A Shared Future: the Chinese Volunteers Helping Syrian Refugees

澎湃新闻

中文 English

Editor’s Note

This article originally appeared in the Chinese media outlet 澎湃新闻. It describes the experiences of two Peking University students who took part in “Shared Future”, a project aimed at sending young Chinese volunteers to Turkey to help the many Syrian refugees on the run from the civil war that is ripping their country apart. This project is the first one of its kind run by Chinese organizations, and we hope that more will follow. 

 

Since the “Arab Spring” begun in 2010, extremism and escalating civil wars in the Middle East have led to significant death and destruction. The violence has taken the lives of 180,000 Iraqis and 470,000 Syrians. Furthermore, 6.5 million Syrians have been displaced internally, and another 4.8 million have fled the country. Under the coordination of the United Nations, many entities have participated in humanitarian efforts for refugees, with NGOs and civic groups playing major roles.

This kind of work is rather unfamiliar territory to many Chinese people.

In Turkey, one of the primary destinations for these refugees, the government has established refugee camps to handle the influx of people. However, the majority of Syrian refugees have not taken shelter in these camps. Rather, most live amongst the general population. Fittingly, humanitarian efforts targeted at these refugees are broken down into two types: assistance for those at refugee camps, and assistance for those living in the community. The Turkish government and the UN Refugee Office are responsible for helping the refugee camp population. Out of concern for the protection of refugees, only UN bodies or NGOs working in cooperation with the UN are allowed into the camps. Other NGOs are not permitted at the camps. With regard to refugees living amongst the general populace, with the exception of public services and facilities provided by the government of Turkey, help primarily comes from NGOs.

“The strong development of Turkey’s NGO sector is a fairly recent phenomenon”, Nizip’s YUVA project manager Tara told us.

Many Muslim scholars believe what the Middle East needs are effective social and economic strategies and policies in order to address the complex, non-religious factors behind this violence and its harsh impact. They also believe cultural, racial, and religious factors should be considered, but that these are not the main reasons behind the problems of unemployment and marginalization.

This is also the “point of departure” for many NGOs.

According to a report by the Center for the Advancement of International Law, Chinese civil society is still in the “exploratory phase” when it comes to internationalization. Most overseas activity is led by civil society organizations with a government background, while international participation by independent groups remains fairly weak. This is due to a lack of four things: dedicated offices, specialized personnel, regular project work, and stable sources of funding. In many Chinese internet forums people have expressed the belief that the country should deal with its domestic problems first before addressing foreign problems, and disapprove of NGOs providing help overseas.

The “Shared Future” project is China’s first volunteer effort for refugees in Turkey organized through official channels. As such, it can be seen as a pioneering project.

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Volunteers and refugees taking a photo together in the border regions between Turkey and Syria. In the center is Ken Yang, fourth from the right is Yuan Man. The person taking the picture is named Youssef

The humanitarian assistance and development project is sponsored and jointly led by the Refugee Law and Policy Research Group of the Center for the Advancement of International Law and the China Youth Foundation. The project is aimed at advancing the participation of Chinese youth in international exchanges and improving the lives of refugee children. It has become a real force in the realm of global humanitarian assistance and a visible sign of Chinese youth assuming a greater share of the burden of international responsibility. Currently, the project’s major activities are aimed at bringing young Chinese to Turkey, where they can provide education and other support to refugee children.

The Center for the Advancement of International Law was established in 2012 as an independent domestic NGO. It aims to promote and enhance Chinese participation and influence in the areas of international law and justice, giving China a greater voice than it previously enjoyed.

What exactly the Chinese can do is the question two volunteers, Ken Yang and Yuan Man, set out to find an answer to. One of them is a student of international law. The other is fluent in Arabic, has been to a refugee camp in Jordan, and is Muslim herself. Nevertheless, the trip was still full of surprises.

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View from the volunteers’ commute. A lone pistachio tree is visible sprouting from the dry earth in early spring. Photographer: Ken Yang

 

Tara

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Tara lives alone with her four cats. Photographer: Li Dan, journalist for The Paper news

After flying from Istanbul to the Syrian border, the volunteers were greeted not only by the bone-dry landscape, but also by Tara’s warm hospitality.

Tara is the only older person in YUVA and an American West Coast leftist, but she is very down to earth. She has always been committed to action, asking: “are you an armchair activist blowing hot air from a prestigious school, or do you choose to act?”

She originally planned to stay just one or two years in Turkey, and never imagined that 25 years later she would still be there. At the border town of Gaziantep, Americans are rare. Ken Yang said that some locals see NGOs as unwelcome foreign interventionists, or as “outside agitators”. When Tara was asked whether she is seen this way as an American doing NGO work in Turkey, she responded by saying that she is not an “agitator”, but rather, an activist.

Ten years ago, she went to Afghanistan to participate in training. She did not dare tell their parents, only notifying her father upon arrival at the airport. Her father wondered aloud how he would inform her mother. Her mother, however, reacted by saying “Tara went to do what she believes in.” Tara felt very lucky.

