Sat, Nov 23, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Shedding light on life in the shadow of the world’s security walls

From Mexico to Morocco, barriers separate communities. While some say they offer a sense of security, others claim they create a feeling of imprisonment


By Helena Smith

The Guardian, NEA VYSSA, Greece

Apostolos Handirides, 60, lives in the village of Nea Vyssa, a 20-minute drive under police and military escort to the barbed wire barrier, and sees himself as a “frontier guard.”

As with almost everyone in the area, Handirides’s family moved to Greece from Turkey in the great population exchange in 1922 that followed the war between the two countries.

At least twice a month, he makes the 10-minute trip to the town he still calls Adrianoupolis (renamed Edirne by the Turks), where his grandmother grew up:

“The barrier brought us great peace of mind. You’d wake up and see these poor, wretched beings walking by, and sometimes they would cause trouble. Now we don’t have to look over our shoulders at all. For the first time, there’s a real sense of security.

“My grandmother, Anna, came in 1923 and I remember her regaling us with stories about all the good and bad things of life over there.

“The fence, of course, hasn’t stopped us crossing the border. I don’t speak Turkish but they speak very good Greek over there. Often I’ll drive over [via the nearby frontier crossing] to have a meal or coffee with friends.”


By Paul Hamilos

The Guardian, MELILLA, Spain

Moroccan Abdel Ghani, 38, first got to Spain in 2000 and lived there for almost a decade before being expelled back to Morocco. “I still don’t know exactly why,” he says.

“In Morocco I tried to find work, but there is nothing for me there; they pay six euros [US$8] a day for working in fields, and construction work isn’t much better, but the cost of meat is more expensive than in Spain.

“I got back over the border into Melilla three weeks ago and have been sleeping in the streets since then. I will go back to mainland Spain however I can, even though now I don’t have the paperwork. I don’t know how long I will be here or how long it will take, but I will do it.

“Even though there are fewer jobs in Spain now, it is still better than nothing. I think I will probably go in a boat, but I will have to return to Spain. There is nothing left for me here.”

Morocco-Western Sahara

By Marcello Di Cintio Tindouf

The Guardian, Algeria

Ama is in her early 20s and is a lifelong refugee in an Algerian camp. She has never seen her homeland, on the other side of the berm, one of the world’s longest — and oldest — separation barriers.

It runs through disputed desert land in northwest Africa between Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, a result of Morocco’s 40-year territorial thrust southwards.

“It is very lovely,” Ama says, of the land she has never seen. “There are real streets and buildings. Lots of cars. “The ocean is nearby and it is a huge distance filled with water. You can swim in it and there are fish. And it can rain there for days.”

In the imagination of a refugee, any place on the other side of the wall, wherever it is, must be beautiful.


By Mona Mahmood

The Guardian, HOMS, Syria

Since the Syrian civil war broke out in earnest, Homs has become a city crisscrossed by walls, separating different neighborhoods according to their ethnic minorities and loyalty or hostility toward the regime.

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