«Every woman I meet, knows Merkel’s name.»


Charlotte Riedel is one of our great volunteers at Bashira Centre on Lesvos. She took her time to give you a little insight on how things are going. But read yourself! And in case, you would like to volunteer for SAO on Lesvos or Athens as well, write us! You are welcome to apply, if you are a woman and can stay at least for four weeks. We are looking forward to hearing from you! «I am very happy with my work at Bashira and the warm atmosphere here. But I am sad and angry that here in Europe there is a need for Centres like Bashira.» «I had a little success last week: I was sitting in the living room of Bashira, surrounded by women of all ages knitting, chatting, drinking tea or just dozing. The door to the yard was open, as always. The sunlight, falling through the leaves of the lemon trees, painted dancing patterns on the floor. The fan swirled the air of the living room. I sat next to a crocheting woman. In broken Persian I slowly said: “Very beautiful!”. She smiled and asked me where I learned Persian. We had a little, slow talk. She was a patient listener, excusing my mistakes and I was happy that she kept asking, because very often I do not know what to ask, although I want to talk. In Bashira we try to make the women feel as comfortable as we can. Therefore, we avoid triggering topics, like private questions about family and friends.

But one question is rather difficult for me: “Where are you from?”, “Germany.”, “Ohh!”. It is always the same reaction. Sparkling eyes, like those of children on Christmas Eve, looking at me as if I came from praised land to lead them their way. And there am I: cursing the German policy of the last years, maneuvering between the questions, trying not to dash nor to awake hopes: “How is life there? As a woman? Will I get asylum? When will I get it? Will I find a job? Can I study in English?” Often my answer is: “I do not know”, because that is the only thing really know. Every woman I meet, knows Merkel’s name. What they do not know is that things have changed in Germany.

Mutti (‘mother’, German nickname for Merkel) said that everybody is welcome. But which mother would tell her children who fled from hunger and war, who were trapped on islands like Lesvos, in camps like Moria, who lost siblings on their way to a better life, that their country has been declared a “safe country of origin” and that they will be sent back “home”. No mother would. Nobody would when they’re in the spotlight. These facts are agreed on behind locked doors. If people knew, they would not come. And the truth is, refugees are not welcome in Europe, otherwise a center like Bashira would not be necessary, because inhuman camps like Moria would not exist. I am very happy with my work at Bashira and the warm atmosphere here. But I am sad and angry that here in Europe there is a need for Centres like Bashira.»

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