In Turkey, she first attended the University of Istanbul to educate and train other in the work of civil society. After leaving the university, she began running a female empowerment organization, believing strongly “that women should be able to safely go home alone.” She also sought to help those who have never been employed to earn their first paychecks. Later she met her Turkish partner, and together they founded YUVA, which means “home”. With some funds they began their work, choosing initially to focus only on environmental protection and civil rights.

In 2013, the worsening situation in Syria drove a large number of refugees to seek safety over the border. The Greek island of Lesbos sits near the western coast of Turkey. It is home to a very high concentration of refugees. In 2015, the number of refugees began to rise rapidly, and the crisis saw thousands of people crossing the border every day. Many attempted to make the perilous voyage on rickety boats, leading to many deaths. One day, a Syrian man came to Lesbos to identify and claim five bodies. This was heartbreaking for Tara.

Unable to stop them from boarding, she wanted to give them fewer reasons to board the boats and more reasons to stay in Turkey. YUVA began to provide community-based informal school curricula for refugees. “There is no single solution, we just want them to live happier and more dignified lives.” They organize all sorts of activities to promote the integration of Arabs and Turks, such as song, dance, and football. Both Syrians and Turks are invited to these events.

Tara is well aware of the difficulty of being a “pioneer,” which is why she warmly received the first batch of volunteers from China. “The strong development of Turkey’s NGO sector is a very recent trend, and now there are more international projects that are very encouraging, including your arrival.” She reminds us that as a volunteer, you must speak the local language and have a certain understanding of the existing local systems.

 

YUVA

Turkey’s NGO sector is diverse, and research last year by the Director of the Center for the Advancement of International Law helped paint a full picture of how the various refugee-focused NGOs work. The larger local NGO in Gaziantep is called ASAM (Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants). As an executive partner of the UNHCR’s Office in Turkey, it carries out some of UNHCR’s duties. It also provides refugees and asylum seekers with psychological counselling and legal advice to help them access education, healthcare and other basic rights and services.

In order to integrate refugees into the local area, and to help them cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), they invited Turkish painting masters to teach children to paint. Each time, five Syrian children and five Turkish children were brought together to learn and paint together. ASAM cooperates with the Center for the Advancement of International Law, and last year the organizations displayed and auctioned off 50 of the center’s paintings in China.

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Art exhibition card

The current dilemma is that Turkish schools are unable to provide adequate educational resources for refugee children, and some refugee families are unable to financially support their children’s formal education. Some refugee children even take up jobs to help support their families. Many NGOs have become aware of the urgent need for informal education, such as that provided by YUVA.

Tara said: “We cannot change their lives, we can only make them happier and stronger, so that they can change their own lives.” This has become a real community and a home, and many people spend a lot of time here. On the first day the volunteers arrived, they were warmly welcomed by both the staff and the refugees. One man came to speak, but after just a few words it was apparent he came to ask for money, putting the staff in an awkward and embarrassing situation. One of them said that they “do not want refugees to develop a mentality of dependence on handouts. “

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On the first day, the director of the vocational center and a refugee boy came to welcome the Chinese volunteers. Source: Li Dan, news correspondent for the Paper

YUVA has two centers in Nizip: a Community Center and a Skills Training Center. The former, through the efforts of social workers, seeks primarily to protect the refugees and provide psychological support. The latter aims to equip refugees with the practical skills necessary to find a job.

Community centers mainly support minors and offer language courses, in order to promote the equality of refugees and locals and help children overcome pain and fear. Social workers would like to do more outreach in the community, but during the past two years the government has introduced various restrictions on home visits. This means they have to wait passively for the refugees themselves to come and seek help from YUVA. Recently, YUVA’s visits to schools have been suspended while they wait for approval from the Ministry of Education. Social workers are also going to carry out activities in the Turkish community to prevent Turks from developing prejudiced beliefs that refugees are draining local resources.

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A volunteer teaches a refugee child to play with a Rubik’s cube. Source: Ken Yang

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Ken Yang meets the head of the community center, Ayhem, in his office. Source: Li Dan, news correspondent for The Paper

Ayhem, the head of the community center, is a Syrian who came to Turkey to study science. Later he began working for the NGO, dedicating himself to resolving the health problems faced by refugees.

He told us that many of the tens of thousands of refugees in Nizip were unable to seek medical treatment, and only those who had been registered as refugees and who had received an official ID had access to the public health care system. But since the number of refugees there is much higher than in other regions, Gaziantep became the only area where the registration system was closed. This has led to an urgent need for medical supplies for the local area.

Osman is the head of several neighborhood skills training centers, and has been working at YUVA for four years. His work is grounded in practical realities, as he believes the training centers to be more practical and useful than the social work centers, as they help people find ways to make a living. “They teach Arabic there, but no one uses the Arabic language in Turkey.” Only 30% of the refugee children are receiving systematic education in school. “Education is important, but Syrian families are so large that if they all receive an education, there is no way to make a livelihood. We struggle hard to find the right balance, and our center is thus trying to jointly address both livelihood and education.

The arrival of Chinese volunteers was both refreshing and surprising to the two staff members at the center.

