Many Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi families and individuals in Turkey hurriedly made the journey to the border region with Greece in Turkey on 27 February 2020, amid promises by the Turkish authorities that the country’s borders with the European Union (EU) would be opened. Many of these asylum seekers had lived in Turkey for years, but the Turkish government has no qualms about using its immigrant and asylum-seekers population against the EU as a political leverage.
‘EU-Turkey deal’ that has been signed between Turkey and EU countries on 18 March 2016 allowed for the return of all those arriving irregularly on the Greek islands – including asylum-seekers – back to Turkey. In exchange, Turkey promised to ‘prevent new sea or land routes for illegal migration’
The Turkish government’s justification on its opening the border with the EU was its concurrent “Spring Shield” military operation in Syria’s Idlib province, launched after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in a single attack in that province. The Syrian military (supported by Russia) had at that point advanced into the last stronghold controlled by Turkey-supported opposition armed groups. Turkey requested NATO assistance with the “Spring Shield” operation.
Within all these developments, without a doubt, the most affected group was the immigrants and asylum seekers in Turkey. When Amnesty International launched their briefing on the violence at the Greek-Turkish border (‘Caught in a political game https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur01/2077/2020/en/) the organization reported the case of Fatma (not her real name), a Syrian woman who is missing and presumed dead after she and her husband were separated from their six children while attempting to cross the Evros/Meriç river, south of Edirne, to enter Greece. To date, three months later, there are no news on what happened to Fatma.
Fatma has a name now: Nadera Almonla, and her lawyer has launched a digital campaign to call for justice for her and her family. The action started on Monday, June 18th, at 8:00 pm Turkey time/ 6:00 pm UK time/ 7:00 pm CET.
Since then, many support their efforts by joining the twitter action, amplifying the lawyer’s campaign chosen hashtags: #NaderaAlmonlaNerede #WhereIsNaderaAlmonla and targeting Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
Here is what Amnesty’s report tells us about Nadera (Fatma)’s case:
“A less reported case is that of Fatma. On 29 February Fatma, from Syria, was attempting to cross the river Evros south of Edirne to enter Greece along with her husband and six children. Her husband Ahmed told Amnesty International that their six children crossed the river in a boat first while he and his wife and others waited on the Turkish side for the boat to return to take them across, but that as soon as the children reached the Greek side of the river six soldiers arrived in two army vehicles. He explained what happened next:
‘They fired in the air. My wife was afraid for our kids and wanted to go to them and she went into the river and I went with her. The water at first reached our waist. I am about 1.70 cm and my wife is shorter than me. The Greek soldiers shouted at us in a language I did not understand. I don’t think it was English. It must have been Greek. We kept walking in the river towards the Greek side and as we reached just over halfway, towards Greece, the water was at our shoulder and my wife’s neck. We raised our hands and kept walking and as we got about 2 or 3 metres from the river bank the Greek soldiers were right in front of us, on the riverbank, about 7 or 8 metres from us, pointing their rifles at us. They shot and we went into the water out of fear. I saw one with a handgun and one with a rifle. I reached the riverbank and my wife was behind me. The last sight I caught of her was when she was standing with her head above water about two meters behind me. The soldiers came towards me, I tried to go back to get my wife but they grabbed me and pushed me face down with my head away from the water so I could not see the river. I tried to get up but the soldier put his rifle to my head so I could not move. In all they shot at least three times’.”
When we look at the report, we see that Ahmed told Amnesty International that he attempted to ask the Greek soldiers about what happened to his wife but they did not answer. After he and his children were detained for four or five hours and their possessions and his and his sons’ clothes taken from them, they were driven back to the river and put in a wooden boat that brought them and others back to the Turkish side. Ahmed has returned to the scene to discover what happened to his wife, and has been supported by lawyers in Turkey and Greece, who have appealed to authorities in both countries, but no information is available on the whereabouts of Fatma or whether she was shot and killed, or injured or drowned in the river.
2 months ago @Amnesty reported the case of ‘Fatma’, a missing Syrian woman who is presumed dead after attempting to cross the Evros river.— Amnesty EU (@AmnestyEU) June 8, 2020
Fatma has a name: #NaderaAlmonla
We still don’t know what happened to her.@kmitsotakis: investigate her case now #WhereIsNaderaAlmonla pic.twitter.com/sE1r79x6BI
Nadera’s lawyer, who is assisting her husband and family in trying to obtain justice, has reported the case to the Greek police with no success. An application was also filed to the ECtHR about the case requesting measures to find Nadera and asking for an effective investigation on the matter, so far without results.
Two months ago @amnesty reported the case of ‘Fatma’, a missing Syrian woman who is presumed dead after attempting to cross Evros river.— Milena Buyum (@MilenaBuyum) June 8, 2020
Fatma has a name: Nadera Almonla.
We still don’t know what happened to her. @kmitsotakis: investigate her case. #WhereIsNaderaAlmonla🕯 pic.twitter.com/kEqtqQt4ye