She looks away and shrugs in a matter-of-fact manner whilst I catch flies with my shocked open mouth.
“A MOUNTAIN? You walked from Syria to Kurdistan and climbed over a mountain to get here? Alone?”
“Well, I didn’t have many other nicer choices,” she replies as her typically beautiful middle eastern eyes can no longer hide the sadness that she feels.
I was at a Couchsurfing Party last June in northern Iraq (Erbil), hosted by a bunch of enthusiastic, welcoming and cordial Iranians. (Sidenote; Iranian food is delicious). I found myself around five-star, fun people – but it wasn’t that easy to be full on party mode after meeting my new Syrian friends and hearing how and why they were in Kurdistan.
I felt like I had entered a matrix and I was craving the blue pill of ignorance, as what I was hearing was so sad and way beyond any kind of oppression I could ever comprehend. I spoke to one Syrian couple who received a text message from their own government informing them to get the hell out of there within the week, or they will be ‘treated as rebels.’ (I’ll leave that one up to your own imagination).
Others received pamphlets dropped from the sky, all with the same message; your country is not your home anymore. Leave, or be killed…
It really is that simple. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard a horrific asylum seeker story on the road and every time it I do it concretes my absolute disdain for blind asylum seeker/immigrant hate. I see it all the time when refugees drown in leaky boats, in ludicrously dangerous, choppy waters trying to get their feet on Australia soil – the vitriol towards these desperate beings is abundant.
The anger aimed towards these people who are willing to risk death (or who are already dead) has always been so alarming to me. I find it so ugly and non-human to react like this, and before the predictable defence cry; “crazy leftie/liberal/hippy/socialist,” first, realise how monotonous, repetitive and lazy your argument is.
Then try and put yourself in the shoes of someone who has to leave everything and everyone they have ever known. Look into your children’s, parent’s, or lover’s eyes and imagine the anguish of being apart from them, or being solely responsible for them living or dying. You hear that rebel and government soldiers are taking their pick of women and taking turns raping them. Are you really going to chance that with someone who you love? Fancy hanging around when those bullets and bombs are an every day occurrence?
What are you going to choose? Could you live with making the wrong decision?
It’s clearly a no-brainer.
I’m not suggesting an open-bordered asylum seeker circle jerk free-for-all, or that governments are inherently bad for trying to control it with a system. I’m not claiming that some foreigners aren’t up to no good and I’m sure there are more than a few aiming for an easy ride. I’m pragmatic along with my sensitivity and this situation is a messy business indeed.
I’m simply calling out to the empathy that I know is within (most of) you. To the child who hated seeing others in pain before the bullshit loud noises confused your senses and stifled your compassion. That exact compassion that is in most people, which we feel for those who need it the most. In times of economic disparity we look for someone to blame and generally it’s easier to point the finger at someone who is weaker than us, rather than to look to someone who is broken to the point of desperation and just appreciate them for doing all they could to survive.
I can’t think of many things more disgustingly elitist than saying to someone; I was lucky enough to win the geographic lottery and you didn’t – so f**k you, stay where you are and don’t try and better yourself, or keep your family safe.
When the irrational burning fire of hatred calms down, just remember it could have easily have been you, and what would you have done if it was?