PHOTOS BY: SERHAN SEVİN / HABERTURK.COM
The year 2012 was not different from the previous one for Pakistani people. In the midst of rigour and stationary economy and between hope with despair, they’d tried to survive while struggling with corruption, poverty, political scandals, violation of human rights and terror.
After all, it was much more challenging for the Naumi family and its youngest member Uzair, who lives in the northeast of the country, in Sialkot, bordering India.
Munir Azam, who worked as a clerk in public institutions for almost 30 years became a victim of careless driver while he was walking on the road. Munir Azam, the patriarch of the family who had been broken his waist and bitter in bed could neither speak nor act anymore. He became paralyzed before falling into a persistent vegetative state.
The accident that his father had turned his life over. Should the 26-year-old Uzair Naumi strives to get rid of the human traffickers for six months has the opportunity to go back to the past and experiment with a butterfly effect, first thing meant to be changed was the deplorable accident that happened to his father.
Munir Azam shuffled off this mortal coil after 1 year, 6 months and 17 days from the accident but in the meantime the family is forced to cope with the expenses of their beloved father's hospital and care expenses which led to consume almost all their skimpy savings.
By the end of 2016, as a son barely finished high school and engaged in a tailoring job as well as a street musician, Uzair was trying to contribute his family’s income. Meanwhile he had met a local guy named Ali Hassan. He was hanging out in the vicinity of where Uzair used to live in Sialkot which is a city in the most populous state of Punjab at Pakistan.
The two of them were occasionally coming in contact with each other. Someday Ali Hassan was speaking of making way to Europe through Turkey. Uzair was promised to be granted a visa, having a proper job and making at least 80 thousand Pakistani rupees a month (760$). It’s a very attractive offer for a local adult who is obliged to look after his family in a country where he can earn most probably ten grand, not to mention how difficult it is for him to pursue his dreams.
Having a young and cheerful character, the older brothers of Uzair were already more than 35 years old. It was a long shot for them to be either accepted or hold on abroad. Nabig Aghar, aged 48, is working in a factory that produces surgical equipment while the younger one, 40-year-old Ahvaz Afdal is operating in a printing atelier as to Resul, a 35 years old freelancer struggling to earn his own living with day to day jobs.
One day, a woman named Afifa showed up in the house of the Naumi family. She was the sister of Tariq, a friend of Israt who was living in the UK. Although he’s not involved, Afifa was the one who took the message to the family as a safe pair of hands. She had been accompanied by Ali Hassan who approached Uzair first.
The brothers would not know about the rendezvous on that day. Other than Afifa and his mother, Sadia, his 36-year-old sister working as a kindergarten teacher were present as well. Their appearances paved the way for taking the lucrative offer which seems difficult to Uzair at first. He was given the green light to Europe for work.
The biggest obstacle for Uzair to get out of the country is putting 300 thousand Pakistani rupees together which is around £2,000. Since the family could not afford the money on their own, a creative idea occurred to someone. With the attendance of several women of the family and neighborhood, they’d organized an event as a traditional way of loan that requires to be put certain amount of money or little pieces of gold for the benefit of the host which is very common in the region and some Muslim countries. It repeats itself at certain intervals by participation of the same group but with different hosts, so the payer would be able to refund.
Despite they did not think too much about how they would pay back, the idea pan out. The money needed to get Uzair to Europe was collected. At some point, Uzair would have been able to reimburse as he’s going to work abroad.
In a frosty december morning, at early dawn around 4 o’clock Uzair was taken from home by a ten to fiffteen seated minivan. After a night-long ride, they were arrived to the southern skirts of the country in Lahore where the group was going to combine with another wave of immigrants.
After Lahore, the next destination was Quetta which is the administrative center of the province of Balochistan, near the border of Afghanistan in the west. It was the location where the life becomes unbearable for Uzair while they were trying to cross the frontier from nearby border town Quetta to Afghanistan.
Before going through the border that might occasionally be enclosed owing to terrorist attacks and for other similar reasons, the constantly crowded group was divided into smaller, 4-5 person divisions. Each division was being vigilantly watched by a gang member who rules the smuggling. Hundreds of people journeying to hope, including Uzair, were beaten and coercively taken into different vehicles.
Then the darkness came. All they knew was that they would pass through Afghanistan to a much more tightly guarded Iranian border before appearing in Turkey.
