About Refugees, By Refugees
Le Petit Prince
Trigger Warning: Homophobia, sexism
I think we’re starting, [name redacted]. Yeah, what kind of housing do you live in?
I live in a big house. We live in a house where many people stay together and we are at home.
Can you describe it a little bit? What kind of place is it? Do you have your own room?
I have my own room. We are in a place where there is a Turkish community. All my roommates are Turkish. In fact, we have a cat and a dog in the house, as an extra. We’re like a crowded family. We’re like a family now.
Are they your friends now?
Yes. They are my friends now. After sharing the house, we became friends. They’re all my friends.
How do you spend your time at home?
Usually by reading books, listening to music, sleeping, arranging the garden. We have a small garden. Doing housework goes well. Pleasant. It’s nice to be at home because I’m a home person.
Do you always spend your time at home right now?
I usually spend at home because of the weather. And due to economical reasons. And since I don’t work and I don’t make money, I don’t have opportunities to go out. That’s why I usually hang out at home.
What do you enjoy doing at home? What gives you pleasure. You have mentioned gardening…
Yes, I love to eat, but I’m afraid I don’t know how to cook. Yeah, my roommates are cooking, thank them. I eat the food they make. Other than that, I help with household chores. I often do that, helping around the home. I’m gardening, reading books, listening to music. Time passes like this.
How’s your life been since you came to Europe and here? In terms of the difference between being here and being in Turkey? What do you think is good and what’s bad?
That is, there are pros, and there are cons. Of course, that’s my country, where I was born. Where my past is, my family, my friends. But here, too, I express myself more clearly, I express myself more freely. I feel like I have more self-esteem here. That’s the difference. There, in Turkey, you cannot say your opinion, you cannot act as you feel, you cannot dress as you like, you cannot walk the way you want. You have to restrict each movement. Because we have this in our minds — what will people say, what will my family say…what they think, etc. That makes you feel so stuck. I cannot wear this… I shouldn’t say that they’ll misunderstand… Unfortunately, it categorizes people in my country. I mean, there must be a label. But I didn’t see anything like that here. No matter what clothes you wear, you get the same dignity when you go somewhere. They make you valuable, they consider you as valuable. They do not assess your appearance in your clothes. You are accepted as you are. They welcome you for who you are. But this is not the case in Turkey, unfortunately. You know, here even if you don’t have money in your pocket, you can dress up and go somewhere and you will be accepted there. Nobody knows you don’t have any money in your pocket. Hahahah. Turkey is very much a materialist country. People first look at what you wear. That’s how we were raised. When we look at something, this is for sure. We have a lot of biases. I saw there’s no prejudice here, and it made me very happy. That’s why I felt more comfortable. How do I tell you? Everyone criticizes everyone very much in Turkey. It even gets until the exclusion. So if you want to belong to a group of people in Turkey, you have to do what they say. Society establishes this pressure on you. This pressure begins in the family, continues in the neighborhood. It now grows well on the streets. Everywhere you go, unfortunately, many of your things in Turkey are evaluated, criticized, and labeled. And that’s usually negative. In order to be respected or accepted by those people you will have to behave in such a way that they want; to dress the way they want; to talk the way they want. This is something that takes you away from yourself after a while. I think it’s very sad. I didn’t see any of this when I came here. That made me very happy. That’s why I wanted to stay here and I want to live here.
In Turkey because of your sexual orientation, have you ever thought about what should you wear if you go out, or that you should not go to specific areas?
Yes, it did happen to me there. So you can walk in certain areas in Istanbul, like Nisantasi, but even though it’s a center in Tarlabaşı, there’s, like, two blocks, and you can’t walk there. They either think you’re a prostitute, or they will bother you, or they will abuse you. If you’re there very late, you might even get raped. Most of our friends were raped. Because there’s this perception that if you’re gay and you’re a woman, you can have sex at any time in Turkey, you can do it to anyone, unfortunately. That’s why you need to know where to go and how to dress in Turkey, what street and what time you can go out and you always have to watch out.
How does it feel to be away from your family, friends, country? Can you describe it a little bit? Do you feel like you belong here?
