I met Adil in Skala Sikamineas, on the Lesvos North Shore. He volunteered for an NGO and was in charge of the transit camp there - he and his cat Tuesday.
He told me about life on the island...
~ Interview by Talitha Brauer
I'm Adil. I'm from Iraq, from Mosul. I'm 26 years old.
How is life for you here?
Everything is OK, but now everyone feels like everything takes a long time. Like, the asylum interview, for example. I'm here since April, and I don't have any appointment, or any asylum [status] here in Greece. And I wait, for the moment. But I wait for what? For nothing. I don't have something to wait for. For example, if I had an appointment for an interview, I'd say "yeah, I'm waiting for something -- I have to keep waiting, because I'm waiting for something". But now, I'm waiting for nothing.
Because everything [is so slow].
So nobody knows what they're waiting for, because nothing is happening?
What's it like for you, volunteering with a Christian organisation?
It's very good for me, because we have to work together; like one team, one family, to help these people. I don't care that he's Christian and I'm Muslim... I'm in the middle, between... I'm not so much Muslim... I'm in the middle. I love all people, and I respect all people. I have friends from all religions. I don't [make] differences between this and that: You have religion, you're free; I have religion, I'm free.
This place is better, for me, than Mytilini and than Molyvos also. Because here, I need to help people -- anyone who needs help: refugee, local, tourist. Because I like helping people -- all of them. I don't make a difference between anyone. This is a good point. When you do that, you feel amazing. You feel good. And you feel like your life is good, because you do that from your heart.
So tell me what a day in the life looks like, here in Skala Sikamineas, for you? When do you get up in the morning?
I need coffee...
Yeah, what time?
Maybe, 7, 8 in the morning. I make coffee with hot chocolate, together. I don't like breakfast in the morning, because I don't like the food so much.
Then I start to clean up the camp, and I start to go to the clothing tent, if they need some clothing, or if they need to move some stuff from this place to this place.
And after that, I often chat with my friends in the camp, from Samaritan's Purse (NGO) and we start talking about some subjects... about refugees, about life.
When there's a landing, I think it's better, because we have something to do. Like, "Come on guys, we have a landing!". We have to be ready, we have to move, we have to work; because they need our work, and they need help. And when we've finished with the landing, we clean up the camp together. Then I go back to the kitchen, to make some lunch for myself, and with my friends -- if they like.
And I take my food, and sometimes I go back to the tent to take a rest, to sleep. Sometimes I go to the village to drink some coffee, and have a place to be quiet... open wifi... see the world: what's happening, what's the latest news, the breaking news. It's an amazing day for me, every day.
But they're not the same, you know!
Today is an amazing day, but tomorrow, I don't know. It'll be different... Good? Very good? I don't know.
So you help with the translation, too?
I do everything.
And, ... what do you mean you do everything?
Translation, cooking, I make tea, I give them bananas, I give them the clothing, I give them blankets. Sometimes I make music for them. I dance for them when the refugees are not feeling good. I make jokes with them, I have fun with them. It's better.
So you cheer them up?
Uh-huh. Actually, you know what? I don't like children that much, but when we receive the landing, I start playing with the children, because they feel afraid, or scared after the boat. And when you play with them for a little, and give them some sweets, some gift or something, then they feel like, better, and they forget how it was. And that's good for them.
And, when the refugees see you...
They feel so happy, because they have someone who speaks Arabic, and he speaks Kurdish, and English, and he helps them translate, and get some clothing, and to get some information about their asylum, and about how their life is here... everything.
And how many of the refugees are Arabic speakers, and how many are African, in general?
Most of the people that come are from Syria, number 1. And Afghanistan number 2, and Iraq number 3. And number 4 is like a mix from like Africa and from Pakistan...
Tell me about your life in Iraq.
I started studying in the high school, and when I finished there, I went to the Red Cross. I worked with my father there. My father was the leader for the office for the Red Cross in Mosul.
I was working there until 2009; then I started working at the American base there. After that, I learned some English from the Americans and I started to work with the Americans as a translator.
We brought some information about the bad people. We would go to find the people there and catch them. Then in 2009, the Americans were going from Iraq. They went back to the US, and I went to the Iraq army. I was a soldier there.
Then in 2014, ISIS had come to Iraq from Syria, and they took my city, Mosul. They took Tikrit, the second city, and they took Dayalah, and from Kirkut (?), and they took Ramadi also.
And then I finished my mission with the Iraqi forces, and I called my family to go from Mosul and they said "no — we have to stay here, because if we leave the house, ISIS will take the house, and make trouble...".
I was outside Mosul when ISIS was coming, because I was with the Americans, and then with the army. This was difficult for me, because if they'd have caught me, they'd have killed me, for sure, 100%.
I started to work with the Red Cross again in Baghdad. We had a camp there for receiving people from their city, when ISIS was in control there.
Then the militia, Hezbollah, attacked me, saying they needed some information about people inside the camp. And I said, "that's not my job, how can I give you some information about people inside the camp?”
And they said "No, we know everything here; but because you are from Mosul, you must have information about these people, about this stuff..." and I said, "I can't"; and they said, "If you don't help us, we'll make a problem for you. we know when you go out from the camp, and we know where you sleep, and we know your phone number, and your family in Mosul -- we know these things.
And then I felt like my life was in danger. I thought “my family is in Mosul, and they have ISIS there, so I can’t go there. And here, I have a problem with the Hezbollah, the militia.”
So I didn't have any choice but to go to Europe.
And I started to travel in 2016...
Are you in touch with your family?
Where are they right now?
And when's the last time you spoke with them?
And why have you not spoken with them?
ISIS destroyed all the towers for the networks and the internet, everything...
So you don't know...
Anything about them. If they're alive, if they're dead. I don't know anything about them. I have 2 brothers, and my mother and my father.
You miss your family?
It's so hard not to be able to talk with them for 2 years.
Yeah. But, in the future, I'll go back.
November 2018: Adil continues to live and work on the island, now in Mytilini. There are now an estimated 10,000 refugees living on Lesvos, with 8,000 refugees living in Moria camp alone - a camp with an original capacity for 1,700.
Interview and photography by Talitha Brauer ~ November 2016, Lesvos, Greece