The family, who thought Uzair safely went to Europe, could not have heard from their sons for almost a week in the meantime. An anonymous phone call followed and voice at the end of the handset said “Uzair is safe”. Nearly 15-20 days after the start of the trip, second call was taken, definitely ensuring their son was safe in Turkey. In addition, the family was told that Uzair's condition was troubled, he should better be fed and treated at the hospital. The demand was simple. Money!
His cousin Israt and the family says they were realized that Uzair has fallen into the trap of hope merchant human smugglers on that day and he was trying to hold on to terrible conditions in Turkey. Uzair, who had been brought to Turkey by Afgani and Pakistani human traffickers, was later handed over to another group in Istanbul and held captive for almost 5 months.
This multi-legged crime network operating in many countries, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Turkey in particular, give some humanitarian justifications before demanding money from the families of those they had kidnapped who used to live in Pakistan and the UK. As long as they couldn't get what they want or notice any sign of doubt for their credibility then torture, blackmail and threats begin; incessant requests continued to come.
Israt, a close relative of the family get swindled a total of £ 4,000 to £ 5,000 to human traffickers, which was £ 2,000 at first, could not take it anymore and came to Turkey from the UK to reach Uzair who was living in danger of losing his fingers due to torture and cold weather. Before being deported from Atatürk Airport and getting back to their countries, Uzair and his cousin Israt told Haberturk.com what he went through and how human traffickers had darkened the lives of thousands from Pakistan to Turkey.
Since he was held captive in a murky place and hasn't seen much, the young man can not remember all of the stops where he has traveled to Turkey apart from a large, snow-covered mountain where he was threatened to be killed if they look behind while being frogmarched that haunted him.
Before he entered Turkey in December, one of the harshest period of winter, he says he was beaten with a stick and tortured while his fingers and hands were tied hands for averting them to explore the site.
The doctor who undertook the treatment of Uzair in Turkey said that he may use his hands with a 60 or 70 percent functionality because his thumbs were not damaged however he would lose some of his fingers. The doctor made the following statement about his health condition:
According to his doctor, considering the underlying wound will be healed the dead tissue on his fingers will drop. Uzair was told how to dress in order to prevent infections of the wounds. Hospital officials say that the tissues in the hands of Uzair would be removed surgically if he wasn’t going to be deported. The recovery of those fingers is no longer the case.
The torment and suffering that Uzair had undergone are very common for human traffickers. He witnessed by himself that they were able to give any harm to the people whom they had deceived and captured to extort money.
He does not hide what he sees on Turkish borders like dead bodies and bones but it seems there was nothing to do for those who lost their lives. He was petrified too. Down at the heels, with a delicate smile emerged from evading Uzair starkly tells how he felt. It was like shuttling between dreadfulness and challenging.
Perhaps the only reason of his survival is the fear induced by bruised, melted fingers of Uzair so the traffickers extorted the amount they'd claimed for the son of the family's purported 'care'. Nevertheless, there were some times that Uzair was prompted into accepting the lesser of evil.
Immigrants had been kept in Bağcılar district of Istanbul where they stayed in the same desolated place with a group of almost twenty people. Imprisoned Uzair was allowed to contact his family five minutes per week while being threatened and restrained.
What we’ve learned from the parents of Uzair keep living in Pakistan are creepy details. They say that their son has been locked in a room for days and were kept without food, water and no chance to get heated. With agonised voices over the phone, bargaining on ransom has become a daily part of their lives. Agents said they would continue torture unless the family did not send required amount.
The first direct contact of Israt with his cousin Uzair was nearly two months ago via a video interview. This was also the first time he had realized the the condition of his cousin's hands. Israt decided to take action when Uzair said "My hands are not good, I am dying." before turning to smugglers and call for 'mercy
Israt asked the traffickers to take his cousin to the doctors and sent 100 pounds when he was told medical aid in Turkey is a paid service. Ali Hassan, who is among those two people convinced the young man to come to Turkey by bamboozling him in Pakistan, was also the guy assigned to him as the watchman by the criminal organization which captured Uzair.
On the other hand, Uzair's desperate spirit begging for mercy during the conversation seems escalated the extortion requests of traffickers. They'd constantly asked for it.
Once for all, to provide Uzair getting back to his native country, Israt has paid airfare that costs about 600 pounds, though promises were not kept.
Not only Uzair but many other immigrants mainly from Pakistan and Afghanistan, are being illegally brought to Turkey with the promise of Europe.
When the gang thought that they had been paid sufficiently, Uzair was thrown off Bagcilar along with other people illegally brought to Turkey.
