LESVOS REFLECTION: Your Longing Hands — an asylum seeker from the oppressed Arab minority of Iran shares the story of his life and longing to reunite with his mother and sister


24 November 2017
REFLECTION: Your Longing Hands — an asylum seeker from the oppressed Arab minority
of Iran shares the story of his life and longing to reunite with his
mother and sister

by Rûnbîr Serkepkanî

They do not make
coffee with cardamom here in Greece. No one makes coffee like your
mother. It’s been five years since you last drank your mother’s
coffee with cardamom. Borders have prevented her from filling your
soul with the wonderful scent of cardamom every morning.

You were born in
Kuwait. You went to Iranian school there where you learnt Farsi. You
worked as a carpenter. Your brother was in Ahwaz, Iran where he was
defending the oppressed Arabic minority of that region. During the
Eid al-Adha he was dressing in his finest Arabic dishdasha dress and
wearing his agal head-dress. He was going out with his comrades. Eid
al-Adha is the day when all Arabs in Iran go out together, in groups
of five or more. It is the day of resistance. It is the day when
everyone breaks the silence. The day when everyone prays and protests
together. During one of these eids they captured him and put him in
‘The Security Police’ prison. Three years later he was dead “of
natural causes.” Young Arabs in Iran do not die because of natural
causes. They die from torture, police beatings, and
government-sanctioned hangings.

Longing hands and an empty cup

Your father had
another family and he was not present in your life. It was your
eldest brother who was a father to you. He was the jewel of your eye.
Your grandfather could not go to the funeral because he knew he could
not return. Your mother did not go because she had to take care of
your differently abled sister. Your grandfather tried to prevent you
from going and he gave you some wise advice, however, you insisted on
going so that you could recite al-Fatiha from the Koran at his grave.
But your grandfather beat you and you insisted on leaving. You left
Kuwait and went to Iran. You visited your brother’s grave where you
recited al-Fatiha and shed tears on the soil that shrouds his dead

When you tried
to go back to your mom, to taste her cardamom coffee and to help her
take care of your sister, they captured you and forced you into
military service for two years. The soldiers, officers and commanders
bullied you because you were an Arab. You were forced to serve a
country that did not love you. You were in service to an army that
occupied your country and you had to defend a government that killed
your brother.

a person holeds

You tell me
while sipping kainari (traditional herbal tea of Lesvos) with honey,
“after the military
service, I tried for three years to re-enter Kuwait in order to be
reunited with my family.” You have been on hunger strike for many
days now demanding freedom of movement. With a very strong Arabic
accent, you explain to me in Farsi that you refused to tell the
officers of EASO (European Asylum Support Office) that you belonged
to the Arabic minority of Iran. You refused to tell them that the
Iranian government killed your brother. You refused to tell them how
dangerous it was to go around the streets of your hometown singing
songs in your mother tongue like lullabies sang from your mother’s
heart. That every gathering you had with your Arabic friends was
considered a conspiracy against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
However, you did tell them that you have been exiled from your mom
for five years. You told them that you needed to go back to Kuwait to
support your differently sister, your mother and your elderly
grandfather. You told them that you needed to cross the borders
legally in order to do this. Unfortunately, this was not enough.

You are now on
hunger strike in Sappho square on Lesvos, Greece with ten other
comrades. You say, “Please do not write my name,” “Please do
not take my picture,” “Please do not write where I did my
military service,” “They will find me.” We ask if we can take a
picture of your hands and you agree. You take off your ring so they
can’t recognise your hands. We take a picture of your hands that
are haunted by the cold and that long so much for your mother’s cup
of cardamom-scented coffee.


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