MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: The children along the city walls of Chios

8 July 2016
MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: The children along the city walls of Chios

by Ronbir Mohammad

Syrian refugee children waiting to get the boat to Athens

We are a CPT team of three persons. We are walking along the city walls of the Greek island of Chios, with the border-polluted sea stretching before us. The refugees reside in tents, organised in two lines. Kids are playing. Nothing can make children stop playing. Even under the midday sun; even though the great powers of the world, through their agreements, prevent these families from moving on.  But they play. They run up to the top of garbage hills and then run down, laughing and shouting. “Kids!” my friend says, to show that he is delighted but not surprised.

The twelve-year-old Me walks on small paths up the hill, passing alongside landmines, walking over the skeletons of the Iraqi and Iranian soldiers who died here in 1980s. He jumps out of me. He does not even look back at me. He goes to the kids of Chios and starts playing with them. I look back and wait for him to come back, to jump back into this grown-up self.  He does not seem to care. My teammates tell me that we should move on. So I move on with them and leave the little Me behind.

I have had this feeling many times. Whenever I am in a refugee camp I experience everything again. I once had a platonic love affair with a girl who lived in another camp, nine hours of walking from our camp. I wrote down her name in different shapes everywhere. I wrote her name on stones, on tents, on the ground. I wrote it with the blood of the animals that our butcher-neighbour slaughtered. I wrote it with pens and I carved it with stones. I closed my eyes and imagined her soft smile. Smiling at the humanitarian NGOs who gave us tuna cans and rice and other stuff. I was a twelve-year-old kid referred to as a random number. And I missed my mom. She was left in our town. We could not take her with us. She was injured, disabled by a grenade in my home village by the same war that forced us to flee. I missed the smell of the barbecue chicken liver wrapped in bread that she made for us when she did not have time to cook her delicious food.

I remember that we were looking at the cloud formations in the sky to predict the arrival of the next storm. The storm was our constant visitor. We were twenty people, my siblings, my grandma and my uncles and cousins. We all shared the same tent, 4×6 meters. We shared the food, the laughter, the frustrations and the storm. When the storm came we woke up in the middle of the night, because the bamboo support post of the tent had broken and we had to hold up the unbroken part of it so that the tent would not collapse over us.

The kids in the illegal refugee camp along the city wall of Chios are abandoned. Stuck in a state of limbo where they are getting grilled by the sun above the wall.

I am walking there with my child-self behind me, not even looking at Me anymore and I am wondering: what have we, all these NGOs and volunteers, done for them? What have we achieved? Whose name are those kids carving on the stones of Chios? Who do they miss? What pillar are they holding up against the storm?

CPT-Europe is accompanying refugee children on the island of Lesvos.  You can accompany them too.