I feel that I belong here now because I’ve been here for four years. At first, of course, I had a hard time. I was in a limbo kind of situation. I didn’t know if I belong there or here, where am I? But now I can say more clearly, I feel like I belong here, and because I think one belongs to the place where one is happy and feels happy. I miss my family, I miss my friends. Or rather, I miss my childhood. When I miss my childhood, it’s all about my childhood. But then I look at what I’ve been through and what happened around me. Childhood reminds me of a beautiful memory, and it can’t come back. And there were things we could not see when we were kids. We looked at everything through pink glasses. The bigger you get, the clearer you see, the more real things. This time, it hurts. I miss it, of course. Who wouldn’t? I miss it, but I care more about myself. I know that wherever I am happy, where I am healthy, where I exist, people who love me will be happy.
Have you ever thought that you could experience something like this?
No. I haven’t thought of it.
How do you think you got through this? Can you explain a little bit?
It wasn’t something I planned. I mean to come here. But after what I’ve been through, after my experience, it’s a point now, and you just say…ENOUGH. I come to life once, and this life is mine. No one gave me this life. Whatever am I doing, I’ll do it on my own decision. I’ll pay for what I’ve done with better or worse. I came here to Europe, the moment I have decided I wanted to take responsibility for this. But I was not planning something like this. But we have seen a lot of pressure in every sense in my country. I mean, the country blends in everything. You get beaten, you get pushed, you get kicked. It turns into something unbearable after some point. No matter how much you move the way they want it, you won’t be accepted. They will find any stupid reason to exclude you. That’s why I was overwhelmed and bored. So, I just got on the plane and came here.
Do you think all of this has given you a different ability or strength?
For sure. I certainly didn’t think I was that strong before. Because I was raised so spoiled as a child. I was never such a manly kind of boy. It could be noticed that I was a more fragile, naive boy. Since then, maybe it was obvious that I was gay. But no one, especially in Turkey, could not put it on and accept it. They would say, no — he is just a nice kid. It isn’t like that, he doesn’t do that. They would say… People in turkey just cannot think of homosexuality because it’s a bad thing. So people would say no, he is not like that. Absolutely not. He is just a polite kid. But I was always aware of myself from a very young age. I felt like I was different, and I’ve always loved men all my life. I fell in love with men, I cried for them. That’s it. I have no regrets. How can one regret what he already is? This is like our eye color, and my eyes were brown and always brown. I mean, when I was born they were brown; at five years old they were brown. I’m 37 now, and they are still brown. Something like that. That’s who I am. That’s why I’ve always loved myself. But the situation is, unfortunately, they don’t allow you to love yourself in Turkey. They do not allow you to love yourself. I think it’s against human rights, a humanitarian crime. It’s the most important thing in the world that people love themselves. They’re trying to take it away from you. Yes, I have a lot of self-esteem. I was telling you about my childhood. Let me give you a small example, when I was a child, I was so spoiled that I couldn’t even touch a wet cleaning cloth because my hand would smell bad. But I’ve done a lot of things when I came here. I tried to do almost any job. I tried to make money, and I understood I can do anything. I’m strong. I even cleaned the toilets. And it didn’t make me sick. It’s a wonderful feeling that people don’t get sick of something they do themselves. That’s why I thought I had my self-esteem when I was in Turkey, but it wasn’t really that much. I got it when I got here. I think I got the real confidence here. I think I’m expressing myself more accurately here. I feel like I won’t be judged. I won’t be labeled, I won’t be pushed around. The first time I got here, I was so happy to be at the Pride Parade. I was very excited. Because it’s been banned in Istanbul for years. TOMAs (my comment: Social Events Intervention Tool) was following us. The police were after us. They pour water at us. Cops were beating us. Officially it was banned and it’s not been organized for many years. When I joined here, the first year I joined the Pride, I was so excited that I was going to cry. I mean, millions of people who think like me, feel like me. Gays and non-gays. Millions of people who are gay-friendly are together at the parade. The place is colorful, full of gay flags everywhere. Everyone hugs each other, kissing, walking hand by hand. There’s a great ambiance and I was full of excitement and I have noticed something. I looked up and saw a gay flag