Gamla Stan Survival Pictures Selling In Turkey – NRK Urix – Foreign News & Documentaries

Gamla Stan Survival Pictures Selling In Turkey - NRK Urix - Foreign News & Documentaries

«I can not stop crying. My eyes are just tears. I am looking and looking for a future. The years in Sweden – The past years in Kabul. Now again on the run.»

Muhammad’s words. The Swede speaks fluently about his feelings as an immigrant from Afghanistan since his asylum application was rejected.

I met him in the dormitory he rents on the Asian side of Istanbul.

The room smelled of damp and mould. On the light blue walls hung acrylic pictures drawn by the 29-year-old. From Gamla Stan in Stockholm, sheep and red houses.

Missing: Muhammad talks to his girlfriend in Afghanistan almost every day.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

They told him he was selling it to his supporters in Sweden. It gives him some income, because he is not allowed to work in Turkey even though he was allowed to stay for another year.

In the next room, two mattresses are on the floor and bear witness to the other young Afghans who live here. They are just waiting for the next opportunity to be smuggled across the border into Greece like their brother. He lives in Sweden. Mohamed will try again.

old town

GAMLA STAN: Gamla Stan is one of the many pictures Muhammad sold.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

Blogs about escape

Mohamed was one of more than a million refugees and migrants who flocked to Europe in 2015.

He went by rubber boat to Greece, walked across the border to Macedonia, and took a train to Serbia and north through Germany and Denmark. Finally he came to Malmö, Sweden. 162,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden that year. Five times more than in Norway.

But Muhammad was not allowed to stay. Four years later he was sent to Kabul. They left there again when the Taliban took over last year. and has Blog about escaped life.

«The smuggler’s first question is how many family members are there? When I answered four, he said it would cost $1,300 per person to take them to Turkey from Afghanistan. It’s a friend award. He says he can ensure the progress of the family. I just pay. He seems so confident it’s like talking to a travel agency booking tickets with a stop and asking if we had any wishes about food.»

Afghans in the dormitory kitchen

Waiting: Muhammad shares a dormitory apartment with other Afghans, who also want to go to Europe.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

Environmental workers in Istanbul

One of the first things I noticed when I came to Istanbul as a reporter this summer was all Afghans.

They were very visible in the street scene. Many have found a livelihood consisting of digging in the garbage for cardboard and plastic to sell at recycling stations.

With large bags on wheels, they can weigh up to 100 kilograms per day and a small change of money.

Illegal Afghans, along with Turkish Kurds and Gypsies, have a monopoly on waste sorting in the big city.

Garbage container

Environmental workers: Waste sorting on the streets of Istanbul provides an income for some migrants.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

But after extensive police raids, their number is now reduced. Thousands have been returned to Kabul or are waiting in large deportation centers.

They are not wanted here in Turkey, which has more than 3.6 million Syrians living here. With an estimated 400,000 Afghanis on top of that, almost all of them illegal, Turkey has the largest number of refugees and migrants in the world.

This record is not least due to the agreement that the country entered into with the European Union in November 2015.

garbage sorting

Heavy perforations: the bags can weigh more than 100kg in one day.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

The EU agreement changed everything

I covered the summit in Brussels myself, when enthusiastic EU President Donald Tusk announced that a deal was in the works.

Until then, people feared that the entire passport-free Schengen cooperation would collapse. For 20 years after becoming passport-free, several European countries have again introduced border controls due to the influx of refugees.

Earlier that fall, I had stood at the water’s edge at sunrise and watched one inflatable boat after another cross the strait from Turkey to Lesvos in Greece.

A 9-10-year-old boy jumped into the water before the puff of air reached the ground, and he smiled. A mother and her child sat in her lap and cried with joy.

boy on the beach

COMFORT: A Syrian child smiles happily upon landing in the fall of 2015.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

Two young sisters cautiously returned to the water in clothes and shoes to see if the sea was really as dangerous as the adults wanted it to be.

They weren’t the first to arrive. On the shore was a mountain of life jackets and rubber boats, and among the torn stones were Afghan passports.

life jackets

Sobelberg: life jackets and inflatable boats on the island of Lesvos in the fall of 2015.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

A Turkish coast guard ship swayed a few kilometers off the coast. It does not appear to be their responsibility.

But by the end of the year, Turkey agreed to introduce more border controls in exchange for lots of money from the European Union and the promise of visa freedom for Turks. Only the last one did not come to fruition.

EU President Tusk believes the agreement was not to add a stone to the burden on Turkey, which was already sheltering more than two million Syrian refugees. This was a mutual agreement.

Afghan passport on the beach

Passport destroyed: One of several Afghan passports lying on the beach in the fall of 2015.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

Unpopular in Turkey

But there has been plenty of water between Greece and Turkey since 2015.

The Turkish economy is deteriorating and refugees are becoming less popular.

Syrians are blamed for the pressure on wages, rising rents and unemployment.

Many Turks also expressed concerns that the large Arab migration would change Turkish culture in the long run.

One of them is student Bekir Taskomor.

He stands fishing along the banks of the Bosphorus with his hat back.

He says Turkish women are increasingly being harassed by Arabs, Afghans and Syrians alike.

He says social media is full of such stories. Although it does not affect him directly, it is believed that it is a challenge to society.

– If there were a hundred thousand Syrians here, things would have been fine, but now there are too many, he thinks.


A culture of fear: Bekir Taskumur fears that Turkey will change in a more Islamic direction because of all the refugees and immigrants.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

In the café, barista Anil Coca serves me a hot cup of cappuccino. He says he has to compete for the job with low-paid Syrians.

Now he wants to travel from Turkey to France, because it has become impossible to live on his salary here.

The 67-year-old selling simit bread from a kiosk along the port believes the Syrians are to blame for his son’s failure to get a job.


Work refugee: Anil Koca believes the Syrians are cutting his salary and plans to travel to Paris to work there.

Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

– But it is wrong to bully them for this, because they are also human, he says.

The Syrians themselves find themselves in a legally forbidden zone. In Turkey, only European citizens can apply for asylum and obtain refugee status.

They’re here as guests, but they don’t have a home to go back to.

Not part of the world

Although Turkey has transformed from a transit country into a country where flights are halted due to extensive border controls on both sides, it has not crushed the dream of Europe.

Muhammad cannot give up hope that one day he will create a future in a country other than Afghanistan. Here in Turkey, he doesn’t believe in any future either.

But before he travels any further, he will go to Afghanistan, marry his girlfriend and try to smuggle her in with him.

I ask how realistic he will be that he will think he needs protection next time.

– I am being threatened by my blog, and I have no other choice but to leave, he says and adds.

– You live in a good world that I am not allowed to participate in. What would you do if you were in my place?

Mohamed put it into words on his blog.

«In the past week, the idea has grown that I am not a part of this world. Nobody wants me here on earth. If I was a criminal, I knew the authorities were after me, but I’m not. I am basically a positive person. People I know describe me as kind. Why does it have to be this way? Why don’t I have a country where I can live and feel at home?»

Acrylic painting is a hobby and income
Photo: Åse Marit Befring / NRK

See also  Wilder, Wilder, Wilders
Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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