Thumb sm
Escape to Europe Hidden in the Back o...
Bastad
By Tracey Shelton
03 Nov 2015

Two teenage Syrian girls describe the harrowing journey from Syria to Sweden, just two of 1,049,716 who made the journey to Europe to seek asylum from conflict in 2015.

Full Stroy:

BÅSTAD, Sweden – The two girls huddled together bracing against the bumps and jerks of the long journey. In the darkness they could see the outline of the other refugees who shared their ride, but it was too dark to see their faces.

Suddenly, a small window slid open at the front of the truck container. A man’s voice yelled to the group of occupants to be silent. A hush fell over the travelers as the girls wondered where they were, and what danger was lurking on the other side of their metal box.

“The hardest part is not knowing where you are – just the inside of a truck,” said Reny Borro, 15, who now lives in a refugee camp in Sweden. Sitting next to her at the table was her best friend and former travel companion Hanin Atbash.

“We didn’t even know if it was night or day because we were always in the dark. It smelled so horrible in there,” recalled Hanin, who lives in another camp 15km away.

The girls were on a 10-day journey set to change their lives entirely. Any hope of going home had been shattered years ago by the conflict that ignited in 2011, forcing their families to flee to Turkey. Now, they were on route to Sweden.

“The [driver] would open the door and he would just say ‘Move! Move! Fast! Fast!’” Hanin said, recalling how every few days the group would change vehicles. “He was really rude with us. We’d just move from this truck to another truck. He’d say don’t ask where we are or what we’re doing. Just move. That’s how we came here.”

Together with their mothers, young brothers and Hanin’s father, they were a living cargo being shipped across the continent for tens of thousands in cash.

Life in Syria

The girls, now 15, were not yet teenagers when the conflict began four and half years ago.

“Life was normal, happy,” said Reny as she described her childhood in Aleppo, Syria. “Going to school, going to my grandmothers. Being cooked the best food. We had our home. I had my room, my friends. Then all the problems started.”

Reny is Kurdish, a minority group that make up around 10% of the Syrian population. Before the revolution began, Reny said her class paid no attention to religious and ethnic differences.

“We were all friends,” she said.

But as the revolution gained momentum divisions and distrust set in.

“We weren’t a class anymore,” Reny said.

One day, Reny’s brother, then 7, came home in tears. His best friend, also a Kurd, had been beaten by Arab students at school.

“He saw this happen and was so scared and crying,” she said. “From that time on, we didn’t go to school.”

The day the bombing started in Aleppo, Reny’s father booked them all bus tickets to stay with his relatives in the Kurdish town of Qamishli. They packed light planning to return within a few days, leaving almost everything they owned behind including crucial documents and personal treasures.

“I have no idea if my house is still there, or if my room is still standing,” said Reny.

Meanwhile, in Damascus, things were heating up in Hanin’s neighborhood.

“When the protests started it was pretty scary because there were a lot of kidnappings and things, so we stayed at home mostly. But in our area, bombs might come over at any time,” Hanin said.

People had begun to disappear. Thousands were arrested first by government forces and later by ad hoc rebel groups and criminal gangs. Kidnappings to extort money from families were on the increase by all sides. Anyone, young or old, could be targeted.

Hanin spoke of one incident when her mother, held up by street protests and road blocks, was late in picking her up from school. As she waited alone, a group of young men began to gather across the street, staring and pointing in her direction. Scared she walked on but the group followed, all the time watching her.

“I was so scared they were going to kidnap me,” Hanin said. “Then my mother came. I was so scared I was shouting at her in the car for being late. From that day on, I stopped going to school.”

Escaping the chaos

Soon after, Hanin’s father, who had already fled conflict in his native Palestine over a decade before, decided to pack up his family and flee again. But leaving was not so easy. Others who had tried were arrested and imprisoned by the government, disappeared at checkpoints, or simply vanished on route. They were going to need a smuggler.

“We didn’t know who this man was. We didn’t know anything about him,” Hanin said, describing the driver who collected them from her grandfather’s house silently in the dead of night. “He covered his face so we couldn’t even see him. We just gave him the money and got into the truck.”

The trip from Damascus to the Turkish border, normally a mere 4-hour drive, took one week.

“There were other families [in the truck] but we didn’t know them or even speak with them. We couldn’t even see each other. We’d just see some bodies when the door opened,” Hanin said.

The family had no idea where they were or what was going on around them. Silently they prayed in the darkness they were heading out of Syria and no one would catch them along the way.

