Day 11: Dornach


Wednesday, 14.10.2015

Yesterday, the information came in that from 8 p.m. onwards about 900 refugees would arrive at Dornach. Therefore, I headed over with a fellow Tunisian to help on site. Originally, I had wanted to stay only until 11 p.m. However, since the busses arrived very late, I missed the last train back. That’s why I slept in a room on camp beds with other volunteers for a few hours. From 10 o’clock in the morning I helped at the food counter again. After that, I got on my way home and escorted six Syrians to the central station. The majority of the new arrivals were Afghans. There were only a few Syrians, seven Africans from Mali and a few Iranians. Many of them had a cold or diarrhea. Furthermore, several unaccompanied minors arrived. The unaccompanied youths were a big problem because the city has restricted the support from the youth welfare office. There were many volunteers and enough interpreters for Arabic. What was lacking was mainly volunteers who spoke Farsi. Fortunately, however, some of the security staff spoke the Farsi language and could help out. However, this also meant that I was only able to have a few conversations. This was because of the language on the one hand and because we were mainly occupied with the reception of incoming refugees on the other.

Encounter 1

Upon my arrival I met a Lebanese volunteer. We chat a bit. With a broad grin, he shows me a picture of a sign at the accommodation.

ClearTablePleaseOn the picture was a pictogram and underneath it, it said in English „Clear Table“. Under it, one could see the Arabic translation or what someone thought to be the translation: „Distinct Diagram“. That of course did not make any sense at all. I am greatly amused.

I removed the sheets and created new ones. This time with a better translation and a little less of an authoritarian ring.

Encounter 2

There is a bus at the entrance. After I made the announcement on the bus, we waited briefly until the incoming refugees from the previous bus have passed through the health inspection. I talked with a small group of Syrians who sat near the driver.

  • „Where did this bus bring you from?“
  • „From a camp, but I do not know what it is called.“
  • „Do you know where it was?“
  • „On the border with Austria.“
  • „Was it in Freilassing?“

They looked at each other thinking. One of them shook his head and said: „I don’t know.“

  • „Were there many Syrians there?“ I asked.
  • „No, almost only Afghans. Maybe even 90%.“
  • „What are you talking about, man?“ heckles one of the men. „There were at least 99% Afghans!“
  • „How many were in that camp?“
  • „I think about 2,000 people.“

Encounter 3

During the distribution of the incoming refugees into the different rooms, volunteers ask me whether Syrians and Kurds understand each other. It’s all about the question of whether it is possible to accommodate a group of five Syrians together with a group of five Kurds in one room without giving rise to disputes. As a precaution, I go over to the Syrians and ask one of them:

„Can we accommodate you together with the Kurdish brothers in one room?“

„Yes, sure, they all speak Arabic, too. We get along with each other well. These are Syrian Kurds. These guys are all right.“ He looks at the group of Kurds and calls to them: „He asks if we have problems with each other. I told him that we understand each other well. That’s right, isn’t it?“

One of the Kurds nodded in agreement and said: „Yes, sure, everything is alright.“

The Arab Syrian added: „Just not in one room with the Afghans please.“

Encounter 4

In the morning, after a few hours of sleep on a camp bed from the Federal Armed Forces, I helped a bit with the food distribution and finally made my way home. A group of five Syrian Kurds joined me. They wanted to go to the central station. There, I helped them purchase tickets to travel on. At first, they wanted to go to a friend to Dusseldorf, but later decided to travel only as far as Augsburg, since they also knew someone there. On the way, we got into a conversation:

  • „Where are you from?“
  • „From Qamishli.“
  • „How long have you been traveling?“
  • „12 days.“
  • „Oh, that’s fast.“
  • „Fast, you say? We have lost a lot of time in Bulgaria.“
  • „Many have needed 30 days. What was going on in Bulgaria?“
  • „We have tried to cross twice via Bulgaria. However, we ended up back down in Turkey and had to go to Greece by boat.“
  • „What happened in Bulgaria?“
  • „We were arrested by the police and brought back to the Turkish border. They stole my cell phone.“
  • „Who stole your phone?“
  • „A Bulgarian policeman. They looked at all the cell phones and threw them aside. I had an iPhone 5. When he saw it, he pocketed it.“
  • „Just like that?“
  • „Yes, but he will not have a lot of fun with it,“ he said with satisfaction. „I had secured the iPhone with my fingerprint. He might as well just throw it away.“

Before we said goodbye at the central station, one of the young men came up to me and asked me: „How do you say pig in German?“

„Pig? Why do you want to know that word of all things?“ I asked him in surprise.