 

Ken Yang and Yuan Man

From the “Arab Spring” to the “Arab Winter” Ken Yang, who studies International Law at Peking University, has constantly been interested in developments in the Middle East. “When the Arab Spring begun, I had not yet graduated from high school. As we entered the ‘Arab Winter’, I had just begun taking an interest in international law, and thus started to think about it from the angle of international law. I also began wondering whether I had the responsibility as an individual to help refugees, and whether I had a moral obligation to separate the issues from those of sovereignty and borders. At the very least, I didn’t think it was just a question to be pondered upon by the intelligentsia.”

He found himself disappointed by some of the arguments espoused by Chinese internet-users: “To some people, all of the unrest and suffering in Syria is caused by “troublemakers”, who have only themselves to blame. The silent majority who does nothing to stop these troublemakers also have no one but themselves to blame.” As he read more and more material on the issue, he felt that things were not so simple. Moreover, “no matter who caused this suffering, it is suffering nonetheless and should be reduced.”

In February last year, Liu Yiqiang went to Turkey to study the NGOs helping refugees. He was moved upon seeing the paintings created by the refugee children, and arranged for them to send 50 paintings to China for auction. He needed a student to help curate and select the art works for exhibition. Ken Yang then joined the team, helping to design and plan for the exhibition.

In the second half of last year, Ken Yang went to the Columbia University School of Law as an exchange student. There he saw students who had the means to take direct action in third world countries under the leadership of their professors. He was surprised by this and eager for similar opportunities. “Back home, there is often no opportunity to take action, even if one wanted to.” When he saw there was an opportunity, he decided he would not pass it up.

Last December, with the first batch of funds finally in place and the conditions ripe for volunteer work in Turkey, Liu Yiqiang asked: “Do you want to try?” This January, before returning from the United States, Ken Yang wrote a long letter to his parents explaining the cause, significance and possible risks of the project. Upon landing back in Beijing he met his parents, and immediately they said he could go.

The scope of Yang’s research also includes the discourse on human rights in the post-Arab Spring era, which has gradually faded as the political situation there has evolved. He wanted to examine the limits of human rights and whether to shape human rights into an all-encompassing, utopian thing. “Previously, I was overly hopeful, only to find that there were times when we could not help. It was then that our opponents found it easy to discredit our efforts. I agree with the “minimalist approach” advocated by Michael Ignatieff, in which human rights should be discussed and addressed only in extreme circumstances, such as during times when civilians are being killed en masse. When the war in Syria is framed as the result of a lack of human rights, it is good for neither the cause of human rights nor the people themselves.”

Before his trip, Ken Yang questioned whether refugees really did not want to return home. When some people in internet forums back home stigmatize the refugees as simply migrants seeking better economic opportunities, he argues that “illegal immigrants and the people escaping Aleppo are obviously not one and the same.”

“Syria is a highly educated country. On Liu Yiqiang’s last visit, he encountered many Syrian people who spoke English. Those who don’t see the refugees’ circumstances with their own eyes do not understand.”

Because of a lack of Chinese presence there, as part of the first batch of volunteers, he shouldered much of the information-gathering burden. He brought three cameras and several rolls of film, hoping to bring back some images. “Not exactly images of suffering, but rather images reflecting ordinary people.”

The other Chinese volunteer is also from Peking University.

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Man Yuan teaches Chinese calligraphy to refugees  Source: Ken Yang

She is Muslim and had wanted to major in the Arabic language ever since high school. In high school she read a line in the preface of Ma Jian’s Arabic translation of the Analects. It read “I am Muslim, as well as Chinese. As such, I shoulder responsibilities both religious and national. I am determined to fulfil both obligations.” Upon reading these words, she immediately felt a call to action. As the second-ranked student in her high school, she was accepted to Peking University’s Department of Arabic Language. Yuan Man is now in the second year of her graduate studies, and happens to be minoring in the Turkish language. The project was too close of a fit for her to pass up. In her eyes, Arab nations are not strange or unfamiliar. In fact, she had previously traveled to the region on multiple occasions and communicates regularly with several friends there via WeChat and WhatsApp.

Last summer, she came with a team to Jordan to visit a camp for un-registered refugees. “There was a Syrian businessman living in poor conditions who pulled out a notebook full of poems he wrote describing his love for his people and his motherland. At the camp, I recited a poem taught to me by an Arab student at Peking University, and immediately my eyes swelled with tears.”

Due to the spate of recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, her parents were worried about her taking this trip. But in the end they said: “You should do what you feel is right.” She told the reporter that with their blessing, “I did not hesitate for a moment. When my Arab friends need me, if I can offer even a little help or play even a minor role, then I will be very happy.”

When they came to Gaziantep, they discovered a situation very different from what they had imagined. “Originally, we intended to focus on the refugees in most dire need of help, but it turned out that this was not possible,” he said. “After all, Chinese NGOs cannot donate money directly.”

“Classic Western films always have a fly-by-night stranger from out of-town who comes to punish evil and reward the righteous. However, we discovered we could not be that kind of hero with a dramatic solution to whatever problem. Instead, here we just have to persevere,” said Ken Yang.

The traumatic story of the refugees is too jarring for those who haven’t experienced war. Because the ratio of English-speaking refugees to French-speaking ones turned out to be lower than they had imagined, the majority of Yuan Man’s conversations were conducted in Arabic. These conversations in Arabic also had the greatest personal and psychological impact on her.

