Voices of Notara. Part 9: “I tell my children, don’t be afraid”

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.

9. “Madar-e-mehraban” (kind mother)

We arrived in Greece half way through 2017, and we’ve been living in Notara all this time. I have four children under 18, and one who is grown up now.

First of all, we went to City Plaza squat, because my brother had been living there. But they asked us for our government asylum papers, and we didn’t have them so they wouldn’t let us stay. They sent us to Spyro Trikoupi squat, but Spyro Trikoupi was full, so they took our names but told us to try Notara.

After waiting three days, Notara called us and said there was a room. I was really happy to get a room here, because I had heard that the camps were really bad, with a lot of violence. Here people are respectful, and they have rules, such as a silence time for sleeping. People here take a lot of care about children, and there is an assembly every week where we meet together to fix our problems.

Sometimes new families arrive and they don’t feel good because they have heard bad things about living in the squats. So I go to speak with them and tell them not to worry, everything is okay here.

What are your thoughts about the current situation?

I really hope Notara won’t be evicted. But my attitude is that I will continue to live my life normally and not think about it too much. If the police come, they come. I won’t change my life and live in fear, I have to carry on.

One of my sons is two years old, he says “can we go to live with grandma, because there we will be safe?” But I tell my children – “don’t worry, don’t be afraid.” I say to my son – “the police aren’t going to hurt us, they won’t hit you, they just want to give us another home.” He’s only two years old, I have to tell him that.

I don’t think it can be the end of Notara, because the anarchist ideas never die. They are always here trying to protect refugees and help immigrants. If the police evict us, the anarchists will open another squat to help people like before.

What do you think about the Greek anarchists you have met?

Before I came to Notara I had never heard anything about anarchists. Since living here, I’ve come to understand what is their idea. They don’t care about nationality, they just want to help all people. I want to say thank you to them. In the future, if I go to other countries in western Europe, I will try to find anarchists there and I will do what I can to help them too.

Myself, I am a Muslim. But I think we have similar ideas in our religion too. We also have the idea, it is in the Koran, that there are no borders between countries, that people are the same no matter their race or nationality.

What does Notara mean to you?

The home of the homeless. Just that.