floating next to the flag of England at Buckingham Palace. I said, wow, I know how important this place is. How naive it is to think but it is so special. The hoisting of our flag is a great thing next to the country flag. You know, I was admired and so touched. At the same time, I felt a hard feeling inside me. And I said to myself, why in my country it is not the same? I mean, forget about the flag. At least they could stop beating us and abusing us. But here, our flags are everywhere. In the center, on the busiest streets, in the heart of the center, traffic is closed, corteges are passed. Military and police school officers are attending the Pride. How can it be real? You know, I couldn’t get it, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. It sounded like a dream, but seeing that flag really touched me. I felt so happy. Then I said yes, I could belong here. Because this place accepts me. Wherever you feel accepted, you feel that you belong to the place, right? No matter how hard you try in a place you are not accepted, you’re being makeshift. It’s not your place. It is not right for you. And the same about religion. No religion accepts me. Because I’m gay, I will be burnt under seven floors below the hell, according to Qur’an. According to Christians, it is a great sin. You can even be excommunicated. Then they say why don’t you care about religion? You’re not religious. You’re not following our disciple. I mean hey, you are the one that doesn’t accept me in the first place. How can I exist in a place that doesn’t accept me? How can I be a member of that group? It’s not possible. You can’t exist anywhere in the world, in any community, and it is not just about religion. If they didn’t accept me, I’d be a godless man anyway Because I read about it, I’ve researched it. Both the Qur’an and the Bible. It didn’t fit me and I did not find it right. And on top of that, when I saw they didn’t want me, I thought, “If you don’t want me, I don’t want you.”
It’s a separate matter in Turkey to be unreligious, right?
Absolutely yes. So everything matters in Turkey. You are judged if you are godless, if you’re a Christian, if you’re gay, if you’re a woman, if you’re a child, and if you’re old. Everything is labeled. In Turkey, it depends on who is in power. Rule number one of survival there is to be like them who is in power. So, let’s say group X is in power now. If you look like one of them at that time, you will survive. Or if you’re one of them, you will survive. Those who are different, they’re either terrorists or different and oppressed. I mean, they always give you labels. You’re either one of us or you’re not. It is black and white and you have to be one of them. But it changes all the time. You have to show variability and flexibility in order to survive in Turkey. Here comes the X person, you have to be like X person in X group. When he leaves and comes Y, you have to be like Y. That’s how we survive in Turkey.
And how did COVID affect your life? In terms of freedom, emotions, financially, or feelings?
I think it was good in general. If I’m not working, nobody works. No, I’m just kidding. COVID, I think it was nice for the world in general. I think a human being could breathe. It feels like everything has slowed down. Even according to scientific research, according to the documentary that I watched in the world, the vibration decreased during COVID. We make so much vibration, the world’s all noise, the environmental problems, cars stopped, people stayed at home, factories stopped working, and other lots of things. It has reduced the vibration and the world is relieved. Actually, nature reminded itself to us. As if saying, hey look, I’m here. You are very confident. Technology has advanced. You say we have done a lot as human beings. But I know that with a tiny germ, a virus that you can’t see with the eye, I know. I can take everything you’ve got. I think he sent a message like that.
Let’s take a break. Okay. [name redacted], how did the COVID affect your life?
COVID, which I think will be an awakening in the history of mankind in general. The awakening has happened. We will see the effects of this later, and history books will write about it. And I think I’m lucky, and I see us lucky, and we’ve actually witnessed such a situation. We witnessed a historic event. In 2020, when people read history books in the future. They will read there was such an epidemic in 2020. A lot of people died.
Yes, but we have witnessed such an historic event. I think it’s terrific. Of course, if you don’t burn, how can darkness come into the light if you don’t burn? We’ll sacrifice someone. In everything, about everything, isn’t it? Someone died, but I wish he hadn’t. But there’s nothing to do. Yeah, I feel good about the COVID I didn’t get sick, thank God. And maybe no people I love around me have ever gotten sick, so I may be talking freely. Everything will be better.
Now I’m going to ask some background questions. Why have you left your country? Can you explain a little bit? What happened?
