One second at the camp's clinic
A familiar medication handed to the man whose request I translate
Two minutes on the shores of Izmir
Some day in February, on a cold night, one o'clock after midnight
A woman in her twenties... a small child in her arms... one year old, maybe?
Wakes from his sleep, begins to weep
The cry breaks the dark... shakes the invisible snake, moving towards the rubber boat on the beach.
Quiet! We must be quiet. Silence in our steps. Loud are the baby's screams. It grows.
The head of the line stops. We obey.
We stand silent, motionless.
The smuggler's pocket produces a small box. He walks up to the woman and the little boy.
"Give him ten drops to sleep."
This stuns everyone. Yet, no one speaks a word, no one opposes.
Even if they wanted to, they wouldn't. We are in pitch darkness. They have their feelings, although you won't see crying, laughter, or anger.
I am near the woman. She opens the canister.
"Will he wake up again if I give him ten?"
One second it would take me to reassure her.
Answer yes... But the word chokes up in my throat.
Because I do not really understand what is going on.
The smuggler's voice speaks before I can:
"Of course he will. We give some children more than that. Let's hurry."
The woman sits on the ground... tries to force the child who resists the medicine. He does not want to be part of this crime. Her hands shake. Her breath is troubled.
I am called to help them finish. I approach them and grab the boy with the mother. Together we pour the blobs into his mouth. The cries have not increased, but the screaming has.
I still see the woman's face today. Her eyes filled with tears when forced to drug her son. I still remember her fear.
Fear for her child. Fear of the sea.
And I wonder. Why does the enemy enter our land loud with planes, guns, and explosions? But we, the land's owners, we have to leave in silent caution.
Even our children must not weep...
Amer Al-Haj is from Dier ez-Zor, Syria. He is one of the thousands of refugees who became stranded in Northern Greece in 2016 following the closure of the Greece/Macedonia border. Amer learned English during his time at University where he studied engineering. He has expanded his knowledge of the language by volunteering with medical teams in the camps he lived in, and by writing poetry to go with his photos. A natural artist and wordsmith, Amer quickly learned Spanish after receiving asylum in Barcelona and shares his poetry in a combination of Arabic, Spanish, and English.