Don’t judge a book by its cover
Fear, it is also a human feeling and everyone feels it. You cannot say that Christians are more afraid than the Muslims, or Europeans are afraid more than the Arabs. The fear of the different is a sensible and human feeling, as it is human to be influenced by stereotypes, labels and by the …cover of a book. Listening to the stories of others, most often you realize things for yourself. This is the story of a close friend of mine from Syria, who was influenced … by the cover.
It was at that time that there was a strike on public transportation in Thessaloniki. So I had to go to Macedonia airport of Thessaloniki, to get my refugee friend who came from Athens and take her to Sindos, in Frakapor camp, on the very opposite side of the town. She had traveled to Athens to work as a translator in a foreign media. Quite foreign media, they use well-spoken English refugees, as translators. That way, they have translation from Arabic to English, but also they learn the story better. Since there is no more specialist to tell you the story and the problems of the refugees by the refugee himself.
It was almost night when her plane landed in Macedonia airport of Thessaloniki. She came out of the arrivals, along with a young man. A young man with that characteristic beard who, as we all believe, is used to have the very faithful Muslims. On his back he was carrying a backpack and looked frightened.
She introduced him to me. He had traveled from Austria and he was heading to Alexandroupolis, where his young sister was. “She has crossed from Evros to Greece, a few days ago and she is now in a hostel of unaccompanied minors,” he told me, and continued, “I have the necessary documents to take with me to Austria”. He had followed the same path two years ago. “I crossed Evros and tried to leave in northern Europe through Albania. I paid 1,200 euros to the trafficker, to take me to Austria. I tried four times and always I was arrested and turned back to Greece. Last time, they caught us in a truck, four kilometers before the border with Montenegro. I was disappointed and thought to try from Idomeni. From there, I did not pay a trafficker. We were a group of refugees that we reached on foot to Austria. From Syria to Austria, I traveled for three months. Now I’m fine and I came back to Greece, to get my sister” he said. The rest of his family were still in Syria (Qamishli) and for this reason he did not want to be photographed or write his name. He also expected some of his friends to come by car from the airport and take him.
“During the flight from Athens to Thessaloniki, I was afraid that the young man sitting next to me would explode himself into the airplane and kill us all,” my friend told me as soon as we said goodbye the young refugee. A Syrian refugee, feared that the Syrian youngster who was sitting beside her was a terrorist and he would be exploded into the airplane. “How did you get that idea?” I asked her. “As soon as I got into the plane, the young man was already in the next seat. He looked restless and held a backpack in his arms” she said, and continued: “I sat in my seat and phoned my uncle to tell him that I was on the plane. That we were about to take off soon and that I would have to switch off my device. The young man heard me speak Arabic and asked me where I come from. As soon as he spoke to me Arabic, I froze. I saw the beard, I saw the bag holding it tight in his arms, I saw that he was nervous and I was sure that at some point in the flight, he would explode into the airplane. Eventually he was nervous because he was afraid of the planes” my friend concluded, feeling bad about the thoughts she had made. She had just judged the book by the cover. She felt the normal feeling of fear that has been planted in our minds with what we have been living in recent years.
“Exercise against your fears. Only in this way is a man liberated, “Epictetus said.