Fire of Hatred
After the first xenophobic attack in Spain, Esteban Ibarra said “When a hate crime is committed against a person, message is actually being sent out to all those in the group targeted and that adds to the gravity of it”. What message does the recent fire incident in Blizen asylum center send to the group targeted? The building was deliberately set on fire. It is supposed to house 130 asylum seekers. The war torn refugees, who escaped war, persecution, bigotry and hatred for a fresh start are facing a new kind of hatred, which is not overt but covertly it can be felt everywhere and discussed in close rooms. The latest incident of setting Blizen asylum center on fire is manifestation of the same covert hatred.
What has triggered the hatred in the liberal and progressive Belgian society? A lot can be said maybe it’s the fear or maybe it is the outcome of populist nationalist sentiments, or maybe it has something to do with the Islam. But it has never been discussed how these unwelcoming sentiments affect a refugee or an asylum seeker?
Zia Baloch had fled his not commonly known occupied country Balochistan two years ago. Before making it to Belgium, he had to bury his two cousins and an uncle along with several other friends who were killed only for asking rights and freedom. After couple of failed murder attempts on his life, he decided to flee his country to save his life. Being the only child, and idea of leaving his parents behind forever didn’t make this choice easy but he only had two choices, death or the life of a refugee. He chose the latter.
Is he happy with his decision? He doesn’t think so “It took me a year to reach Belgium, it was the longest and one of the hardest years of my life, but all these troubles for what end? It seems like even though I traveled 5000 miles on foot to escape the hatred but the hatred followed me here as well, I live in an asylum center in Lomel near Antwerp. Months has passed but still the city hall of Lomel doesn’t want grant the asylum seekers an orange card or a work permit, which is the basic legal right of ours. I asked someone how come we can’t get an orange card while in many asylum centers the asylum seekers get it in a week. I was told it is because they don’t like us here. I wonder, how can they hate me, when they don’t even know me?” Zia Baloch further elaborates his plight “I saw in the news that an asylum center was set on fire in Blizen allegedly by the far right nationalists. It reminded me of my past when the house of one of my friends were set on fire by the Army because he was a rights activist and an atheist. I know how much you have to hate someone to decide to set his potential home on fire. This is the same hatred which made me flee my country, I ran years but couldn’t make it to a place where I am not being hated. When I was on a crossroad to either stay in my country near my parents and be subject to murder or flee the country for a peaceful life. I chose the latter but if I am asked again, I might change my mind and choose the first option. If I am to be hated anyway, then at least I can die around my loved ones.” Zia Baloch is still waiting for the decision that whether he would be granted asylum in Belgium or not. He already thinks he knows the Belgian society well enough to give an advise “everyone isn’t hateful in Belgium, I have met people who has really helped me, gave me a shelter when I needed it the most, fed me when I was starving. But I want to tell every Belgian one thing, we have had more than 4 million afghan refugees in our country Balochistan during the cold war era, the refugees only brought new ideas, new businesses and new skills, they didn’t destroy our country to make me flee. It was the hatred which turned my homeland into a slaughter house. Don’t let the hate get better of you. Most of all you should understand it, you have seen it how holocausts start with small incidents, when hatred makes home then wrong people gain power, and only thing we can learn from two great wars of Europe that wrong people can make very wrong decisions.” Zia Baloch is only one of many refugees, who can feel the warmth of the fire of hate and are anxious about their future.