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Kokoshagi Hotel Guests

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Arabic version


Small groups of Kokoshagi Hotel guests are sitting around circular tables of the same colour and size in the hotel lounge overlooking the Aegean Sea, on the outskirts of the Turkish town of Didim. Among them are women, children, and young people of varying ages. Most of their conversations are about finding safe routes to Europe, and they focus on the difficulties and risks of the road. They continue talking until after midnight without agreeing on a safe route, free of dangers. Most of the hotel guests come from conflict zones seeking safety first, then dreams of a better life. They are exhausted by discussions and suggestions on how to sail to the Greek islands and they sleep in hope of reaching the land of their dreams. 

 


 

Among these groups is one whose members hold university degrees, and who discuss the guests’ situation, the sea, and the smuggler. A petroleum engineer comments, “Our feelings and thoughts have become like the waves of the sea; rather, a part of it. When the tide becomes higher, nervousness and anxiety increase and I become obsessed with a strong desire to sail quickly before the advent of winter. So, I called the smuggler, who responded coldly as if there was no cause for concern, reiterating his sugary promises to sail tonight.” The smuggler replied, “Your name is on the top of the list of those who will sail tonight.” And the petroleum engineer continues, “So, my nerves and my body relaxed in preparation for a long wait.” 

 


 

The lawyer comments on the engineer’s words by saying, “Everything the smuggler says is meaningless. It is the tip of the iceberg of baseless words that mean nothing in the face of reality.” The lawyer stops talking and lights his cigarette, while the schoolteacher expresses his opinion on the subject saying, “All of our options are fraught with high risks, and perhaps our own choice is the most dangerous of all. But now we are faced with only two terrifying choices: the sea in front of us, or behind us evil eyes staring at us down. So the right choice remains extremely difficult.” The three fall silent, but the voices of a neighbouring group became audible, and their conversation is fiercer than that of the educated group. This group comes from rural Syrian provinces and met in the hotel lobby. Now they are engaged in a discussion to choose between a yacht and a ballum (an inflatable raft) to sail to the Greek islands. One of them says, “We'll go by ballum to reach land quickly.” His companion replies, “It is too risky!” Another comments, “Let’s go by a tourist yacht; it is more secure.” Another companion responds, “Yacht prices are high and we cannot afford them.” 

 

The groups continue to converse without reaching a final conclusion. Then, suddenly, the smuggler enters the main door of the hotel and everyone looks at him to inquire about the date of the journey, price, safety, and what it will be like. The smuggler replies, “We will tell you later.” Then he departs from the hotel, leaving unknown the fate of the journey that night. A terrible stillness descends on the guests. In front of the hotel, away from the debates in the lounge, there are children of immigrants, or more precisely those who intend to depart, playing a game of hide and seek. How similar this game is to the fate of their guardians in the hotel! 


The petroleum engineer speaks again: “More than four years of darkness and fear can be summarized here in the simple words we hear in this hall hundreds of times per night; ‘We ran out of money’, ‘The war was close to our house,’ ‘We stopped getting the medicine,’ and ‘We saved our children from death.’ ” Thus, the conversations continue until after midnight. Once they cannot resist sleep anymore, they go their rooms to continue telling their tragic stories the next day. The lawyer responds to the engineer’s words: “Tragedy and danger cannot be avoided by staying away from home. The children are playing here, unaware of the situation, which sends them the message, ‘You have become small dreams for the grandmothers who saw you off with hearts filled with sadness and cursing fate.’ Their grandmothers saw them off while knowing undoubtedly that their eyes would never see their grandchildren after that day.” Since that day, these children have become a heavy burden in the memories and hearts of those grandmothers who dreamt so much of seeing them. The Turkish children chase our children in the street, and they call them using incomprehensible words; ‘Syrian, Syrian, hey, hey.’” 

 

Everyone becomes silent after hearing the yell of the smuggler who stands near the hotel door. He speaks on the phone with people who are lost at sea, telling them, “Save yourselves from drowning, my responsibility ended at the beach.” From upstairs, everyone can hear the crying of a baby in the cradle awaiting the journey. His crying in the night documents their plight. As for their sad feelings, these people left them in their hometowns as part of a forgotten past. Amidst these discussions, a nine-year-old rushes into the hotel, hitting the wide glass door, like a random bomb dropped inside the hotel by those that forced many of these guests to abandon their country. Everyone stands frightened. The shattered glass and its shards are scattered inside the lobby where the guests sit. 


Everyone rushes towards the boy, whose face is wounded with numerous injuries. They ask him the same question, “What made you to enter so quickly?!” The boy answers, “I heard someone outside saying that we will sail tomorrow and I wanted to tell my mother.” The petroleum engineer orders a sandwich from the restaurant’s chef, who also owns the hotel, hoping to change the topic. The chef looks at him, saying, “You Syrians are like a tree’s shade. You are everywhere. You go around with the sun.” He hands him a sandwich and adds, “Do you want tea, too? It is free of charge.” The engineer replies, “No.” The chef’s wife, who is helping him, comments, “It is not tea time now; they are poor and hungry. They have not come here to drink tea and enjoy the views of our town, Didim. They have come to sail to the Greek islands and from there to Germany. They are running away from death.” The engineer does not comment, although he does not like what they chef’s wife has said. And she keeps repeating, “They're on the run, they’re hungry, they’re poor, and many of their friends and relatives have died.” 

 


The smuggler appears as a ghost between guests and the immigrants gather around him, all of them with the same question, “When shall we sail?” He just looks at everyone. He talks on his cell phone, and then walks away step-by-step from the group, approaching his car with tinted windows, and leaves. These poor people remain looking at each other, interpreting the smuggler’s silence according to their own intuition, which is their only compass amidst the human traffickers and the tides that foreshadow turmoil in the last days of autumn. It's the last night in the hotel, according to the smuggler’s speech that evening. He is the boss of the Aegean beach, which is like his own kingdom. He orders all the travellers to enter their rooms that night. A twelve-year-old boy refuses his orders and insists on sitting in the hotel lounge, so this leader of smugglers slaps him violently on his soft cheek in front of his parents and all the hotel guests. His father bows his head. Then a woman says, “Why did you hit the boy so hard?” The leader replies, “You are really ignorant.” Her husband replies with a tone filled with anger, “My wife's a school-teacher. She has more understanding and education than you do. Do you understand?” The leader of the smugglers calls one of his assistants, and yells, “Do not add the educated school-teacher and her husband's names to the list of passengers sailing tonight. Did you hear?” He speaks angrily and leaves the hotel, where the guests sit in the lounge all night waiting for orders to sail towards their dreams.

 

 

 



2016-08-16

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