26 February 2018
LESVOS: No one is an Island
by Chihchun Yuan
On 12 February, in the city center of Mytilene, Lesvos Island, a social gathering remembered the Syrian civilians who lost their lives in a recent bombing. In the past weeks, Turkish-sanctioned airstrikes have killed and injured hundreds of civilians in Afrin, Syria. The Kurdish civilians who live there are trying to establish social safety by forming an autonomous territory. The CPT-Lesvos team helped distribute this message and engage nearby pedestrians in conversations about it.
In a conversation about the effects Turkish military aggression has on refugees trying to enter the European Union (EU), one medical practitioner shared their observation about a rescue mission operated by the authorities. Our contact witnessed, for example, the Turkish coast guard approaching the refugees’ dinghy boat in a very intimidating way. Because of the EU-Turkey statement, the Turkish government has received money from EU to stop the refugee boats from entering Greece. This collaboration between the EU and Turkey is especially worrisome since Turkey is also the country launching the attacks that are causing these people to flee their homeland. There is a direct correlation between the refugee crisis in the EU and the attacks happening in Syria, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries.
The EU has implemented this policy of sending the refugees to third “safe” country. By placing the EU behind the “third countries,” the EU is excluding itself from international responsibility and violating its culture of human rights. Who are these “safe countries”? They include Turkey as well as countries in North America. Almost every year, the United Nations, EU commissions, and the U.S. State Department publish human rights reports or humanitarian reports to address the political and social instability in those so-called “safe third countries”; in spite of these reports, many white politicians have no guilt in placing their responsibilities on the shoulders of people of the color.
Turkey, for example, has been involved in attacking minority groups in Syria, and has implemented policies to oppress the rights of civilians internally, which negatively affects the strength of the civil society. For hosting refugees, civil society’s efforts are vital. See a related evaluation in Country of Origin Information Report Turkey Country Focus, published by European Asylum Support Office.
CPT-Lesvos Team would like our supporters to continue paying attention to the military actions and the global political agenda of white hegemony, and to support the grassroots organizations around you. We need to strengthen the capacity of civil society. As Haruki Murakami said, “If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg…to fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us — create who we are. It is we who created the system.” (Haruki Murakami cautions against excluding outsiders, The Guardian, Nov. 1, 2016)