“[The driver] would give us something – I can’t call it food – just something to stop the hunger. For the bathroom we had to hold it most of the time."

When they arrived safely in Turkey, Hanin said they saw their travel companions for the first time. 

"We were all like, “Oh my God, were you the families with us in the truck?” It was kind of like freedom because I was so scared in Syria and then in the truck thinking the police could take us at ay time. We were really scared. So it was a relief.”

In Turkey, Hanin met Reny whose family had also fled there from the Kurdish region which was now under threat from extremist forces who had developed a bitter rivalry with the Kurdish militia groups.

To Europe in the back of a truck

For more than a year, the two families struggled in Turkey without legal status or decent work. Finally, with all hope of returning to Syria lost, they began planning an escape to Europe.

Reny’s mother ruled out sea travel as stories of boat wrecks and drowning’s trickled back to them every week. Last year, the Missing Migrants Project recorded 3,771 dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea on route to Europe.  

So a journey by truck was planned. But the smugglers were notorious for swindles and more deadly deceits, so Reny’s father stayed behind in Turkey with the smugglers, ready to pay as soon as he received word that the two families had arrived safely.

Again Hanin sat in the dark, never knowing where they were or if they would make it. But on this journey she had a friend and the girls became a great comfort to each other.

“This time if we die, we die together,” Hanin said. But still she became overwhelmed by fear and sadness as she thought of her grandparents and others she left behind.

“I was terrified and overthinking. Our parents tried their best to comfort us and talk with us. I was mostly in my mother’s arms. Then one day, [the driver] just opened the door and said ok you are here, go and do whatever you want. That was it. We didn’t have anything to say to each other, even thank you because he was so rude with us.”

The girls found themselves in Sweden. This time it was Reny who struggled. She missed her father deeply and had received news that he was ill and would undergo surgery in Turkey alone.

“I felt so bad inside,” Reny said. “Everything was different. I couldn’t understand the language. I was feeling so empty…[The immigration center] was full of people smelling so bad. It was horrible.”

After a few days they were sent to a camp. Reny described their tiny room as smelly and dirty.

“Our room didn’t even have a toilet.”

The family soon moved to a second camp in Bastad. Although the room she shared with her brother and mother was small, it was clean, but still Reny struggled with her emotions.

“For 10 days I didn’t leave the room. I didn’t eat. I didn’t talk to anyone.”

The start of a new life

Reny soon settled and began making friends and attending Swedish classes with other refugee students. Seven months later, both families are still waiting for a decision to be made about their residency applications. But already the girls are enjoying their new stable lives and making plans for their futures.

With her passion for languages, Reny hopes to work as a translator. Hanin wants to study psychology.

“It’s great in Sweden! We can look up at the sky and nothing is following us. There’s no danger. Its quiet, no people screaming,” Hanin said. ”Here I can reach my dreams.”

Overall, they say the Swedes have been kind and welcoming, but things aren’t always smooth.

“There are some Swedish people that don’t want us here,” Reny said. “Cars come past the camp and they stick up their fingers or yell bad words – these are the people that have closed minds. But on the other hand, there are many good people and I’ve made a lot of friends.”

Hanin added the Swedes “have taken us all into their hearts” and have provided well for the many immigrants that continue to arrive. But religious stereotypes in the West have come as a shock.

“When people think that I am someone who would kill them, or I’m a bad person just because I’m Muslim, it makes me sad,” Hanin said.

“Everyone loves his own country. There are reasons we come here. The judgment is not good,” Reny added.

Even within the camp, it’s not always easy. Without a man in the family, Reny says she has received some harassment.

“There are some bad guys so I got hassled. Most of the women wear hijabs. As Kurdish we have a more open culture so as you can see I don’t wear one. But the camp is full of people from all over the world. Some are bad, but most are good.”

In the days following this interview, Reny’s father finally arrived in Sweden to an emotional reunion. Both families are confident they will receive their decision soon.

“When I was in Syria I felt like it’s over – everything was hopeless,” Hanin said as they reminisced about the day they emerged from the back of a truck into a very different world. “In 10 days your whole life has changed.”

Wherever they end up, the one thing the girls say they are sure of is that they will always be friends.

“We’d lived a really interesting and horrible and successful story together,” said Reny as Hanin nodded and laughed in agreement. “These days we call it an adventure. But, it was really scary. I don’t want to live it again, but it’s a memory that will never disappear.”