“To tell the truth, on this trip I often find myself feeling a bit powerless. Perhaps due to my personality or language abilities, they have treated me like an intimate friend. As I listen to their stories, my brain paints a picture that leaves me both shocked and saddened. I know my attempts to comfort them are never going to be enough. We can never truly feel the same feelings they have.”

Her deepest feeling is of being unable to feel what they feel. Despite their bleak and destitute conditions, these people try to maintain a positive attitude, and not allow the circumstances to diminish their friendly and generous nature.

In fact, the presence of Chinese volunteers has brought a lot of joy to the people. They are full of curiosity and questions about Chinese people and society. They take turns inviting the Chinese volunteers to their homes as guests, and talk with them all night long. Every morning, they use what Chinese they’ve learned to wish the volunteers a good morning in their native tongue.

During this period, Ken Yang has made Chinese food for the refugees. He also lent his camera to refugee children eager to study photography, and taught them how to take pictures. He even developed the film for them in a studio and gave them printed copies. Yuan Man introduced some refugees to Chinese calligraphy, and the community leader has requested more courses combining Chinese and Arab art in the future. “If volunteers came to teach such a course, the people here would be very interested.”

The visit by the first batch of volunteers has been too short, and what they most needed was to gather information over a limited amount of time in order to develop a plan for longer-term volunteer programs.

After they went home a Turkish teacher, who did not speak any English, used the WeChat translation software to translate his message from Turkish into English: “All friends missing you.” “Again you come?” Both volunteers are looking forward to applying again this summer. When they visit, they may bring along more volunteers and stay for a longer period of time.

“Shared Future” project manager Zhou Tianyi told reporters that in subsequent volunteer trips there will be a higher proportion of volunteers who speak Arabic. They will also design curriculums that include music, art and sports courses in order to help both adults and children release and express their feelings. “By promoting communication and exchange, fresh and beautiful memories can help dilute memories of their past misfortune, thereby reducing these negative memories’ impact on their future.”

“Shared Future” also plans to promote mutual understanding and communication between Chinese and Arab culture, so that young people can understand the unique things in each other’s culture, rather then jealously guard their own.

Liu Yiqiang said they hope to establish a broader range of mechanisms to reach more students in order to select the very best candidates.

To conclude, Ken Yang shared his thoughts with the reporter: “America’s first black Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall used this sentence to sum up his career: he did what he could with what he had. Perhaps in these volunteering efforts, we should divorce from the tendency to overthink how to help, and instead focus on getting started right away. In the ‘long term’, the refugee children may need more systematic formal education, but this kind of help is one which we cannot provide directly. It also may not be what is most needed at this time. They need someone now to help them express what they feel after the trauma they endured. By focusing love and attention on these children, perhaps the volunteers can alleviate their feelings of anger and disillusionment. These small things that may not be given due attention to in the Chinese context may be precisely what they most need at the moment, and what we can do best as outsiders.”

探访土叙边境难民:中国人初次来做志愿服务

澎湃新闻记者 李丹

2017-03-17 09:43 来源:澎湃新闻

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自2010年“阿拉伯之春”开始以来,中东激进主义和内战的升级已经造成了巨大的伤亡和损失,暴力导致18万伊拉克人和47万叙利亚人丧生,650万叙利亚人在国内流离失所,另有480万人被迫逃离。在联合国的协调下,多方力量参与到难民的人道主义救援,其中NGO和民间团体在其中起到了重要的作用。

其中的作为,对于很多中国人而言是比较陌生的。

土耳其作为主要难民流入国之一,政府建立了难民营接待难民,但绝大多数叙利亚难民并没有进入难民营,而是居住在社区之中。相应的,针对难民的人道主义救援也分为难民营和社区两块。土耳其政府和联合国难民署负责帮助难民营中的难民。出于保护,除了联合国机构或者与联合国机构合作的NGO,其他NGO都不能进入难民营。对于生活在社区的难民而言,除了土耳其政府提供的公共服务和公共设施,主要由NGO提供帮助。

“土耳其的NGO发展得这么好,是晚近的事。”YUVA尼济普项目经理Tara这样告诉我们。

许多穆斯林思想家认为,中东需要的是有效的社会和经济战略和政策,以解决暴力背后的复杂的非宗教因素,及其绝非宗教性的影响,文化、种族和宗教因素也应该被考虑,但它们不是失业和边缘化的主要原因。

这也是许多NGO的出发点。

而根据国际法促进中心的报告,中国社会组织目前还处于国际化的探索阶段,对外活动一般是由有政府背景的民间组织领头,无背景的民间组织国际参与度较弱,处于无办事处、无专职人员、无经常性项目、无稳定资金的“四无” 状态。不少网民持有“先解决国内问题再解决国际问题”的心态,不认可NGO提供海外援助。

“共同未来”项目是中国第一个通过正规渠道到土耳其做难民志愿服务的尝试,堪称拓荒者。

志愿者一行人和难民朋友在土叙混居的边境小镇合影。中间杨肯,右四满园。摄影 难民尤瑟夫

该项目是国际法促进中心的难民法律和政策研究项目组,与中国儿童青少年基金会共同发起的国际人道主义救援与发展项目,旨在促进中国青年参与国际交流,改善难民儿童生存状况,成为一支真正的国际人道主义救援力量,塑造当代中国青年勇于担当国际责任的崭新形象。目前项目的主要行动为支持中国青年赴土耳其,为受到难民危机影响的儿童和青年提供教育和其他帮助。

