By the No Name Kitchen in Bosnia y Herzegovina in Winter 2018. Writen by Bárbara B, translated by Isabella Di Maio
Today we are going to share with you a story of hope. Although sometimes all the efforts we make to report violence at our borders may feel in vain when someone who is on the move tells us how he or she has been a victim of police violence in Europe, there are very brave people who are always ready to fight for justice.
Sami, a young man from Syria living now in Germany, has decided to prosecute Croatia in the European Court of Human Rights for a brutal assault at Croatia, near the Bosnian border, that he himself witnessed when he was still a minor. Former members of No Name Kitchen are also supporting him in this process.
We want to share the whole story as a reminder that we must continue to fight for fair borders free of violence and because we are really proud of Sami and many of the other people who, despite seeing their rights violated in Europe, do not remain silent and denounce the attacks against them.
A young man shares with the No Name Kitchen team what he has witnessed
Winter had already arrived in Velika Kladuša even though it was still October 2018. The days were horribly cold and people were still living in a meadow with no solutions from the institutional organizations working hand in hand with the European Union.
Barbara B. had gone to do some business at the public light company near the main park in Kladuša , and on her way out she joined her companion Jack Sapoch. They were walking towards the park when they saw Sami, a Kurdish boy, who was Jack’s close colleague. His face was unhinged. He was shaking. Sami is from Syria, was a minor and was traveling alone to the European Union in search of a country where he could seek asylum and find safety.
Barbara and Jack approached Sami. He pulled out his phone and asked them to look. He showed a video. In the video it was night time and they could hear banging and hear the screams of a person, who was coming after those banging. Sami was shaking as they watched the video together on their cell phone. After the beatings and screams in the dark, a man appears bleeding, he had just been one of the many victims of violence in our borders. Here you can see the video, pixelated:
Sami had accessed Croatia, the European Union. And he had witnessed very directly an episode of violence that people often describe to us. An episode of violence that hundreds of people were reporting to us on a weekly basis in the Bosnia-Croatia border. He was back in Bosnia because, with that situation, he had decided not to continue the journey. With a stress that no person, let alone a child, should be living in Europe when they come here to ask for protection. He had returned to Bosnia with a video that was not only a horrible video of violence. But it had crystal clear proof of what people on the move have been reporting for years: horrific, lawless border violence at the hands of European Union agents.
Jack and Barbara, along with Sami, knew this. They knew that this video was really important to show what we have been denouncing for years with the testimonies of thousands of people.
They talked to him. It was really hard what was there. He was panicking. They decided that later, Jack, along with Karolina, would sit down calmly to collect the testimony. At that time, Jack and Karolina were the people on the team in charge of collecting the testimonies of border violence to keep the record of the illegalities that people who are migrating live in these borders.
And, on top of that, Jack, Karolina and Sami were friends as they used to spend a lot of time together on a daily basis in the showers that No Name Kitchen offered and in informal camp that was placed nearby. And they already had a relationship of trust, respect and friendship, which is very important in this border dynamic full of violence.
Sami, Karolina and Jack decided that the video had to be published as a clear proof of what we denounced, while covering up the faces of those who appear in the video and without giving details of the people who were at the border at the time. The objective was to preserve their identity and protect them. If they wanted to get somewhere where they could ask for international protection, they had to continue on their way and at some point they would have to get back to Croatia and showing their identity publicly might put them in further danger in front of authorities, the Croatian authorities, bent on silencing their brutal violence. The person who was in the video also gave us permission to publish the content under these conditions.
In the video, as it is pixelated, it is not seen that the man came back with his face bleeding completely. And the police, with their battons, had broken bones of his body. Sami told us that although coming from war zone, in his life, he never heard voices screaming out of pain like that night in the Croatian forest.
We released it to the public through Are You Syrious, an association with which we have often collaborated, in order to spread it more widely together.
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) represents Sami in this case in front of the European court of human rights and there are also people who were part of the No Name Kitchen team like Jack who have testified telling part of what we tell you here to add more data to the story that Sami witnessed.