 

Thumb sm
Journey to Europe
Bastad
By Tracey Shelton
03 Nov 2015

Syrian refugee Reny Borro, 15, in her new home in Bastad, Sweden.

Thumb sm
Journey to Europe
Bastad
By Tracey Shelton
03 Nov 2015

Syrian refugee Hanin Atbash, 15, in her new home in Bastad, Sweden.

Thumb sm
Journey to Europe
Bastad
By Tracey Shelton
03 Nov 2015

Hanin Atbash and Reny Borro pose together for a photo in Bastad, Sweden. The two best friends hid in the back of a truck to escape the conflict in Syria and travel to Europe to begin a new life. They now live in refugee camps in Southern Sweden awaiting their refugee application decisions.

Thumb sm
Journey to Europe
Bastad
By Tracey Shelton
03 Nov 2015

Volunteers conduct free Swedish lessons in a camp in Bastad, Sweden.

Thumb sm
Journey to Europe
Bastad
By Tracey Shelton
02 Nov 2015

Asylum seekers receive food at a camp in Bastad, Sweden.

Thumb sm
Journey to Europe
Bastad
By Tracey Shelton
28 Oct 2015

Rooms for single men at the refugee camp in Bastad, Sweden.

Thumb sm
Journey to Europe
Bastad
By Tracey Shelton
28 Oct 2015

Refugees awaiting asylum play football at a camp in Bastad, Sweden.

Thumb sm
Malmo Gay Pride in Sweden
Malmo, Sweden
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

Sweden's 2nd city hosted from 3th to 8th august the Malmo Pride. A number of events were organised during the week, with a big march on the Saturday 8th through the city. Existing since 1995 Malmo Rainbow festival spreading both knowledge of LGBT (Gay Bi Trans Queer) and the joy of life to the city. The festival is a celebration where LGBTQ movement are making their voices heard. According to the organizers the festival purpose is to make visible the diversity of expression by arranging and coordinating arts and culture. It also creates meeting places and arenas for knowledge deepening, dialogue, reflection, attitude and social influence. Rainbow Festival Malmö Pride is open and available to all who share and respect the following values and respects the culture that has its roots in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and queer life. In this photos selection the Parade closing the Rainbow festival Malmo Pride 2015. After a week long pride festival a parade through the street of Malmo with 7500 participant, a record number, ended the festivities with a party in the centrally placed Colkets park (The peoples Park)

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 01
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

Two girls are kissing each other during the LGBT pride parade in Malmo.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 02
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

A young girls holding a message during the LGBt pride in Malmo

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 03
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

Local police preparing to walk as part of the LGBT pride in Malmo

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 04
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

The 20th LGBT Pride in Malmo attracted thousand of people during the parade.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 05
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

People marched along the roads of the city center of Malmo from 11 am to 3 pm.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 06
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

Activist displaying a message on the main square og Malmo during the LGBT pride.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 07
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

Participant of Malmo LGBT parade at the People's Park where the parade end up.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 08
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

People gather along the parade way cheering and dancing.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 09
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

People gather along the parade way cheering and dancing.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 10
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

Pakistan Transgender activist took part on the parade on board of Copenhaghen parade truck.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 11
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

The parade crossing the city center supported by loud speaker for the dancing followers.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 12
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

People on wheel chair attended at the LGBT parade in Malmo.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 13
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

A record number of 7 500 participated in the parade on the closing day of the Rainbowfestival Malmo Pride.

Thumb sm
Gay Parade in Malmo 14
Malmo
By vincenzo floramo
08 Aug 2015

People of every age gathered on the parade way.

Frame 0004
Swedish Schoolteacher Joins Fight aga...
Al-Hassakah
By Bedir
28 May 2015

Jasper, a 24 year-old schoolteacher from Sweden describes his reasons for leaving his home and joining the fight against ISIS alongside the YPG in Syrian Kurdistan.

Going by his adoptive Kurdish name Agit, the young man has joined a battalion the YPG with two American fighters and one English fighter, all experienced military men, who give him special training to go head to head with ISIS in combat.

"I'm not afraid of them," he says. "They will pay for their crimes. I will fight to the last drop."

