Escaping Moria Camp

By Karima Qias

In the Moria refugee camp, on Lesvos Island, Greece, literature was not a primary concern. In the five years before it burned to the ground, Moria was home to tens of thousands of interrupted lives; stateless people trapped in intolerable conditions. Survival took precedence over everything else, even in the lives of children. For seventeen-year-old Karima Qias, who arrived from Iran in 2017, survival required forcefully entering politics through her decisive actions: first of all leaving the camp, with hundreds of others, to protest its conditions; and then a months-long hunger strike and squatting the local Syrizia Party HQ, in nearby Myteline, to win the right to travel from Lesvos to Athens, and eventually to apply for asylum in Belgium.

In the course of her journey, writing and reading together emerged as a necessary tool and, ultimately, as a realm of politics, after Karima and a half-dozen of her friends began publishing their “Plaza Girls” zine. In Karima’s life, writing and reading played-out largely on a powerful device she called her “weapon”—the smartphone. 

Karima’s story is not a portrait of literature arising in the life of a child who otherwise lacked politics—she was fiercely political from day one. Her story inspires us precisely because of her capacity for action, revealing the political power inherent in every human body. But it also shows us the heuristic adaptations of writing and reading that enabled political action for a child in distress—and, how crucial a tool the smartphone proved to be. Karima’s story exemplifies the concept of a “bios-mythios,” proposed by Sylvia Wynter, a human life in which the capacity to narrate one’s own experience is a primary and formative power. As Wynter puts it, “Human beings are magical. Bios and Logos. Words made flesh, muscle and bone animated by hope and desire.” Karima is now writing her own longer story, as well as poetry and essays, such as this one. Homan Yousofi assisted her in translating this essay into English.

Escaping Moria

1 March, 2022