Purged Turkish NATO Officer discusses Asylum Limbo

After the failed coup in Turkey, more than 200 NATO officers, including almost all Turkish diplomats stationed in Brussels’ headquarters, were ordered to return to their country. Firat’s* Turkish bank accounts were immediately frozen, his diplomatic passport was revoked and his university diploma was cancelled. He is saddened that NATO has barely responded to this. Firat applied for asylum in Belgium, and is expecting a decision from the Belgian authorities

The ex-officer testifies from his heart about the rule of law, how he experienced the coup far away in Belgium, and his new status as a pariah. For security reasons he wishes to remain anonymous.

NATO officers purged in Turkey

The failed coup of 15 July 2016 was a turning point in the lives of various Turks. Besides the shockwave this news created, the Turkish government took drastic measures to to crush dissent. The media was tarnished and more than 100.000 people in the public sector, including teachers and judges, were fired because they allegedly pledged their allegiance to Fethullah Gülen (the alleged brain behind the coup).

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How a Syrian Director opened a Restaurant in Antwerp

One rarely meets people who can incite others with their strength and zeal for life. Sally Ghannoum is such a person. One year and a half after her arrival in Belgium, she managed to establish a Syrian restaurant with the help of dozens of new friends.

We met at Dilbi Falafel in Antwerp while savouring the tasty cuisine. It soon became clear that Sally had more to offer than just oriental dishes. One could refer to her as the embodiment of successful integration.

In the heart of the Arabic neighbourhood

Dilbi Falafel is not exactly a business you’ll stumble upon, but there has been a steady growth of customers through word of mouth. It’s located at Diepstraat 60, about a ten minute walk from the train station of Antwerp. Suppressing my first impulse of entering the shopping street (known as ‘De Meir’), I made my way towards the Arabic neighbourhood. Sally dreams about a big restaurant at ‘de Groenplaats’, but for the moment she settles for her cosy restaurant. And she’s right. The location might even add to its charm.

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“I just Want a Travel Visa to Turkey”

Hussein has travelled alone from Aleppo, Syria, to Germany. He has already achieved a level of B1 in German and is currently refining his language skills. His life in Europe is pretty good. The only thing that is difficult for him, is the separation from his family (Hussein’s brother and parents live in Turkey). He’s in touch with them, but can’t get a visa for a visit.

“To be be separated from each other isn’t easy, but there’s nothing we can do. I made the choice to come here (Germany, ed.). And I have never regretted it. It’s good here. I must bear the consequences of my choices.

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Governments Should Give Refugees Netflix to Make Language Learning Fun

RefuTales-founder Sajida Altaya not only wants to share her opinion, but also give a taste of her culture – quite literally. According to her, you get to know a person through their kitchen. Proudly, she invited her co-founders to her family home in Stuttgart for a typical Syrian dinner.

We learned that her sister Heba has a totally opposite view on the importance of learning the local language. 

A sister’s quibble

With the help of her daughters, Sajida’s mother Waheba was responsible for the cooking. They spared neither cost nor effort: guests are cared for to perfection, serving fresh tabbouleh, stuffed vegetables, soups and homemade fries. In between, we enjoyed cakes, fruit juice, tea and Syrian coffee. It was delicious.

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Belgian Refugee Camp Fed Us With Butter as Meals Were Insufficient

Architect Sara* and software engineer Saïd* married before fleeing Syria for Europe. They have been granted asylum and are living in a small but cozy Belgian apartment. He is enrolled in a Masters in Computer Science, she in an intensive Dutch course. They were so kind to invite us into their home, where they enlightened us about the living conditions in Belgian refugee camps.

Belgian reception Camp

Food

Sara shrugs her shoulders. “We were often hungry. If we ever had some money left, we bought chocolate. I would have rather eaten pasta, but we didn’t have cooking facilities in the camp.”

“The camp management knew that the canteen meals weren’t enough to fill our stomachs, so they gave us an ice cream sized scoop of butter with every meal, three times a day”

Her husband jumps in: “The food they served us was barely eatable, and it was hardly enough for a woman, let alone a man. The camp management knew that the canteen meals weren’t enough to fill our stomachs, so they gave us an ice cream sized scoop of butter with every meal, three times a day. It was disgusting. Sara got sick and needed to consult a doctor. He prescribed to change her diet, but the organization wouldn’t let her.”

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Syrian Scientist Refugee: Belgian Integration Courses Aren’t About Integration

Architect Sara* and software engineer Saïd* married before fleeing Syria for Europe. They have been granted asylum and are living in a small but cozy Belgian apartment. He is enrolled in a Masters in Computer Science, she in an intensive Dutch course. They were so kind to invite us into their home, where they enlightened us about their struggles to find a job.

Warm welcome

Easy-going thirtysomethings Saïd and Sara had agreed to meet us in their Belgian apartment. Having never met them before, we had no idea what to expect. A small lift took us all the way to the top of a high-rise housing block, building up the tension we already felt. This was our first real interview.

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Insights of a young Syrian woman in Europe—Part III: Crime and integration

In Parts I and II of our interview series with Sajida, we talked about the asylum procedure and culture shocks. Now the story continues. The third and final part deals with sexual assaults, learning German, and her fight to carry on with her university studies in Europe.

Part III: Crime and integration

Last time we talked about disrespect. What went through your mind when you heard about the assaults during New Year’s Eve in Cologne?

“I was shocked, of course!

It took a while before the news reached our camp. Because none of my neighbors followed the news, I learned about it by hearsay. It was tough. I repeatedly asked myself, why? Why would anyone do that? I didn’t get it. I still don’t. I know that humans are capable of atrocities. Just look at what’s happening in Syria… but mass sexual assault? No, I couldn’t grasp it. My heart was bleeding.

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Insights of a young Syrian woman in Europe—Part II: Adapting

In Part I of our interview series with Sajida, we talked about her arrival in Germany. Now the story continues. Part II of this three part series deals with the asylum procedure, safety and culture shocks and her trying to adapt to the new situation.

PART II: Adapting

What was the asylum procedure like?

“When we arrived in Germany, we filled out basic paperwork to apply for asylum. Over the following months, we were asked to provide more information about who we were, where we came from and why we wanted asylum. As we could prove that we had come from Syria, we didn’t need to fill out further papers. Others, who didn’t have the appropriate prove of identity had to go into more depth.

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Insights of a young Syrian woman in Europe—Part I: Arrival

In this grappling interview, Refutales founder Sajida Altaya shares her experiences as a refugee in Europe with her co-founders Dorien Dierckx and Cornelius Roemer. Part I of this three part series deals with her journey to Germany and the first months there.

Part I: Arrival

Why did you leave Syria?

“My family and I didn’t feel secure there anymore. In the summer of 2014, the town I grew up in, about an hour drive south of Damascus, turned into a place of fighting between the government’s forces and rebels. As a result, we moved to Damascus itself in the hope that things were quieter there.

But even there, the situation was dangerous so after a month we decided to flee to Europe like many others. It just wasn’t possible to carry on with regular life anymore. My sister decided to stay with her husband in Damascus, however we took her 9-year-old daugther with us, in the hope that my sister could follow later. She and her daughter are now separated for more than two years.

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