国际法促进中心成立于2012年,是一个立足国内的独立非政府组织,致力于在世界范围内增进和提升中国各界力量在国际法和国际正义领域的参与度和影响力,力求改变相关领域鲜有中国声音的现状。

中国人能做什么,是肩负开拓者任务的两名第一批志愿者杨肯和满园时时刻刻思考的问题。他们一个就读国际法专业;一个精通阿拉伯语,去过约旦难民营,本身也是穆斯林,但这趟旅程仍然充满冲击和意想不到。

志愿者通勤公路两边的景色,初春干旱的土地上只能见到光秃秃的开心果树。摄影 杨肯

Tara

Tara独居,一人养了四只猫。澎湃新闻记者 李丹 图

从伊斯坦布尔飞到土叙边境加济安泰普,在机场等待志愿者和记者的不仅有截然不同的“干燥亚洲”地貌,还有强烈阳光中热情的Tara。

后来她一再重复:“一般人不会来这里。你们的存在对这里的人就是一种希望。”

Tara是尼济普YUVA里的唯一年长者,她是一名美国西海岸左派,但“非常接地气”,核心一直落在行动上,她说:“你是在世界一流名校校园里空谈,还是选择行动?”

最初来土耳其时预想待个一两年,想不到一待就是25年。在边境加济安泰普,美国人更是稀罕的存在。

杨肯说,有的国人对NGO的理解就是来自外部的无事生非者(outside agitator)。当Tara被问及作为一个美国人在土耳其做NGO是否有这个感觉,她说她不是“agitator”,只是一个行动者。

她到来于土耳其大学政治活跃的八十年代,“大家觉得如果有一个强有力的市民社会,政治局势会更不容易失控。”在大学的她是幸运的,后来的时间,也只有两次收到禁令,一次是让她不要去参加反对美国侵略伊拉克的游行,另一次是当她从土耳其控制的塞浦路斯北部回来,受邀去希腊方的塞浦路斯南部时被禁。

在来土耳其前,她甚至对土耳其文化一无所知,只是想走出去。

10年前,她要去阿富汗参加培训,不敢告诉父母,临到机场才给爸爸发了一条信息,爸爸第一句话是“这让我怎么告诉你妈”,而妈妈的反应是“Tara去做她相信的事了”。她觉得很幸运。

在土耳其,她先是在伊斯坦布尔的大学从事市民社会方面的教育培训工作,离开大学后,开始经营一个女性赋权组织,“觉得女性应该可以独自回家才对”,还帮助那些从未就业过的女性第一次领到自己的工资。但同时,她不想只做一个女性主义者,各种社会议题都想涉及。她开始与残疾人、儿童一起工作,也做环境问题,和绿色和平合作了一些项目。在她眼中,绿色和平在土耳其的年轻人是真正的实干者,除了去游行,还真正做了实事。她也试图让政府知道,他们不是反政府,只是促成一些积极的变化。

后来她遇见了她的土耳其合伙人,一起创办了YUVA,意为“家”,有了资金,开始运作,议题限于环保和公民权。

2013年,叙利亚战争形势越来越糟,大量难民跨越边境。希腊的莱斯博斯岛靠近土耳其西海岸,正是难民大量集中的地方,Tara的一个好友来到那里,扎起帐篷,和叙利亚难民一起日日夜夜地工作,Tara也曾到那里探望。

但改变Tara的是一个早晨。朋友发来一条信息:“我需要你的帮助,因为我们不知道怎样把三具尸体运回叙利亚。” 当时是7点半,她正在喝她的早餐咖啡,那一刻鲜活意识到他们处在多么不同的现实中。她给国际移民组织(International Organization for Migration)打电话,对方不知道该怎么做,给希腊相关部门打电话,他们不知道该怎么做,后来给海关打电话,得到的回答是这三人的尸体要以运送货物的形式送回叙利亚。Tara觉得这个事情太过荒诞,开始以不同的方式看待局势,之后加入了难民营志愿者的行列。

2015年,难民数量开始攀升,难民危机爆发了,每天都有成千人跨越边境,成千人坐着Tara口中“愚蠢的船”偷渡去希腊。她也开始募捐衣物和生活用品,有人会把他们募捐来的东西送到警察局或医院。严格来讲,这些都是非法的。政府不会对偷渡者明说你可以留在这里,只是保证他们住所和食物,“直到他们找到他们的偷渡船”。本地的一些当权者事实上是允许志愿者帮助难民的,自己也会提供帮助。

政府用了各种方法防止偷渡,这涉及警察和边防人员,“是一个复杂的问题,偷渡很糟心,但也承载着对自由的希望”。由于过多难民涌向欧盟,东欧几国开始关闭国门,土耳其也开始关闭边境。

