that you are in the centre of Izmir, third biggest city of Turkey. Most of the migrants are Syrians, but many other nationalities are also passing through Basmane. For each community exists its own system; it’s own smugglers, hotels, streets… The people meet and tell their stories. Some left in one day, some tried already 1, 2 or 5 times, they got caught by the police and are waiting to try again. On the other part of the huge green park where we spent most of our time (we eventually called it our home), the atmosphere change radically. With five stars hotels, luxury shops, and empty pavements, you enter there into another reality.


The 6 days that we had to stay in Basmane are happily in the past. We have been kicked out of most of the places where we tried to rest. A security man of the park asked us when we were entering in the morning, with our backpacks, where we were from. We answered that we were Italians, and he let us stay. The Syrians were not allowed he told us. The Italians yes. They eventually realised the truth later and kicked us out. One morning, we woke up with the police asking us to move out from under a bridge, and another one by some young guys throwing eggs at us and shooting “Syrians go back to your country”. Good morning to you too. The way the people were looking at us and talking to us became so tiring that we finally took 2 rooms in one of this nafarat’s hotel and passed most of the time there, looking to the fan and waiting for the moment to go. In a way, Basmane looks like those villages close to some very famous trekking points. They are full of trekking agencies, where all the tourist are getting prepared and buying the same equipments, comparing the tours and the prices… But this time there are no tourists, or official agencies, there are people that escaped from war and are preparing for a dangerous trip which will change their lives.


(Yeşil Gazete, Migrant Solidarity Kitchen)

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