Thumb sm
Swedish Iraqi Christian Fighting Agai...
Ninevah Plains
By Stevennabil
03 Apr 2015

Daniel a former Swedish army soldier who was born of Iraqi christian parents in Stockholm decided to volunteer with a christian militia in the Nineveh plains and fight isis after watching them taking his native towns near mousil

Thumb sm
Swedish Iraqi Christian Fighting Agai...
Ninevah Plains
By Stevennabil
29 Mar 2015

Daniel a former Swedish army soldier who was born of Iraqi christian parents in Stockholm decided to volunteer with a christian militia in the Nineveh plains and fight isis after watching them taking his native towns near mousil

Frame 0004
Swedish Journalist Reflects on His De...
Al Qamishli
By Bedir
22 Feb 2015

Qamishli, Syria

February 22, 2015

Swedish journalist Joakim Medin talks about his four-day detention in a Syrian government prison in the vicinity of Qamishli, a town in Kurdish Syria he was covering as a freelancer. Arrested at a government checkpoint when he failed to produce a visa, he explains that very few journalists travel to Syria with the necessary legal documentation. Despite the relatively harsh conditions of his confinement - his cell was cold, dark and dirty - Medin says he was treated much better than other prisoners. He finishes by stressing the broader context of the battle of ideas - in addition to the brutal physical struggle - that is still being waged for the future Syria and Iraq - the right of people to live and work their land; the right of religious minorities to practice their faith. This is why journalists must continue to cover these areas in person, even if at times that means doing so without a visa.

TRANSCRIPT AND SHOTLIST

SOUNDBITE (English, Man) Joakim Medin, Swedish Reporter Detained by Syrian Government Forces
00:00

“We were walking down the street down in central Qamishli, on the 15th of February. On this day a lot of people stay away from, from their jobs and closed down their shops and so on, because it was a special memorial day, because of the arrest of Abdullah Ocalan on the same day in 1999. There was not so much people and movement, but this same day soldiers of the Syrian government also, for some reason put up a temporary roadblock or checkpoint just outside the government post office of Qamishli. They were stopping cars and checking people. When we passed this checkpoint on the sidewalk, they immediately arrested us and… and in a prisoners’ car and drove us to the local police station nearby. They accused me of not having a visa, a Syrian visa despite being there. “They put us in prison and I was told that they had to investigate this thing out. I explained that yes, this is correct I did not have a visa because this is the way journalists get into this area; an area of Syria that’s been heavily transformed and affected by the war with Daesh [ISIS] erasing the borders. So of course I didn’t have a visa unfortunately. I was told that in a matter of hours – one hour, five hours, ten hours – this matter would be resolved. “You have to stay in prison for this period of time.” However, these hours turned into days.

02:13
“I was treated much differently and better than the other inmates – the other prisoners – they accused the others of being sympathisers with Daesh. They were treated well at all. The situation with them was really bad. But I was locked in a tiny isolation cell. I was isolated from the other prisoners. There was no light, no access to fresh water. It was dirty and I had to sleep on the concrete floor. It was difficult. It was very different from the conditions of prisons in my country. Still, I was better treated. I was not seen as the other prisoners. I could go… I had access to the toilet. After four days, things suddenly changed. They drove an ambulance to the front of the building and we had to get in…”
Interviewer: “Why did they use an ambulance and not a normal car?”
“To get to the airport and not to be seen… I don’t know. We were handcuffed and blindfolded and they drove to the airport where we took a plane to Damascus under other identities. We did not fly under our real name but under false names. I was a 25-year-old man from Spain. Then we came to Damascus and I was imprisoned in the center of one the branches of Syrian intelligence.”