有时,Tara会在街上见到一些人,“你见到他们,明白他们在等着上一艘偷渡船,你担心他们不会游泳,可是该告诉他们这样有可能丧生吗?一部分的我想要去警告他们,一部分的我说,凭什么夺走他们的希望。”这些船的存在一度让她非常痛苦,越来越多的人死于偷渡。在莱斯博斯岛,一家叙利亚人来认领了五具尸体,这让她觉得太疯狂了。

当被问到是什么驱动难民到欧洲,她说对于受战争所害难民来说,“当你逃离了一个地狱,逃离了可怕的境遇,你肯定想开始可能的最好的生活,这就是那么人想去欧洲的原因。”

不能阻止他们上船,但她希望让他们有更少的理由上船,让他们有更多的理由留在土耳其,给他们一些希望。

YUVA开始为难民提供以社区为基础的非正式学校课程。“没有根本的解决方案,仅仅是希望他们活得更快乐更有尊严。”举办一切能促进阿拉伯人和土耳其人融合的活动,比如歌舞和足球,活动都会既邀请叙利亚人,也邀请土耳其人。

在一个宗教节日,Tara提出来尼济普的社区中心工作,当时她在伊斯坦布尔有自己的房子、朋友圈和狗。她来到加济安泰普,开始租房独居。

至今都有人认为她是间谍。一个美国人搬到伊斯坦布尔,再搬到土耳其各个城市,一口土耳其语,看起来有些可疑。还有人觉得她是传教士。现在当别人问起她的职业,她只说在教育机构工作,而不说从事难民工作,“还是有很多敌意”。

Tara深知做先锋探索者的难度,这也是她热情接待来自中国的第一批志愿者的原因。“土耳其的NGO发展得这么好,是晚近的事,以前还没有这么好,现在有更多的国际项目,非常鼓舞人心,包括你们的到来。”她提醒,作为志愿者,必须会讲当地语言,必须对当地和现存系统有一定的认识。

谈到怎样看待NGO的官僚问题,她说她也是“官僚”的一部分,她也要交房租,土耳其的NGO工资并不是很高。“说到官僚,我认识联合国机构里的很多人,他们认真工作,值得尊敬,但是层级太多了,打起交道来很麻烦。不过归根结底,没有任何人有经验处理300万难民涌进国家。土耳其政府还是做了很多努力的。官僚是个问题,但是到处都有这个问题,没有例外。”

YUVA

土耳其的NGO是多元化的,在国际法促进中心主任刘毅强去年的调研中,已经对边境各个难民救助NGO如何运作有了一个全貌的认识。加济安泰普较大的当地NGO叫ASAM(Association for Solidarity with Asylum-Seekers and Migrants,庇护寻求者与移民支援协会),是联合国难民署土耳其办事处的执行伙伴,既发挥一些难民署的作用,又为难民和寻求庇护者提供心理社会咨询和法律咨询,帮助难民获得教育、健康等基本权利和服务。

为了让难民融入当地,也为了应对创伤后应激障碍(PTSD),他们邀请土耳其绘画大师教叙利亚儿童画画,每期招收5名叙利亚儿童和5名土耳其儿童。ASAM与国际法促进中心合作,已在去年将50幅画作交由中心在中国展览并拍卖。

画展卡片。

目前的困境是土耳其学校无法为难民儿童提供足够的教育资源,还有一些难民家庭因经济困难,无法支持孩子接受正式教育,一些难民儿童甚至需要当童工补贴家用。很多NGO注意到非正式教育(informal education)方面的紧迫性,比如此行的合作方和接待方YUVA。

Tara这么说:“我们改变不了他们的生活,只能让他们更快乐和坚强,去改变他们自己的生活”,这里成为一个真正的社区和家,也是精神上的发泄口,很多人把大量时间花在这里。志愿者第一天到来时,受到了工作人员和难民的热烈欢迎,有个大叔也前来攀谈,但讲了几句后提出要钱,让在场的工作人员都很尴尬。负责人说 “不希望他们养成依赖和伸手的心理”。

第一天,职业技能中心负责人奥斯曼和难民男孩欢迎中国志愿者的到来。澎湃新闻记者 李丹 图

YUVA在尼济普设置了两个中心:社区中心和技能培训中心。前者主要通过社工对难民进行保护和心理支持,后者教授实际技能,帮助难民找到工作。

社区中心更多是支持未成年人和开设语言课程,使得难民和当地人更平等,帮助儿童克服痛苦和恐惧。社工原本会到社区做外展(outreach),但近两年由于政府在家访审批上收紧,有时只能等待难民自己到YUVA寻求帮助。YUVA对学校的访问最近也停止了,正在申请教育部的允许。社工也会去动员土耳其社区,避免土耳其人产生偏见,认为难民抢走了他们的资源。

社工教难民儿童玩魔方。摄影 杨肯

杨肯和社区中心负责人Ayhem在他的办公室。澎湃新闻记者 李丹 图

社区中心负责人Ayhem是叙利亚人,来到土耳其读理科,后来开始到NGO工作,致力于难民的医疗健康问题。

他告诉我们,尼济普的几万难民中很多人无法就医,只有注册为难民、获得ID的人,才可以享受公共医疗体系的服务,这样的人大概有五千。但由于难民人数比其他地区多得多,加济安泰普已经成为唯一关闭了注册系统的地区,因此医疗用品也为当地所急需。

