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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Syrian refugees escape their cages in Hungary and walk to Austria

Syrian refugee in a cage in Hungary
3 Sept 2015 | source: Sakir Khader
Hungary, which played a supporting role in Hitler's holocaust, has once again shown those fleeing persecution that its trains don't always take you were you want to go.

For weeks now Syria refugees fleeing Assad's campaign of "Death from Above" against civilians or ISIS rule in other areas, had been crowding around the Keleti train station. The surge in people rushing to cross the Hungarian border has been prompted by the construction an new 120 mile razor wire fence designed to stop them as well as draconian new penalties for anyone who tries. The right-wing government of Hungary doesn't like Muslims, doesn't like Arabs, and doesn't like refugees. They have done their best to make these people feel unwelcome. Friday they enacted new laws that penalize crossing the border with a 2 year prison sentence. Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he is taking these measures to preserve Europe as a Christian continent.

None of the Syrian refugees want to stay in Hungary. Most are trying to get to Germany, which feels a special duty towards people fleeing holocaust and has graciously opened her its doors to them. Germany has promise to accept as many as 800,000 Syrian refugees this year as compared to less than 1500 taken in by the US in four years. They found themselves camped out at the train station because the Hungarian officials won't allow them board trains and leave. Many had purchased tickets to Vienna or beyond, and some had already boarded trains, when the Hungarians made the refugees get off the trains and then stopped the trains altogether. Hungarian railway operator MAV said Thursday that it had stopped the trains "for safety reasons." The Syrians were marooned at the station. Hungary didn't want them to come into the county but then it wouldn't let them leave.

After having first stopped the trains, on Thursday they acted as though they were allowing the trains to proceed. Happy refugees got on board, thinking they were finally getting out of Hungary, but it was a trick. Instead they were taken to detention camps near Bicske and many were locked up in cages. Its an old trick that they've used before. This is how CNN reported the story at that point:
Europe's migrant crisis: Chaos as trains are stopped in Hungary

By Arwa Damon and Laura Smith-Spark
Updated 3:56 PM ET, Thu September 3, 2015
Bicske, Hungary (CNN)Chaotic scenes erupted Thursday as trains packed with Syrian refugees were halted at a station outside the Hungarian capital, Budapest, in the latest setback for desperate families seeking to reach Western Europe.

Police gathered at the side of the track as the trains abruptly stopped at Bicske.

A CNN crew on one of the trains said the families -- who boarded hoping to travel to Austria or ultimately Germany -- were refusing to get off despite suffocating heat and limited food and water.

Some youths and men were holding on to the handles of train cars in case police attempted to board and remove them forcibly. Meanwhile, parents fanned their crying children in an attempt to cool them down.

Tents and desks had been set up near the station in what the migrants feared was a relocation camp to transfer them to a nearby refugee center. More...
The people refused to leave the train or be transferred to a detention camp. They named their train the "Freedom Train" and attempts to remove them were met with chants of "No Camp! No Camp!"

Dozens of families, mostly from Syria, rested underneath the Keleti train station in Budapest on Wednesday. Credit Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
Meanwhile back at the station, the refugees became more and more frustrated with the Hungarian attempts to put them into camps where they would be treated like animals, and the official's refusal to allow them to take the trains. Many of the refugees decided that they would walk the 105 miles to Austria. The New York Times has the story of how this march began:
How the Migrants’ March Toward Germany Began

4 Sept 2015
At about noon on Friday, a wild-haired Syrian migrant who goes by the nickname Abu al-Majd began circulating through the underground concourse of Budapest's Keleti train station with a bullhorn exhorting fellow migrants to start walking.

Soon a line of young men began trailing after him, carrying blanket rolls and other possessions. The line grew, and within a few minutes this Pied Piper of Keleti was leading about 200 people out of the train station and down Rakoczi Street toward the Danube River.

The march was spontaneous.

Soon other migrants still in Keleti grabbed their things and scurried after the lead group. They walked across the Danube over a suspension bridge and then turned west towards the Austrian border. By the time they reached the M1 highway leading out of Budapest, their numbers had swollen to at least 1,000.

There was an old man in a wheelchair. There were small children in flip-flops, pregnant women, mothers pushing strollers. A group of young men slowed down to make sure that families with children would not be separated from the rest.

Budapest residents waved from balconies and brought bottles of water to the migrants. One of the marchers carried a European Union flag.

The police caught up with them and began giving them an escort. They waved the migrants to the shoulder or the right lane of the six-lane highway, away from traffic. They did not try to stop them. More...
Hundreds march on foot for the border with Austria from Budapest. Photograph: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters
About 1200 people started out marching from the train station and, upon learning of this march, another 300 set out from the stalled train near Bicske. As word of the march spread, ordinary Hungarians came out to show support and offer food and water. The government said it would arrest any citizen caught giving a refugee a ride, but it was willing to let them leave the country in the cruelest way possible.

The media also got hold of the story and soon the whole world was watching this massive heroic procession. The public pressure on the Hungarian authorities became so great that they were forced to relent and send buses to ferry the refugees to the Austrian border. By now many thousands have already made it safely to Germany, their final destination.

This small example of a important victory won by direct action was brought to you by the Syrian refugees. I didn't want it to go unnoticed that this was a victory for revolutionary direct action.

Some background on Alyan Kurdi's family

Kenan Rahmani has provide us with the following information about Abdullah Kurdi, who became famous when the picture of his drowned son went viral:
  • Abdullah Kurdi, the father, was detained for 5 months in Air Force Intelligence in Damascus. While in detention, he was tortured and his teeth were pulled out. He had to sell his shop in Damascus in order to bribe the officers to let him out. This cost him 5,000,000 Syrian Liras (around $25,000)
  • After he bribed his way out of jail, Abdullah fled to Aleppo with his wife and sons, Alyan and Ghalib. The situation in Aleppo became dangerous due to the constant bombardment, so he fled again to Kobani, his hometown.
  • When ISIS attacked Kobani last year, the family could no longer live in their hometown, so they fled to Turkey. Once in Turkey, the Turkish government did not provide them with assistance, so they paid almost $6,000 to secure 4 spots on a rubber dingy to the Greek island of Kos.
  • While on the boat, rough waters caused the boat to flip. The lifejackets they were given were fake. His sons and wife all drowned in front of his eyes, in his arms.
  • Kurdi alleges that he had applied in June for refuge to Canada, but was rejected. After Aylan's photo became a media story, he was reportedly offered citizenship to Canada. But he doesn't want to go to Canada or Europe anymore. He says he will go bury his family in Kobani and stay there to fight against ISIS, because everything has been taken away from him and he has "nothing to live for."
This information takes on added significance now that some "anti-imperialists" are claiming Aylan Kurdi wasn't a victim of the Assad regime, just ISIS and US bombing because they fled Kobani.

Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria

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