Kenan tells about his escape from Turkey

It all began on July 15 with an attempted coup, the exact reason for which was still unclear. On September 1, 2016, I was dismissed as an opponent of the government along with 50,000 other civil servants by a presidential decree called "KHK" (Emergency Decree) without any judicial decision.

A witch hunt began throughout the country. Relatives, friends and neighbors avoided contact with me and my family and were even afraid to call us. My sister, aunts and uncles stopped talking to us. Our children were ostracized at school.

Employers were afraid to hire people who had been fired. People were illegally arrested without any questioning. We filed administrative court cases against our dismissal, but our applications were denied.

Our country unfortunately became an unbearable place for me and my family. We had to make a decision. We had to flee the country. But how? The only solution seemed to be illegal. I had never done anything illegal before, not even committed a traffic sin. It was very difficult for me to embark on such an adventure. But if we didn't dare, there was a risk that I would end up in jail along with my wife. Our children would be left alone. We just didn't feel like we were in our own country anymore. As hard as it was, we made the decision to flee.

We made contact with people who helped others illegally escape abroad.  Of course, it was not for free. They demanded 4,000 euros per person. There were four of us, so 16,000 euros. We decided to sell our car and our house. But how? They did not even allow us to sell our house. Our land was hell for us. We went through the fire.

Since I had to travel a lot for my job, I had issued powers of attorney to my wife by notary so that she could do some things on my behalf. We thought it more reasonable that she would sell the house, since she had never worked before. Thank goodness we were lucky, and we were able to sell the house to a client at two-thirds of the market value. But our bank accounts were frozen. It was difficult to get the money. Therefore, we had to get it paid out in cash. The money could have been counterfeit. However, we had no other choice.

From now on, every one of our actions and decisions involved risks. But we had to take those risks. Fortunately, the money was not counterfeit. Without telling anyone, we drove two cars over mountain roads to the coastal town of Fethiye on the Aegean Sea. There we went to the place the smugglers had told us. Since it was December, it was cold and the sea had high waves. We stayed there for about a week in a house and could not go outside. The men brought us food.

Every morning a hope for freedom! We waited one day, two days and then a whole seven days. Finally, the great moment had come. The pigeons in the cage were finally going to be free. We left early in the morning at five o'clock with two families and the traffickers. As we sailed from the river out to sea, we narrowly escaped capsizing. The adventure could have ended prematurely.

The captain of the boat and the men were very worried. This was because both Greek and Turkish coast guard soldiers could easily spot a couple of boats out at sea in the winter. Actually, we should have made the trip in 45 minutes by speedboat, but it took us two hours. The two hours felt like two years.

We reached a Greek island, but after only fifteen minutes we were arrested by the island's police officers. They took us to the port police. There we learned that the smugglers had also been caught. We saw how badly and horribly they had been beaten. Their eyes were swollen. We were held in a warehouse for two days. The place was unhealthy and very dirty, and the children's eyes were so swollen that they could not open them. We suspect that they were stung by insects. There were also large cockroaches.

Then the Greek police took us to prison, where the criminals were also held. Although we were there as a family, they held us for a full twelve days. It was Christmas and we had to stay for a long time in very cold rooms, in military sleeping bags with dirty blankets and pillows. The two-year-old daughter of our friends was also there. Some of the guards were very sad about our plight and showed great understanding, but others were very cruel to us.

Twice we were allowed to make phone calls. Only after 25-30 days we could tell our parents that we were alive. They had been very worried about us because we had not told anyone about our escape. They had even feared that we might be dead.

Then Greece accepted our request for asylum and released us. For the time being, I don't want to say which island we came to. After a 16-hour ferry ride, we reached Athens. We thought everything was over, but in fact it had just begun! Since Turkey had taken away our passports, we could only move around with the residence permit issued by Greece. Greece did not have enough resources economically and socially to support so many migrants. Therefore, people were looking for illegal ways to get to Germany, Holland, Belgium, Norway and other countries. We soon began to explore the same routes.

About five months later we reached Germany. We thought everything would get better, but my son contracted pneumonia on the trip because of the cold and exhaustion. His lungs were badly affected and his life was in danger. Our trip to Germany began with a 15-day hospital stay in Munich. My son did not recover for two months.

Then we spent about seven months in a refugee camp in Donauwörth. There I told our story to the authorities in great detail. What we experienced in our country was a social genocide. Fortunately, our recognition as refugees in Germany was quickly accepted.

Now it was a matter of finding a place to live, learning the German language and integrating into German culture. Our children's schools and German courses for my wife and me began. My wife and I even continued them up to C1 level. I am writing these lines to you through my esteemed German teacher who helped me in a friendly way.

We have made many friendships. We have many new friends from different countries. My wife and I are not able to practice our profession completely, but we have continued our education in similar fields. I have a degree in finance from the university and my diploma was recognized in Germany. In the meantime, I completed six months of further education in accounting with a very good degree. Germany is generally a democratic country, but even here we can sometimes have little problems.

Recently, during the job search, we had similar experiences as in the past. During a job interview, I was asked why I came here, although this question is against the rules. When I answered that it was political reasons, I was asked many questions. Actually, I wanted to stop the interview, but I stayed patient until the end. Of course, I was not hired.

But still, there are also many good people in the world. There are people who understand us, are compassionate and without prejudice, nice and friendly people. And finally I was hired after all, as a financial accountant. Now everything looks much better. I don't want to talk about racism or exclusion that we sometimes experience. I want to be positive and optimistic and not talk about such events. It makes life easier. In fact, I want to leave out a lot of negative details that I have experienced in my life. Our life could actually fill a novel. In short, this is all I can tell as a summary. If you can read my story and feel some compassion for us, it would make us happy. Thank you for your patience and attention.


Thank you, Kenan, for having the courage to tell this story here!