„So that when we buy food we can say that we do not eat pork.“

„Ah, now I understand. It is ‚Schwein‚.“

He looks at me with incredulous eyes and says: „Schwein as in ‚Schweinsteiger‘?“

In the beginning I did not understand what he meant. Then, however, I had to laugh and said: „Yes, Schwein as in Schweinsteiger.“

Encounter 5

On the way to the central station, along with the Syrian Kurds, an Arab Syrian who wanted to go to his brother at Regensburg also accompanied me. On the way, I asked him:

  • „Where are you from?“
  • „From Deir-Ezzor.“
  • Since I knew that ISIL had Deir-Ezzor under control, I asked him: „Are you fleeing from Daech (ISIL)?“
  • „Yes, I am.“
  • „Was it difficult to escape from Syria?“
  • „Oh yes, very difficult! Daech forbids leaving its territories. So I always stated that I just wanted to go to the nearest town: From Deir-Ezzor to Er-Raqqa. From Er-Raqqa to Aleppo and from Aleppo to Turkey.“
  • „Was the entire way under the control of Daech?“
  • „No, a part of it was also controlled by the ‚Free Syrian Army‘.
  • „And what did you say to them?“
  • „We did tell them that we wanted to go to Turkey.“
  • „And there were no problems?“
  • „No, they did not hassle us.“
  • „Have they also taken money from you at the roadblocks of the ISIL or the FSA?“
  • „No, they haven’t. Only on the border with Turkey did we have to pay the equivalent of €50 to the human trafficker.“
  • „What actually drove you to flee?“
  • „There is no future under Daech. I was a student at the University of Damascus. However, I was no longer allowed to travel to Damascus.“
  • „What did you study?“
  • „History.“
  • „It is a time in which history is being written,“ I said, thinking of the changing conditions in the Arab world.
  • „There is no more history. History is being destroyed,“ he replied. I had to think of the destruction of the historic bazaar of Aleppo; the destroyed Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the devastated ruins of Tadmur (Palmyra).
  • „Daech is training teachers,“ he continued. „Then it lets them teach the children.“
  • „In which subjects?“
  • „I do not know exactly. I have not seen the program but I know of religious education, Arabic and mathematics.“
  • „I’ve heard that they also offer medical studies. Is that correct?“
  • „Yes, it is. Doctors and nurses are being trained. Women and men are taught separately.“
  • „Do they have their university in Deir-Ezzor?“
  • „No, in Er-Riqqa.“
  • „Why there?“
  • „Because they have had it under their control longer and there is plenty of crude oil in Deir-Ezzor.“
  • „Oh, and because of the oil there are more fights centering around the city?“ I ask.
  • „Exactly!“ he says.
  • After a while, I ask him: „Are there many Tunisians in the ISIL?“
  • „Yes, a great number. But there are also many from the Gulf States: Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, for example.“
  • I continue to ask: „Are there any differences in the behavior of different nationalities?“

He looks at me and says almost apologetically: „Believe me … I would never tar an entire people with the same brush, and I know that there are many good Tunisians. However, the Tunisians of Daech are very bad. At least you can still talk with the people of the Gulf States and they have an understanding of your situation. But the Tunisians often kill very quickly.“

„I am terribly sorry. All the Tunisians I know think nothing of the ISIL, their ideas and actions. I have seen videos in which Tunisians from the ISIL were shown. They behave and speak often more like crooks there and not like extremely religious people.“

„They aren’t religious people, that is for sure. They come only for the money. The Muhajirin get a great amount of money.“ (Muhajirin is actually what those Muslims are called who migrated from Mecca to Medina at the time of the Prophet in order to escape the oppression of the rulers of Mecca. It basically means migrants.)

  • „Does the ISIL call foreign fighters Muhajirin?“
  • „Yes, it does.“
  • „Do you know how much they get?“
  • „Between five and six thousand dollars.“
  • „What does a Syrian get from Daech?“
  • „150 dollars.“
  • „Such a big difference?!“ I asked in astonishment.
  • „Yes, they pay only in dollars. The Syrian Lira is not accepted.“
  • „Hasn’t Daech even introduced its own currency?“ I asked.
  • „They have in fact prepared it but haven’t handed it out.“

He took the train to Regensburg to his brother, who has been living in Germany for 25 years.

Translated by Manuela Hoffmann-Maleki

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