'We ran away to survive,' say fleeing Afghans
“We do not want to be Taliban soldiers. We ran away for our lives,” an Afghan entering Turkey’s east from the Iranian border told daily Milliyet on July 26.
According to the daily’s feature story, Afghans fleeing their country bypass Iran’s border with Turkey irregularly from the mountainous regions in the midnight hours to avoid attracting attention.
Tatvan district of the eastern province of Bitlis, which lies on the west coast of Turkey’s biggest lake, Van Lake, is the main inbound route for the fleeing Afghans.
An underpass in the Rahva Plain is a meeting point for irregular immigrants. They call the underpass “The old terminal.”
“Here, they wait for the human traffickers to come and take them to [Central Anatolian province of] Konya, [the capital] Ankara or Istanbul,” the daily remarked.
A very significant graffiti hangs on the wall of the underpass, saying, “For the beautiful tomorrows that is not clear what they will bring.”
When asked why they preferred to flee, most said due to “economic poverty” and “life safety.”
“There is no job in Afghanistan. I know people in Istanbul. I want to go there and find a job. I have been on the roads for 18 days,” 27-year-old Muhammed Yusuf said.
“In Afghanistan, we have poverty, on one hand, and the threat of the Taliban on the other. We do not want to die,” he added.
Mustafa Hani, who is 20 years old and has been on the roads for 25 days, said that the only reason why he ran away from his country was the Taliban.
“They want you to be soldiers. If you do not accept, they want your head,” he noted.
With an aim to reach Istanbul, he said, “I will work in Istanbul, earn some money and bring my family here from Afghanistan.”
But this is not the first time 31-year-old Muhammed Arif ran away from his country. Coming to Turkey six years ago and working in a restaurant in Konya, Arif had to return to his home country. But as the Taliban is gaining power, he fled to Turkey once again.
“I will go to the same restaurant to work and bring my family here,” he said.
The cost of this “irregular trip” is $1,000.
According to 28-year-old Abdulkayum Nesim, the amount he gave to human traffickers was all he had saved.
“All my money is gone. We starved on the roads for four days. I will not return to Afghanistan unless the war is over. I am sick of wars,” he stressed, adding that he has been longing for peace for a long time.
“I walked for 30 hours nonstop. Some women died on the roads,” 20-year-old Rahmi Muhammed said, depicting the tragic side of the exodus.
Stating that all he has known is “wars since his birth,” he said that he was fed up with wars and wanted peace.
Most of the Afghans that the daily reporters have interviewed talked about staying in Turkey. However, with no more than a handful of people, some want to reach Europe.
“I will go to Europe after making some money here,” Hani said.