Uzair's contact with the outside world begins after that. In a country where he does not speak the language but mostly belongs to the same religion, the most common thing he does was to worship in a mosque.
Imam and his community recognized Uzair as soon as they saw the photographs and stated he met him 3-4 days in a week. Even at first, they thought that necrosis-caused rashes on their fingers could affect others. They remained distant since they did not know whether the wounds in the hands of the Pakistani victim were contagious or not. Uzair, who does not speak a single language other than Urdu felt rejected for a while.
Israt asked for help from the community and the embassy for the health of the Uzair after he was released. He says that Uzair is admitted to the hospital but doesn't know much except no one has bothered to care him.
Through a translator, Uzair has given a devastating respond why he didn't go to the police and tell about his conditions.
Since he insistently wanted his cousin to go to the police and thought Uzair could have get some help, we asked Israt what he primarily did after arriving in Turkey. He told us he visited the embassy.
Israt's early request was to see Uzair at the consulate and shorting his deportation terms making way to Pakistan after having medical treatment. Those happened to the 26 years old unfortunate young man was like getting out of the frying pan and into the fire.
The embassy stated that a plane ticket would be necessary for Uzair to be deported to Pakistan but admitted they can not provide it. Allegedly, they have been steered to a guy named Hamza.
According to Israt's testament, Hamza is one of the people who work with the smugglers. He doesn't hide his anger to the consulate officials because of the alleged referral. He claims the airfare must have been transferred to an overseas account since the recipients were abroad. Israt wired 70 thousand Pakistani rupees, almost 630 euros to his brother Ahvaz Afdal who is working as an atelier employee before the money was handed over unknown member of traffickers in Pakistan. It's documented as well.
Another problem emerges after the airfare reaches the interested parties. Despite the booking was made the 3rd of April, departure date is two weeks later on, 19th of April.
Naumi family felt aggrieved due to the schedule of flight though professedly the consulate officials stated the deportation will be made completely in accordance of their request.
The family, who thinks that Uzair is still under pursuit contact with the officials to bring forward the departure date earlier to take him back to Pakistan as soon as possible, however they wouldn't be able to succeed. While Uzair and Israt think it was bed of roses they weren't aware they are wrong again. Following the boarding AirArabia's Airbus A320 aircraft which will departure from Sabiha Gokcen Airport and arrive Sialkot via UAE's Sharjah, the captain pilot decided to offload Uzair as a result of several complaints regarding to his hands.
The cabinet officials are asking for a valid medical report as the inflammatory spreaded all over Uzair's hands was smelling and might cause danger. Without knowing such a procedure, Uzair didn't fly due to lack of fit to fly report.
Air Arabia authorities have shared the official records with Haberturk.com and clarified why Uzair was offloaded. According to the report, Uzair boarded in the plane wearing rubber gloves to hide his hands and seated without any problem. After a while, he starts talking to other Pakistani immigrants in his mother language Urdu. When he took of the gloves and said he was under risk of losing his fingers due to bug bite, one of the passengers overhears the conversation. Thereupon cabin crew was being informed since the bug bite could be contagious.
Many people witnessed the dialogue between the passenger and cabin crew, including Turkish passengers. Based on the fact of their lives have been put into danger, they made a complaint that Uzair is not fit to flight. The matter was then devolved on the captain pilot. One of the crew member who can speak Urdu entrusted with confirming what Uzair has told. When Uzair repeats the same statement as it was bug bite rather than frostbite, an official medical certificate had been requested which indicates he's fit to flight under all conditions.
Since Uzair doesn't have one he was offloaded. Later on it was provided in Turkish but considering his critical condition, on the 25th of April its certified translation to English had been requested. The subject was dropped when translation wasn't delivered within 2 days.
After taken under custody by the airport police, Uzair was then discharged by the authorities of the Kocaeli Provincial Migration of Management since he was leaving Turkey under voluntary repatriation.
Meanwhile, Naumi family was panicking as their son didn't get off the expected plane before calling Israt in a hurry to be informed.
When Israt calls the officials, he was told about what has happened during deportation and Uzair was present at the consulate, drinking tea but Israt wasn't convinced.
Israt thinks it is impossible for consular officials have no awareness of fit to fly report and have some doubts they've been used for extorting money as well by making procedures harder. Before we see Uzair off at the airport, they've hinted their impressions without hesitation.