Because it was actually a little bit of what I just told you. Being gay, being gay is a crime in Turkey, and it’s a bad thing. They don’t give you a chance to live. You can be subjected to physical violence. Most importantly, ok forget about the physical violence, where you get beaten, you get beaten, it hurts for two days, or it hurts 3 days and it passes. But I think psychological violence is more serious and more important. You’re subjected to psychological violence. I walk a little girly while I walk. Although I’m tall. I tried to fix it for a period of time, I’m afraid. I mean, think. Does the man like to correct his walking and work for it? Society imposes it on you. You walk around, they’re calling out behind me, whoa, whoa, whoa. Everywhere. This affects people very negatively, psychologically. And it keeps creating the feeling that society makes you think I’m doing something wrong? Both women and gay too. They made us feel this and put it inside us. If a man is approaching you, hurting you, or trying to hurt you, it’s definitely because of you. You’ve done something, you’ve wagged your tail, or you’ve awakened him, you’ve done it, and I have consent. So that’s why you’re blaming yourself in the first place. When I did something wrong, I wonder if I was misunderstood, did I encourage him? I was wondering if I said something wrong. Is that why I feel like this happened to me? And then when I got out, when I came here, I watched from the outside, I said, I mean, this thought was so wrong, nothing to do with it. What does it mean, you blame yourself in the first place? But we’ve been taught that, unfortunately, since childhood, we’ve all been taught in this way. If you don’t do anything, the one across the street will come out of nowhere and do nothing to you. No. They’ll come and do something to you, even if you don’t do anything all over the world. Because there are such bad people. It doesn’t matter if you do anything. But that’s what they taught us. It’s so bitter.
You flew directly?
Yes, I flew in, I came on a visa, as a tourist. Because I was so curious. I wanted to see it. Because I wanted to compare it. You know, I came up with the question of how people live here, how my fellow people live, what social environment is there, what people do, how am I supposed to exist? And at that time I looked at everything was so beautiful.
Of course, each country, each community has a different dynamics in itself. There are bad things here, too. I mean, this place is a flesh. Everyone’s so good. No evil, no death, no theft. There’s no such thing. But at least I feel like myself. I exist as myself. I dress as I want, I talk as I want. I don’t pay attention to my walking anymore. I’m walking around, and they say it looks great on you, a lot of people here say compliments. They say your walk looks so sweet, so sympathetic. I liked it. I mean how small and funny these details are actually but how important it is to a person. It’s always been like this throughout history. Man has always turned to himself and searched for himself. All the books are written for this. All the songs, all the poems composed for it. It’s what it’s written for again. I mean, we’ve always been looking for ourselves, looking for ourselves, searching for our essence. What are we? Who are we? What do we want to be? Why do we exist? We’ve always been used to their questions. Throughout history, it still is. So I thought I knew myself, or I knew myself. Here, in this process, a person can be more alone with himself, especially during the COVID period. You can be isolated from that noise, from that complexity, and you turn into yourself. And it’s nice to know yourself.
How beautiful. I’ll ask you the last two questions for now, maybe. But I’ll ask you both. What was your dream before you came here? If you could imagine it in the past tense because it was your dream.
My dream… Actually, I’m a Pisces (my Horoscope), and I have so many dreams that you can’t imagine. I even have a little monkey appetite for everything. I’ve wanted to be everything all my life. I mean, when they ask me when I was a kid, what are you gonna be when you grow up? Every time they asked, I answered differently. My parents tell me about it. They asked me one day, I said I wanted to be a dancer. They asked me the other day, I said I wanted to be an ice cream maker. One day they asked me and I said I want to be a fireman. I mean, I didn’t get stuck because I wanted to be something all the time.
I mean, like, five years ago, what was your dream?
But I’ll tell you soon. I’d love to be an actor. My dream was to be an actress. Playing in a movie. Performing in the theatre. That is, on the performing arts, television also. I’d love to work on these performing arts. That was my dream.
And if I asked you now, what’s your dream now?