奥斯曼在倾听两个中国志愿者。澎湃新闻记者 李丹 图

奥斯曼是几个街区之隔的技能培训中心的负责人,他已经在YUVA工作了四年。他的工作思路是从实际出发,觉得培训中心比社工中心更实用,更能帮助人们找到维持生计的方式。“那边教阿拉伯语,其实在土耳其是用不到阿拉伯语的。”难民儿童中只有30%正在学校里接受系统性的教育,“教育很重要,但叙利亚家庭都很大,这么多人都接受教育,生计就无法维持了,需要很困难地在两者间斗争。我们中心就是试图把生计和教育结合起来。”

摄影课。澎湃新闻记者 李丹 图

这里的师资都是建立在人际关系的基础上。社工和老师中叙利亚人居多,其中部分是无偿在这里帮忙的志愿者,一些志愿者来是为了从经验中获益,现在YUVA也在尝试给一些报酬,比如一天50里拉(约人民币100元)。

中国志愿者的到来,让两个中心的工作人员都感到新鲜和惊奇。

杨肯和满园

从“阿拉伯之春”到“阿拉伯之冬“,正在北大国际法专业读研二的杨肯一直在关注中东问题。“阿拉伯之春时,我高中还没毕业,而阿拉伯之冬时,刚好是我转向国际法的时候,开始从国际法思考这个问题。也在想作为个人有没有责任去帮助难民,主权和边界能把道德义务割裂开吗?至少对知识文化精英来说不应如此。”

杨肯为YUVA几十人做可乐鸡翅,在试吃咸淡。摄影 难民阿卜杜拉

他发现网民的某些论调令他失望:“在有些人看来,叙利亚的一切动乱和苦难来自那些‘折腾’的人,是咎由自取;那些沉默的大多数,不去制止闹腾的人,也是咎由自取”。读了更多的材料,他觉得事情没有这么简单。况且,“无论苦难是谁造成的,这样苦难都是应该去被减少的。”

去年2月,刘毅强赴土耳其考察帮助难民的NGO,看到难民儿童的画很触动,让对方寄来50幅在中国展览并拍卖,当时需要一个学生帮助策展,杨肯加入队伍,承担了设计、布展的工作。

去年下半学期,杨肯来到哥伦比亚大学法学院做交换生,见到那边的学生有条件和资源在老师的带领下直接去第三世界国家采取行动,诧异且羡慕。“国内很多时候没有行动的机会,有意愿也没有用;如果有机会,一定要去。“

去年12月,刘毅强告诉他,第一批资金终于到位,有条件让志愿者去土耳其了,“你要不要试一下?”今年1月,在从美国回国之前,杨肯给父母写了长长的邮件,解释了项目的前因后果,意义和可能的风险。在回国飞机降落到北京,见到父母的一刻,他们说你可以去。

杨肯的研究范围还包括“阿拉伯之春“以来的人权话语,后者在政治局势的蜕变中渐渐销声匿迹,他想考察人权的界限,是否要把人权塑造成一个无所不包的、近似乌托邦的东西?“曾经被注入过多希望,很多时候却做不到,这时就容易被反对者污名化。我同意Michael Ignatieff所提倡的‘极简主义‘进路(minimalist approach),应该在极端条件下如残杀平民时谈人权并介入。把叙利亚战争塑造成人权问题的结果,无论对于人权本身,还是现实中的人民,都是没有好处的。”

此行之前,杨肯所带的疑问是,难民们是否真的不想回家?当部分国内网民对难民污名化、把他们简单说成是投机的非法移民,他认为“非法移民和阿勒颇逃出来的人显然是不一样的”。

“他们是真的脏乱差吗?说不定人家还认认真真地生活呢。”

“叙利亚是一个教育程度很高的国家,刘毅强上次考察遇到的叙利亚人很多会说英语,难民状态究竟怎样,这些不亲眼见到,都是不知道的。”

由于那里太缺乏中国人的足迹,他作为第一批志愿者,更多肩负的是搜集信息的任务。他带了三台相机,一堆胶卷,希望带回一些影像,“不完全是苦难的影像,而是作为普通人的影像。”

另一位志愿者满园同样来自北京大学。

满园教难民写中国书法。摄影 杨肯

她是一个穆斯林,从高中就想选择阿拉伯语专业,她说在高中时读到中国阿语系奠基人马坚先生翻译的《论语》前言中有一句话,“我是穆斯林,又是中国人,肩负宗教的和国民的双重义务,我决意同时履行这两种义务”,一句看似“套路”的话却对她有强烈的感召力。高考那年,她以北京文科第二名的成绩考上了北京大学的阿语系。满园目前研二在读,刚好也辅修过土耳其语,与项目再契合不过。阿拉伯国家对她来说也并不陌生,此前已经有过几次旅行经验,微信和Whatsapp上一众阿拉伯好友。

去年暑假,她随一个考察团来到约旦的非注册难民营,“有个叙利亚商人,在贫困条件下把一个帐篷分出,里面满满地都是诗歌,关于热爱自己的民族和祖国,坚守道德,有一首诗在北大一个阿拉伯人教我写过,在难民营读到,当时眼泪就下来了。”

