“Get the Money, Get the Money!”

15-20th March, 2013

Some kids and a monkey in a park in Zeytinburnu

Some kids and a monkey in a park in Zeytinburnu

After leaving Barış’s apartment, I go to live with Jane and her friends in Mafia’s place, just around the corner in a different part of Zeytinburnu. It’s another world.

Jane and I share a room with Mafia and his partner, our friend Helen. There are two other rooms in the flat. One, which under different circumstances would probably be a lounge, is occupied by Mafia’s brother, their sister, her husband, their 6 year old daughter Farzana, and an adult male relative, probably somebody’s cousin.

The third room is occupied by a fluctuating number of boys who, like Mafia and his family, have fled from Afghanistan. The boys, mostly young teenagers, came to Turkey unaccompanied and are all working in the textile sweatshop down the road, trying to scrape a living and hopefully save up enough to continue their journey – to Greece and beyond. The textile factory bosses are known for not paying their child labourers and Mafia is often heard booming – “Get the money, get the money!” before storming out of the flat to fight a sweatshop boss or demand payment for one or other of the kids.

Farzana pours me some juice

Farzana pours me some juice

Farzana’s deep brown eyes stare into mine. Her outstreched arm clutches a tetrapack of orange juice. “Oh, yes please!” I tell her. She doesn’t understand the words, but she delicately unscrews the small plastic cap and pours the juice into a cup. Placing the carton back on the floor, she lifts the cup with both hands and holds it out to me. When everyone has juice, Farzana busies herself dusting surfaces with a scrap of cloth from the pile we found at the bottom of the stairs.

Fight!Mafia kicks Jane. She jumps up and lunges herself at him, pounding him on the back. He laughs and swings her to the floor. She grabs a leg and starts beating it. He pins her to the ground, then grabs her neck and cracks it to one side. “Aaaaarrrgh, that’s not fair!” she yells, before collapsing in giggles.

If Mafia and his brother are anything to go by, cracking various body parts is the national pastime in Afghanistan. They are constantly cracking themselves and other people. Mafia can even crack his own skull.

Farzana, her mother, father and the possible cousin, leave early one morning to catch a boat to Greece with people smugglers. They are taken to one of the Greek islands, where they wander around waiting to be arrested and call Mafia nervously. They have met some people who have offered to help them, but don’t know whether to trust them or not. Mafia tells them not to trust anybody. “Don’t worry”, he tells them, “just walk around and sooner or later you will be arrested.”

Farzana does many drawings while in the house with us. Some of them are of crossing borders and asylum procedures, others we have no idea about.

One thought on ““Get the Money, Get the Money!”

  1. Farzana drawings really touched me. It makes me sad and angry to read about her and the teenage boys. Did Farzana and her family made it into the eu? If you are still there or have contact to them you can maybe give them this page: http://www.w2eu.info/

    I’m in Greece at the moment. Especially in Athens are so many immigrants living on the streets and a lot of poverty. reading the news I thought I’d meet a lot of racism, but rather i met a lot of great people actually caring for the immigrants. gives me big hope and i hope that Farzana and her family will meet nice people, too.

    and I wanted to ask you: why do they have to get arrested in Greece? In order to make an application for asylum?

    btw, I really like your blog and enjoy reading your posts a lot.

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