Ali’s story

On the road to nowhere  

Ali sits on the bench in the park near the Faculty of Economics in Belgrade, for years now known as “Afghan park”, among refugees that are passing across the Balkan countries. His clothes are worn, shoes in miserable condition. He says he is 25 years old. To the comment that he looks older, he replies that he feels as he is 70 when he remembers all what he has been through and what he has seen in his life. He was born in Mazar-e Sharif, city in north Afghanistan. His father was murdered in 1998, when Taliban occupied Mazar and carried out massacres of the local population. “They said it is a revenge because last year our people from Hezbe Wahdat (armed formation in the civil war in Afghanistan, which consisted mostly of the Hazar, journalist’s comment) captured and killed many Taliban. In fact, they hate us Hazar because we are Shiites, and the Taliban are Sunni Muslims and Pashtuns, they say for us that we are not Muslims but infidels and thus they are killing us. ”

Ali says he does not remember anything from that bloodshed, as if everything is deleted from his brain, but that his mother, older brother and sisters were telling how the Taliban went from house to house, taking out adult men and boys and killing them like dogs on the streets, and raping women and girls.

His father was captured in a battle and they were told that his head was cut off, same as it was done to thousands of others. Ali’s family survived by hiding in the basement for weeks until the first, worst wave of terror passed.

“I was eight when the Americans came in 2001. I remember that some people rejoiced as the Taliban were defeated, but little has changed. Taliban were not on the streets during the day, but they were coming at night, people were still being killed, abducted, tortured, beaten, mother did not dare to let us go to school. Ever since I can remember, I’m afraid of everything. ”

Even when he speaks about the worst experiences in his life, Ali’s voice is flat, seemingly indifferent. A closer look shows the occasional nervous movements of his fingers (shrinking and extending fingers), and the muscles on his cheeks sometimes uncontrollable twitching.


Ali left his country about a year and a half ago. He would leave much earlier, but he had no money. His older brother went to Europe almost four years ago, he reached Germany and then sent money to Ali so he can leave too. “He is still sending me some money occasionally, as much he can.” When asked what the decisive reason for brother, and later for him was to leave their homeland, Ali shrugs his shoulders and says: “Look at the news, sometimes they report what is happening in Afghanistan, when a bomb explodes and kill many people, and we have been living like that forever.”

He was lucky to pass through Iran with the smugglers, well hidden, without problems. “We Hazar are Shiites, same as Iranians, but they look at all Afghans as they are not human, if they caught me they would return me back to Afghanistan.” He says that he arrived to Turkey without being captured at the border, but that he knows a lot of people at who Iranian border police opened fire on the mountains on the Iranian-Turkish border, and some people that were caught by the Turkish border police and forced them to return them to Iran.

“My brother did not want to tell me much about his trip, but he told me that in Macedonia he was in a prison for refugees called Gazi Baba, that there they were beating women and children and men, and that they lived as dogs. He told me that in Macedonia there was a gang led by Afghan man who they called Ali Baba, that kidnapped refugees, imprisoned, beaten and tortured them until their families would sent the ransom. For all these reasons, and because I am afraid of water, I did not dare to take a boat to go to Greece, and I decided to go further from Turkey through Bulgaria.”

Ali tried four times to enter Bulgaria. During the first three attempts he was caught near the border by Bulgarian police and forced to return to Turkey. “There were many of us in the group, 20-30 people each time. Each time we were beaten, all men, women and children were unharmed. They beat us with batons on the legs, back, head, kicked us. Once we were first beaten, and than they took everything we had – phones, money, food, and even bottles with water. They brought us to the border, forced all the men to strip to… underwear, and then chased us to Turkey. Some policemen were laughing. ”

In the fourth attempt he was able to enter more deeply into the territory of Bulgaria, but the police intercepted the group and took them to a refugee camp named Bosmanci. “The camp is actually a prison. Not for humans, looks like it is for animals, dirty, smelly, disgusting food. Sometimes they beat us, just like that, with no reason, slap, fist, if you’re looking for something, asking something …”A month later Ali was transferred to an open camp Voena Rampa. “It was also like a war camp, but at least you could go out, but only in the group. The first time I went to a store with only one countryman, Afghan, and we were ambushed on the street by some Bulgarians who threatened us with knives, they slapped us and took the money that we had with us.

I heard that, two years ago, police in some camp in Bulgaria shot at refugees who protested because they were harassed and because of the conditions in the camp, some were also killed, but I don’t know where it was, I was not there.” When his brother sent enough money, he paid a smuggler and crossed into Serbia, a little more than a year ago.

At the new frontiers

“No one here was abusing or beating me, thanks to Serbia and its people for food, a bed, any assistance, but it is not everything in life, I didn’t come all this way and survived all this to spend my life in a refugee camp,” Ali tells. “At first, I sign up in those lists for a legal move to Hungary, but I realized that as a single person I will never reach my turn to cross. Five times I tried to cross illegally via Hungary. Four times we were caught near the border by Hungarians. Most of the time we were cursed, beaten with batons on the legs, sometimes on the head while they were forcing us back, but for me dogs were the worst. Hungarian police encouraged them to attack us, sometimes to intimidate, sometimes to bite. I was bitten by one. “(Ali shows a scar with traces of teeth on the lower leg) “I could barely walk, they treated me after at the hospital in Subotica.”

“I broke the worst when they caught us, and we’ve already been in the smugglers’ car and far from the border, I celebrated silently because I thought I finally managed to pass. And that time they didn’t even beat us, they only brought us to one gate at the Serbian border and said: ‘Go!’. Then I decided to try over the Croatian border.”

Ali says he stopped counting how many times he tried to illegally enter Croatia long time ago. Endless nights spent in the woods next to the border, smuggling, travel buddies, capture by the Croatian police … it is all mixed up in his head and merged into one. “Sometimes they beat me, sometimes not. They took our phones regularly, sometimes breaking them in front of us. Several times they only brought us to the border, and said: “Go Serbia, no Croatia”, and let us go. Serbian police never beat us.”

After each unsuccessful attempt to cross the border, Ali was returning to the refugee camp where he was staying since he arrived to Serbia, until three months ago. Then he was told that he has been deleted from the list of tenants in the camp because he was not there for a few days and didn’t say to anyone that he is going somewhere. He says without emotions that he is not angry, that they “closed their eyes” several times before, when he stayed out of the camp longer than allowed. “Of course, I know the rules, but I must continue trying to pass on.” When asked where he sleeps since he is out of the camp, he shrugged his shoulders and vaguely pointing to the park and its surroundings. “Everywhere … I manage.” He mentions that he has problems with the kidneys, they hurt and sometimes he has blood in the urine. He went to the doctor several times since he is in Serbia, they told him it was probably from the beating he received, and sleeping in the open, and gave him some medicine.

Ali says that he no longer knows what to think about his life. “I know what I’ve been through and what I’ve seen at home, I know that, sooner or later, I would get killed if I go back, and I know that it will never be better there. But I was never beaten so much as I was since I came to Europe, and I thought this a better world in which I will live as a human. It seems to me that many here in Europe think that we are not humans, like them, and so they behave in such way towards us. I don’t dare even to think about the future.” He will soon try to go through a new road through Bosnia.



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