04:05
Interviewer: “And what about the situation in Damascus?”
“In Damascus the situation was sometimes similar. For example, there were also very small cells. [I was] locked in isolation. I wasn’t able to speak to anyone. I had access to nothing, no possessions.” Interviewer: “Did you see any ambassador as they promised you?”
“No, there was no ambassador. When I asked there was no response, really.” Interviewer: “What was the kind of questions?”
“Soon the interrogation…. It was about the cells… We were blindfolded and taken to different rooms where there people asking questions or reading information from a laptop for example. The questions were about why I came. The questions were targeting mainly why I came to Syria without a visa, and I explained to them that this was the only way I thought [I could] this area to be able to report. There were three subjects that I was here to report about: the situation of women, the situation of Christians, and the Kurds and the Yezidis fighting Daseh six months after the massacre in Shingal. “But soon these questions turned into more focus on whether I had some sort of assistance from Turkey and Israel to enter Syria. I explained that this was not the case. I was helped by these foreign countries.” Interviewer: “Have you been threatened in prison, that they will kill you?”
“No, but I felt unconformable. The days kept going and there was no information about… if my embassy was contacted, or if I can contact my family. They specifically said: “No, you cannot contact your family.”
Interviewer: And then what happened?
“Well, until yesterday at lunchtime, still… at least I thought it was very uncertain about what will happen. Still, there was no information. Still, a lot of questions, especially about Israel. Still kept in cells… and suddenly in the afternoon something happened. We were again told that we will fly away from Damascus using, again, false identities. We had to repeat these names over and over. We were told that will go back to Qamishli to be imprisoned there. That afternoon we were blindfolded again and driven in some sort of van with black windows to the airport, where we took a [civilian] plane again and came back to Qamishli. “First we were taken to the same regime prison in Qamishli, and the treatment somehow changed. They were acting different, more hospitable in a way. It was obvious that something had happened. They were very nice and polite. Interviewer: “In your opinion, what happened?”
“Well, we found out a bit later when we were taken to different offices to meet with a lot of people [whose] names we didn’t get, really. I don’t remember them. Suddenly we came to an office where the flag on the wall changed from the Syrian one [to that] of the YPG. That’s when at least I suddenly realized, “Ah! Suddenly we’re safe.” Just like this. Up until the last minute, I had no idea what was going to happen at all. I had no assurance at all about what was happening. “So we were told… we met with Redor Khalil, the spokesperson of the YPG, who told us that the Kurdish forces and the Kurdish administration in the region have been deploying forces and putting pressure on the Syrian government basically from the very beginning to let us go, and when this diplomacy – if you can call it [as such] – failed because of continued misinformation, I guess, then one or several high-ranking officers in the Syrian army – Syrian government army – were arrested by the YPG. Then there was a question of exchanging prisoners. And also, there was the threat of how the YPG would eventually intervene against the government-controlled airport outside Qamishli and basically stop all traffic unless we got released. This pressure eventually… well we got taken back from Damascus to Qamishli, which is not a normal process to happen this fast. And we got released.

10:03
“I and many others still think that this is something… what’s happening here with the… the social situation changes in Syria… the fight against Daesh, the fight to make people stay on their own land, in their own homes, the fight for minorities to stay in their own homes and not be ethnically cleansed by Daesh, the fight for many ideas and things and the war on that… I mean if we want anyone in the world to know about this, any people, we must be able to go. Sometimes it means that you come without a visa, unfortunately. “This is one of the few areas in Syria where we see social mobilization to protect the society in… in… it could stay the way it is not to make it collapse, but at the same time transform it into something better in the meantime. So I think if we want to see the region to be safe to report from and inside, and also see maybe an example of what Syria can like with stability, then this is one of these regions. I think it’s very important to keep coming here to report for the sake of all of Syria.”

11:33
Various of Joachim Medin with Sabri Omar, the interpreter who was arrested with him

Various of Joachim Medin indoors

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 01
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
08 Feb 2015

Yuliya Tolmachova and Žana Puodźius direct the unloading of the truck, as they give clothes, uniforms, rifle scopes, thermal vision goggles and other equipment to Ukrainian soldiers fighting on the front lines of the war against the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 05
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
08 Feb 2015

Sergiy Plotnitskiy hands rations to a Soldier in a volunteer battalion as a part of the supplies and equipment from civil organizations throughout Ukraine and the the Lithuania-based organization, BLUE/YELLOW. Civilian volunteers run the supplies from Kiev to the front lines several times a month to sustain the fight against the pro-Russian separatists.

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 08
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
05 Feb 2015

Soldier at a forward operating base in Mariupol receives new scopes, binoculars and other equipment from volunteer organizations who raise funds to equip and support Ukrainian soldiers fighting against pro-Russian separatists.

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 09
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
03 Feb 2015

Žana Puodžius has run supplies to Ukrainian soldiers at the front lines of the Ukrainian war, including to the Donetsk Airport where some of the heaviest fighting occurred. Because of her travels, she has been nicknamed Jean D'Arc by the Ukrainian soldiers.

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 02
Lugansk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
02 Feb 2015

Lithuania-based Swedish filmmaker, Jonas Ohman holds a drone his organization, BLUE/YELLOW, contributes to Ukrainian soldiers in Lugansk.

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 03
Lugansk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
02 Feb 2015

A Ukrainian Soldier based at the Police Station in Schastia, Lugansk holds a new rifle scope contributed by Lithuania-based YELLOW/BLUE organization who raise funds and send supplies to those in eastern Ukraine fighting against the pro-Russian separatists.

