What the journalists too did was just to watch from a distance all this happening while thousands of people were travelling in the glare of publicity by dinghies to a journey which no one knows how it will end.
As an independent photojournalist, I couldn’t accept this and getover all the world just watching this tragedy. Something had to be done. Finally, aware of the death risk, I decided to go aboard and photograph this deadly trip.
I completed my preparations in one week. I tried to take all measures just in case the dinghy sank; diving suit, a good quality life west, and others to keep my cameras dry…
After compleeting my preparations, I travelled from Istanbul to Ayvacık district of Çanakkale on the 17th of October.
My observations there directed me to the Sivrice bay where the dinghies often leave from.
I first witnessed the dinghies leaving in the evening for the Lesbos island before I checked into a family motel. There I decided to go aboard one of the dinghies at that beach and that’s what I did.
On the 18th of October Sunday at 11 a.m. I saw some refugees inflating a dinghy.
I decided to go aboard that boat and quickly told them my aim. Partly for being a woman, they trusted me and let me join them.
More than 50 people were aboard though it was for 12 people only. I set at the front part of the dinghy because that was the best position for taking photographs. The dinghy was so full that it was impossible to make any move.
The human traffickers briefed one of the refugees about how to use the dinghy. The human traffickers forced the refugees to leave their bags at the beach.
They wanted to get everyone on first and then give them their bags if there were still room.
Fortunately they all could get their bags but the refugees are all not as lucky!
Human traffickers never go aboard the dinghies. Many people living at the coast close to the Lesbos island are doing this business.
This death trip costs about 1000-3000 USD per person. One can see how much money the traffickers make from each trip considering that there are 50 people aboard each dinghy. By the way a dinghy costs about 2000 USD.
All the faces were full of fear and anxiety as soon as the dinghy departed.
The UNHCR data reveals that over 4000 refugees have been drowned into these waters.
All those aboard together with me for this journey of 9 miles which takes about one and a half hours, were aware of this death risk fact.
As soon as the dinghy started to float over the cool and dark blue water of Aegean see you could clearly see how afraid and worried all people were, from young children to the eldest. Soon these feelings were replaced by a feeling of surrendering to God.
They all together started screaming prays: “Ya Allah, Ya Allah”.
My presence might have helped them feel confident. We didn’t speak the same language but we were able to build a consolation through a smile.
They wanted me to join them praying and I too prayed with them up to the coast.
As soon as the coast of Molivas in Lesbos was visible fear and worry was replaced by happiness. The faces were smiling.
This was one of the greatest experiences I had all my life. There is a death risk and you don’t know what will happen to you in Greece!
I was detained at the coast by the harbor police. I was treated like a ‘human trafficker’ because that I was a stranger on the dinghy. This is what the Greek laws foresee in this kind of cases. I had also entered the country illegally.
I was detained for five days in Lesbos. The Greek authorities were finally convinced that I was a journalist thanks to the great efforts of the Turkish Media and the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
After five days of detention, the judge too decided that I couldn’t be a human trafficker and I was released pending a trial and ruled a fine of 10.000 Euros.