Allegedly, the consulate officials specify getting a medical report could take 2-3 days at first. After one of Israt's Turkish friend contacted with the consulate the time was updated to a week. If he keeps persisting to get things done, he was implicitly told the process could string out to a month when the file was handed to the ministry. At the end, they passed the buck to Uzair. Naturally those are the claims.
On the contrary, Pakistani officials deny the allegations that Üzeyir and Israt were not helped enough. An emergency passport has been issued to Uzair to make him deported hassle-free. An approval from Pakistani ministry was needed to acquire plane ticket as well as giving an early notice to the Turkish police forces. At least a week is needed to implement the procedure.
According to the consulate they don't know his health conditions were that much critical and despite his rushy mood Uzair had been provided two options to get medical certificate. He had been informed either he might handle it on his own or the consulate.
Israt said in reply: "I'll take care on behalf of him if you don't solve." and assured guarantee to depart from Turkey. This had been granted to him however neither Uzair nor Israt appeared from that day on.
Moreover, while Israt was feeling frantic in the UK allegedly the consulate sustained Uzair can use the flight ticket for the upcoming deportation process and make a call to him to send somebody to pick up Uzair. Afterwards, Israt had been advised to make a new travel schedule for deportation of his cousin and asked for another plane ticket while they were told the caretaker hasn't appeared yet but Hamza is available.
Israt believes that it's a part of two-way fraud organization performed by human traffickers and Hamza is the one responsible to overcome the possible problems and send the illegal Pakistanis back to their countries.
The criminal organization is setting up the first ring of the chain with the money collected from Pakistani immigrants with the promise of being taken to Europe via Turkey. Later on, the scheme is being treated as well to send the illegal immigrants back to Pakistan from Turkey. Thus, the haul is doubled.
As a matter of fact, when the remittance to the smugglers comes back on the agenda on the plea of airfare Israt wants to keep his powder dry and tries to obtain evidence through demanding the bank receipt which shows the previous transaction had been successfully done for the airfare issued on the 3rd of April as an insurance. Otherwise, they were told he won't send the money.
On the receipt shared, it appears that the money was sent from Lahore to Barcelona in Spain for a recipient named Bilal.
Following the delivery of the bank receipt, Israt came to Turkey and personally deal with deportation procedures of Uzair. Having left the Atatürk Airport on the evening of May 6th, Uzair is now safe in Pakistan wouldn't be able to be free immediately in the first place.
As soon as Uzair's arrival to his native country, they've been badgering him into paying more by the denunciation of Ali Hasan - who first deceived him- to police for being illicitly entering a foreign country. Uzair was in custody almost 4 days before he had been released in exchange for 20 thousand Pakistan rupees bribe. Uzair is now with his family. They express appreciations and thanks to God in their own words also not hiding their sadness for those left their homes like their sons and either passed away or get lost.
Unless the human traffickers is not overthrown, a significant part of the Pakistani population feel under threat. The situation is no different for the thousands of Pakistani and Afghan citizens in Turkey.
According to reports from the International Labor Organization, a total of nearly 21 million people were affected human smuggling. It generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year. These kind of illegal organizations work coordinately with similar which apparently have links to terrorists that crossing borders in similar ways. Human traffickers force men to heavy duties and women to prostitution. 99 billion dollars of their yearly turnover acquired by prostitution.
Turkey is one of the important stops in the transition of fugitive and undocumented immigrants to Europe. Over the past two years, the number of irregular migrants has increased by almost 3 times. According to data from the General Directorate of Immigration (GİGM), the number of irregular migrants have reached 174,466 in the 2016 which was 58,647 in 2014. Moreover, this data only covers those captured.
Syria, with about 70 thousand immigrants, leads the list. The country undergoing civil war is followed by Afghanistan with 31,360 people and Iraq seems third as 30,947 illegal migrants as well. Pakistan ranked in the 5th place approximately 20 thousand citizens whereas the repatriation centers operated by the General Directorate of Immigration and the capacity of the Admission and Recreation Centers are only 6,780 people. It's going to be increased ten thousand thanks to the ongoing facilities.
The number of human trafficking victims identified by GİGM in 2016 were 181 with an increase of 68% compared to 2015. The number of victims identified from 2005 to the end of 2016 are 1.427. By publicly sharing his story for the sake of all the victims, Uzair intend not to stay as a statistic and addressed to the authorities. Hopefully, it makes tremendous impact.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent but each of the documents and records regarding the story have been archived by Haberturk.com