由于之前土耳其发生的恐怖袭击,父母对此行也有担忧,但他们说:“你觉得对的事情,就去做吧。”满园告诉记者:“在这个机会面前,我一点都不犹豫,如果有阿拉伯朋友需要我,带去一点帮助,发挥一点作用,对于我是特别幸福的一件事。”

和工作人员、难民儿童在一起。摄影 努利

来到加济安泰普展开工作之后,他们发现跟之前的想象并不一样,“本来以为要帮助最困难的,现在看来不太可能。”毕竟中国的NGO无法直接捐钱。

“西部片的定义就是一个异乡人来惩恶扬善,然后扬长而去,我们不可能像英雄一样戏剧性地解决什么问题,这里的人要做的就是坚忍。”杨肯在时间过去一半时这么说。

难民的创伤故事对于毫无战争经历的人来说也过于沉重。由于接触到的难民中会讲英语、法语者的比例比想象中低,大多数对话都由满园用阿拉伯语直接进行,对她造成的心理冲击也最大。

“说实话,此行很多时候内心感受更多的是无力感,也许性格或语言的原因,他们愿意把我当贴心朋友,一直在倾听他们的故事,仅是脑补一下他们讲述的画面,就能感受到难以承受的冲击和悲伤,但是我知道自己的安慰对于他们亲身经历的那些痛苦是多么微不足道,我们永远也做不到真正的感同身受。”

她感触最深的,是几乎感受不到他们的萧瑟颓废,相反他们在努力用积极的心态面对,而且尽管自己的条件并不宽裕,也不减于他人友善和慷慨的本性。

事实上,中国志愿者的存在给这里带来了太多欢乐,他们对中国人充满好奇,做着笔记询问中国社会的情况,轮番邀请到家里做客和留宿,聊到深夜,每天早上用中文跟志愿者说“早上好”。

在这期间,杨肯为难民做中国菜到深夜。把单反借给对学习摄影充满渴望的难民孩子,并指导他们如何拍照。为难民在摄影棚拍摄了肖像,打印出来送给他们。满园则让难民认识了中国书法。社区负责人曾问未来能否多一些结合中国艺术和阿拉伯艺术的课程,”如果有志愿者来教这样的课程,这里的人会很感兴趣。“

满园教书法。摄影 杨肯

和本身是难民的书法老师的交流让满园自己也受益良多,他们在共同实验把阿拉伯书法和中国书法结合起来。摄影 杨肯

杨肯和满园为难民做中国菜前购买食材,难民司机大叔带领选购。澎湃新闻记者 李丹 图

第一批志愿者时间太短,他们最需要的做的,是在有限的时间里把信息搜集起来,为后面更长期的志愿者计划制定方案。

回来后,土耳其语老师发来微信,不懂英文的他用翻译软件把土耳其语翻译成英语:”All friends missing you.” ”again you come?” 两个志愿者都期待着今年夏天再次申请作为志愿者造访,他们也许会带来更多的志愿者,和好朋友们待上更长的时间。

纸上是每个人的名字。摄影 难民艾哈迈德

“共同未来”项目经理周天逸告诉记者,在之后成行的志愿者行动中,会增加能够熟练使用阿拉伯语的志愿者比例,并通过设计音乐、美术、体育等课程,帮助成年人和儿童释放、表达情绪,“增进沟通和交流,让新鲜美好的记忆冲淡过去的不幸,从而减少不幸对未来的影响”。

“共同未来”还计划促进中国文化与阿拉伯文化之间的相互了解和沟通,使青少年能够了解彼此文化中无比美好的事物,没有分别心地珍视、保护。

刘毅强表示,希望在更广泛的范围内建立起选拔机制,让更多学生接触到这个项目,并选拔出其中的佼佼者。

总结时,杨肯给记者发来这样一段话:”美国第一任黑人最高法院法官瑟古德·马歇尔曾用这句话来概括自己的职业生涯:He did what he could with what he had.(他尽自己所能做了己所能及之事)。或许在做这种民间的尝试时,我们也应该脱离那种潜移默化的‘集中力量办大事’思维,想着要么一步到位地解决所有问题、要么就索性撒手不管,而是去从我们能够直接着手做的事情出发。或许从‘长远’来看,这里的难民儿童需要更为系统化的正规教育;然而这样的帮助一方面是我们无法直接提供的,与此同时也未必就是他们当前最为需要的。他们当前更需要有人能够帮助他们去指引他们去表达、抒发战争给他们带来的创伤,用对他们的关爱来消解他们心底的愤怒与不满。这些在中国语境下可能不被注重的小事情,可能才是他们目前最为需要的,也是我们作为局外人、所能做到最好的。“

留宿难民书法老师家的一晚,一起走在叙利亚风格小巷中的背影。这晚书法老师说:“和你们在一起太开心,必须打一架,分开后才不会互相想念。”摄影 杨肯

责任编辑:李丹澎湃新闻报料:4009-20-4009   澎湃新闻,未经授权不得转载
关键词 >> 叙利亚难民,土耳其难民,难民危机,NGO

Translated by Sophie Xiong and Vanessa Zhang

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