Now my dream is… it is a good question and a difficult question. Let me give you an example again. I came here first. I went to the hospital because of a medical problem. I came home and said, “Guys, I want to be a nurse.” But in general, my dream was to be myself. At its core. Because I’m a child who can be happy with anything. I’m a person who can enjoy everything I do, live in that moment, stand in that moment. I know how to make it. That’s why I love myself so much. I mean, there’s nothing I want to be professionally. I mean, I didn’t think of anything like this, this thing. It’s just my dream to be happy. Continuing to be happy. But happiness is not a thing in my opinion. It’s not a destination, it’s a process of happiness. I mean, we’re not happy when we get there, or we’re happy when we do this. It’s important to be happy while going through the process. It’s important to be happy while being on the road. I want to travel the world. I want to travel. I want to see everywhere. I want to meet all the other people. I want to see cultures in that country. Because we really care about ourselves a lot. I’ve been saying a lot of things about myself since now. But when you watch documentaries and look at the outside world, you see how small, so important, but so insignificant, that the world revolves around us. We feel it. But when you look out, we’re actually the grain of sand in the sea. I mean, it is in the world. If you think of the universe, if you think of space you understand like — hey who are you? What are you? But, yes, my dream is to travel the world, to know people. And not right now in the future. Let me help myself first. After saving myself, my dream is to do things that will touch people in person. Doing things that can change their lives on one by one. I’m very sensitive to two groups, one is children and the other is animals. I think these are the two groups that need the most attention and protection in the world. So my dream is voluntary to do studies on them, especially. But like I said, first of all, I want to help myself, I want to make my own road. Then I want to help everyone I can. I don’t know how to help, but I have to find something that can help, grab it by the end. It will make me very happy, and I will feel that I exist. Why I was born, we always ask ourselves sometimes when we’re alone. And I was born, yes. For what? To eat, drink water, sleep, spend time? There must be a reason why we came to Earth. Here it is to turn it for good and actually create a reason. I mean, I was born. We have an average life of 70 or 80 years, but I don’t think I’ll live that long but. We live that much on average, and here we touch at least one or two people’s lives. Make their lives better. Won’t it be enormous?
[Name redacted], thank you. Let me ask you one last thing. That’s such a general question. Do you want to say something to people living in Europe to better understand the lives of refugees? What do you want to say to Europeans who are European, in terms of the life of refugees? For better understanding?
I’d like to say at first. I haven’t noticed it here but I think it’s happening in general. I’m observing it. First, they should not pity us. We are not the same. I didn’t come from a country of war, but when I see a man from a country where there is a war, I look at them with pity for a moment. It’s the wrong thing, and I’m getting back together. Because the person across the street feels it. People actually feel everything. So there’s no need to say physical contact or any words. Even in your gaze, you can tell everything. So, don’t look pity on us. Including me, I should not look pity on people. Don’t look pity on me either. Like — ah such a pity he’s had a lot of difficulties in his country. It is just a pity. No. Yeah, that’s hard to say. Because I find myself doing the same thing as I just said. Especially when I see people running from the war. Because I came from such a culture. It’s bad, it’s a shame. No, it’s not a pity. What we can do from now on and see them. And don’t pretend they don’t exist. I can tell you that. Don’t pretend we don’t exist. We’re here. I believe in the future that borders will be eliminated, countries won’t build such a sharp boundaries and sharp nations. I don’t know if we could see it in this lifetime, but there’s a globalizing word that’s always been present. Globalization is global, it will really become globalized, and it will be a world. Because in every country there are no more pure citizens of that country. There are people coming from the outside. They take girls from each other, they take boys, and hybrid races occur. So I guess there’s no pure race anymore. In the remote corner of Africa, I exalt things that haven’t even been involved in technology. The tribes may have remained as a pure race. But I don’t think there’s a pure race in any geography. We’re involved. Now we’re in each other, and we can’t separate each other. I haven’t lived here much, but let’s not categorize anyone. Let’s not part with color, language, religion, race, labels, let’s look as a person, see as a person. Because we all have two eyes, two hands, two legs. They always say, I like it. When we’re cut off, we all bleed red. I think the most important thing is that these feelings are common, our tears are common, our feelings are common. So I tell the Europeans that we are together. We’re from Earth. We’re together. So if this ship is going to sink, we are going down together. In the world, I mean. If there are any problems in the world, wars, or the world will end, we’ll all go together. So I glorify this continent, this continent will not be located, the others will sink. There’s no such thing. If we’re all going, we’ll go, and if we stay, we’ll stay. So there will be no boundaries in the future. Everyone’s mixed up, too. Love is love. Everybody’s having sex with each other. Everyone’s breeding. Last but not least, I love myself. I love you guys so much. I want you to love me, but I don’t care if you don’t. But let’s all respect each other. Like I said, we are strong together, and together we will overcome everything. Finally, I will say one sentence. I think that we love, let’s start everything from ourselves first, and then strive to love everything, because there is nothing that we can not achieve and overcome with the power of love. Love, love, love and love, and love. You’re welcome.