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To escape from Turkey, they told their children it was a game

Tahsin with his family
Tahsin with his family
By Cristina Abellan Matamoros
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To make the journey to Greece easier, Tahsin told his children their escape was 'a game'.


Tahsin, 46, was the Deputy Director for Orphans in the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs in Turkey. But after the 2016 attempted coup, he was accused of being “Gulenist” and forced to flee to Greece with his family.

Tahsin had to reach out to traffickers to help him escape to Greece; he borrowed money from friends to pay them and the family was soon moved to Edine near the Greek border.

To make the long journey to Greece easier for his five-year-old daughter Rana, Tahsin made her believe they were playing a game.

“We will play a game of three levels. If we complete it they will give us a prize,” he told Euronews.

The first step in Tahsin’s game was to cross the river Evros in a plastic boat and walk 20 kilometres to a Greek village: “I told her that we needed to walk a long way, pass by swamps, but we must not talk at all.”

Then when they arrived in Greece, Tahsin told Rana they must surrender themselves to the police and stay in jail for a couple of days where she had to obey every order. If she didn’t complain then she would win “a prize”.

Finally, the last step would be to go to Athens and live with people who did not speak Turkish but that “if she learned the language, started school and spoke Greek with the teacher, they would be able to go back to their home in Ankara one day".

Meryem, Tahsin’s wife, said that ‘the game’ helped her youngest daughter walk all the way to Greece. And even when she tried to carry her, Rana would say: “Please let me down mommy, I want to win the game.”

It estimated that around 300 families accused by the Turkish government of being "Gulenists" have fled to Greece.

Most of them have applied for asylum but have to wait at least three years before they get an answer.

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