This is one in a series of interviews with people involved in the Notara 26 squat in Exarcheia, Athens. The struggle for the free spaces here is made up of people with very different backgrounds, life stories and ideas. We aim to record people’s own words without imposing our views – though of course we can’t escape our own perspectives, or the limits of translation.
1: “Javid” (the immortal)
In my country, Afghanistan, people in my family told me – “leave Afghanistan and go to Europe. There you will find a better life for you and your child, it is safe there, and you can find a way to make a living.”
We had a very difficult journey to get here. Particularly coming from Iran to Turkey, twice we were caught by the Turkish police crossing the mountains because our baby was only a month old and started crying. It was so dark and hard walking through the mountains, the baby was so weak and tired, death was in front of our eyes. The second time, the police beat me unconscious. My wife wept and begged for them to let me go. In the end, we had to give them our money and phones to let us through.
Eventually we arrived here in Greece. We asked for help to find somewhere to live, but they told us – you must have papers, and we didn’t have papers. The only place we found that would help us was a squat, Spyro Trikoupi in Exarchia. We were there for two and a half months. Then the police came and evicted the squat. That was on 24 August.
What happened to you after Spyro Trikoupi was evicted?
They arrested us and put us in prison, in the closed prison camp of Amygdaleza. In the prison camp they told us: if you want to be released, you have to apply for asylum here in Greece. So we agreed, and signed the papers to apply to stay in Greece.
Then one night, after we’d been in the prison for 50 days, they came in the middle of the night. They put us on a bus and took us out of the camp. They drove us out of the city, to the middle of nowhere, and released us. They said: go, you are free.
We walked for 10 kilometres back to a town. We didn’t know where to go. We went to Skaramagas refugee camp and asked for a place to stay there, but they said they didn’t have room for us. We were sleeping out in the open, being eaten by the mosquitoes.
How did you come to Notara?
So, because of the time we spent in Spyro Trikoupi, I knew about Notara. We came here and asked if they could help us. Two or three days after we came here, they gave us a room to live in.
Here in Notara we have water, gas, electricity. To rent a place would cost something like 300 Euros, and we don’t have that. We get nothing from the state. They asked me to register for a cashcard, but I’m waiting and it hasn’t come. We don’t get any support from anyone, and my family in Afghanistan aren’t able to help us.
“Only the squats have been here for us”
We had an interview for our asylum case. They told us: “no, what the police told you is wrong. We need to give you a new date for an interview.” The new date is in 2022! Until then, we are stuck in this situation.
What I want to say is that the state, the charities, the NGOs, none of them have done anything for us. We’ve been round many agencies and charities. They just say: “we can’t do anything for you”. Or they say: “we’ll put you on a list”. Only the squats have been here for us.
What does Notara mean for you?
Notara is a place with people who care about other people. They especially care about our child, and the other children. Here we have meetings, assemblies, where everyone is involved, and we try to make decisions correctly, with justice.
Something that is very good: there is no nationalism here, no racism or patriotism. When we were in the prison camp all the time the police were calling to us “Taliban, Taliban, Mullah Omar”, because we come from Afghanistan. Here we are free of all that.