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 04
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
02 Feb 2015

A Ukrainian soldier at the converted Schastia Police Station in Donbass unloads boxes donated by Lithuania-based BLUE/YELLOW and Kiev-based civil organizations run by volunteers in a grocery truck to the front lines by volunteers.

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 07
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
02 Feb 2015

The Ukrainian Soldier unloads food like fresh fruits and medication that help keep soldiers healthy during the winter season. Supplies are donated by civil organizations, volunteers and the lithuania-based organization called BLUE/YELLOW which are dedicated to supporting Ukrainian soldiers in the fight against pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass Oblast.

Thumb sm
BLUE/YELLOW 06
Lugansk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
01 Feb 2015

Soldiers in Shchastye, Ukraine go through boxes of winter gear donated by the Lithuania-based organization, BLUE/YELLOW, and other civil organizations in Kiev. Volunteers run the supplies up and down the front lines near the separatist-controlled areas to get the equipment to the front lines.

Frame 0004
The Black Men: European Fighters in U...
East Ukraine
By Gianuca Panella
24 Jul 2014

European volunteer fighters and far-right activists have travelled to Ukraine to fight along side pro-Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists. They come from France, Sweden, and other parts of Europe. They have different motivations for participating in the conflict, but they all say that they are not paid to fight.

Journalists Fausto Biloslavo and Laura Lesevre travelled to Ukraine and interviewed, among others, Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper, with seven years' experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. Mikael is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group under the control of Kiev’s Interior ministry, in eastern Ukraine. He says there is a bounty of nearly 5,000 euros on his head. Biloslavo and Lesevre also interviewed 46 year old Gaston Besson from France who says he wants to defend Ukraine’s independence. Besson, who has also fought in Croatia, Bosnia, Burma and Laos, is in charge of recruiting foreign European volunteers to fight against pro-Russian rebels. "Every day I get dozens of e-mail with requests of enlistment, but I reject 75% of them. People who want to join us are to buy the plane ticket with their own money. Then they go over an initial period of training in Kiev before being sent to the front line. We do not want fanatics, trigger-happy people, drunkards or druggies. We need unpaid idealists, not hired mercenaries”, he says.

Frame 0004
The Black Men: European Fighters in U...
By laura.lesevre
24 Jul 2014

European volunteer fighters and far-right activists have travelled to Ukraine to fight along side pro-Ukrainian forces against pro-Russian separatists. They come from France, Sweden, and other parts of Europe. They have different motivations for participating in the conflict, but they all say that they are not paid to fight.

Journalists Fausto Biloslavo and Laura Lesevre travelled to Ukraine and interviewed, among others, Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper, with seven years' experience in the Swedish Army and the Swedish National Guard. Mikael is currently fighting with the Azov Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian volunteer armed group in eastern Ukraine. He says there is a bounty of nearly 5,000 euros on his head.

This 11:26 minutes video story includes footage of the Azov Battalion training and fighting against pro-Russia separatists. It also include interviews with an Italian and a Russian volunteer fighter. It also includes an interview with Mikael Skillt, a Swedish sniper.

Thumb sm
CONIFA: World Cup for Stateless Nations
By lordcob
22 Jun 2014

Just few days before the start of the Football World Cup in Brazil, a little-known tournament had already been completed, and the champion was a nation that stretches across portions of France and Italy that ceased to exist 150 years ago: Contea de Nissa.

The CONIFA World Cup is an alternative international football tournament featuring 12 teams representing internationally unrecognized nations and peoples. Competitors include teams from places like Abkhazia, Darfur, Kurdistan, and elsewhere. The tournament was held in the Swedish city of Ostersund, which is located on land that is part of the the historic region of Sapmi, or Lapland, the ancestral lands of the indigenous Sami people of Scandinavia. For CONIFA founder Pers-Anders Lund, the tournament is about giving representation to the world's ubiquitous underrepresented nations.

“There is no prize in cash, players that normally just represent local clubs are now competing for their whole region, for their blood and flesh, they are bringing home pride and dignity for their people," explained Lund. "There are 80 millions Tamils and 40 millions Kurds who don't have a national team to support in Brazil.”

Thumb sm
The Black Men 14
By laura.lesevre
20 Jun 2014

A volunteer fighter wearing the t-shirt with the emblem of the Azov Battalion. The battalion is under the control of Kiev’s Interior ministry.