13 September 2016
MEDITERRANEAN: Remembering Aylan Kurdi (Interrupted) at Pikpa
The light was fading and the possibility of everyone heading
down to the small harbor below Pikpa seemed to fade as well. Strong winds and
high waves had been the order of the day and had not subsided into the evening.
The organizers were considering whether the action planned for the beach might
not be better held in the camp. The event was to commemorate the one-year
anniversary of the death of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year old Syrian boy washed
up on the shores of Bodrun, Turkey. His image had shocked the world and brought
home the tragedy of the refugee crisis in Europe and the Mideast.
As residents and volunteers milled around waiting for the
balloons and votive candles, two men under the pavilion suddenly jumped up and
ran behind the kitchen building. More men and then families began moving that
way also. The younger men and women had been playing soccer on the concrete
basketball court behind the fence and the ball had sailed over into the tennis
courts owned by the adjacent private club. Now there was a confrontation
between the club members, who refused to return the ball, and Pikpa.
Angry words and calming words. A member of the Lesvos Solidarity team was
trying to cool down one of the Pipka residents. The tennis club had called the
police. The team member was telling the man and others frustrated with the
situation to just let the ball go: “If you don’t stop now, we are all going to
Moria” – the large refugee camp administered by Frontex and the Greek police. Apparently there is some dispute as to whether
the club owns the basketball court or whether it lies on public land. Nevertheless, the club clearly has influence;
the police arrived in five minutes and did not make the club return the ball.
The mayor of Mytilene, too, is swayed by influence, judging by his previous
threats to shut Pikpa down.
We were reminded again how precarious is the security and
wellbeing of the refugees in Greece.
But now the ceremony began. We all moved back behind the fence. A circle of candles struggled to survive in a
close circle of bodies of residents and volunteers. The situation with the
balloons was almost under control. While
the candles fluttered, went out, and were relit, the organizers urged the
children to make wishes and a few adults did as well. Most were wishes to go to
Germany, Spain, etc. One teen-age boy wished to reunite with his father and to
give him a big hug. Others wished for peace in their homelands so that one day
they might return.
Then the children released the large white balloons. Not
all. Some wanted to hold on to these bits of joy. One small boy’s balloon burst
during an impromptu wrestling match with his friend. He cried and cried and
could not stop.