Yesterday I witnessed the blank horror of a family who realized they had just become refugees.
A young Turkish couple, here temporarily on assignment. And after the failed coup and the completion of Erdogan's metamorphosis into a dictator, I told them asylum was the best - and only option. A one-way street, a bell that doesn't unring, fraught with pitfalls, and whatever other options you were thinking about, forget it.
Immediately, thoughts of family. Will they go after my family? Should I go back and risk jail so maybe they won't go after my brother?
We have no one here. No one.
When could we ever go back? What? I have to wait 3 years to maybe win my case, then 5 more to become a citizen? I can't really travel?
I can't fight my case at home...there is no law in Turkey anymore. I have to trust you, my brother, my family has to trust you.
We have to make a decision. We have no more country. We have kids, but so does my brother. How can I leave them? What if they go after my parents? Who knows what will happen? If I don't go home I'm guilty. They'll call me a Gulenist. They did already, I found out yesterday. I'm on a list. I'm on a list. I'm on a list.
I'm on a list.
To watch people become refugees is horrifying. There were no tears - just a blank, numb look - and that just made it worse. They asked me to decide for them. I guess getting robbed of your life has a deleterious effect on your cognitive abilities. I couldn't decide for them, of course. I properly stayed safe in the advisory zone, droning on about legal options, immigrant intent, and exceptions to the one-year bar. The husband turned to his wife and said, "He's a lawyer," meaning, of course, that my legal drivel wasn't helping.
I thought back to the cases of hundreds of other clients who have suffered the trauma of forced displacement. People's responses to the trauma are varied, but God, they're all *so human.* Witnessing the initial shock, however, is secondarily traumatic. The horrid, blank look of educated, proud and accomplished people who can't even conceptualize what the next step might be.
No one chooses never to be able to go home.