November 30, 2021

“We have become the pawns of a chess game between Belarus and Poland which move us as they want”

Their bodies, exhausted, hungry, worked by cold, fatigue and anguish, have unwittingly been transformed into weapons, in a war that is not theirs. On the morning of Wednesday November 17, there were still a few thousand exiles stranded at the gates of the European Union, after being pushed the day before by Belarusian forces to break through the Polish border. The vast majority of Iraqi Kurds, fleeing a blocked future in their country of origin, were lured into this infernal trap following the orchestration, by Minsk, of migratory flows to Europe from the Middle East. Orient, via Poland and Lithuania.

For the Belarusian regime, these men, women and children constitute cannon fodder destined to sweep over its Western opponents, in retaliation for the sanctions imposed after the violent repression of the 2020 popular uprising against the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko. The world was able to reach some of them a few hours after the confrontation organized by the Belarusian military between these migrants and the Polish forces who guard their border like a besieged citadel.

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“We were rounded up like cattle by the Belarusians”, Nishan, 26, tells over the phone, his voice clawed by a constant and bad cough. In Belarus, since the beginning of November, he arrived in the country with a group of twelve people, including children, from Iraqi Kurdistan. “At the beginning of the month, we were scattered in the forest in small groups, we were alone and we didn’t know where to go. Then the Belarusian police or military came to regroup us ”, explains the young man. According to him, the men of Minsk accompanied this work of brutal humiliation. “I was punched in the chest because I refused to respond to their orders, he recounts. We asked a group of soldiers to give us water. They took out their penis and told us that we could drink their urine ”.

The trap

Over the days, a movement has taken shape, orchestrated by the Belarusians, towards the surroundings of Grodno, in front of the Polish border post of Kuznica. “On the night of November 15, we started to see more and more groups leaving for an unknown destination”, says Musa, a 29-year-old Iraqi Kurdish migrant. “Little by little, we understood that the Belarusians were pushing us in a specific direction. ” Hours later, on November 16, Musa and his companions find themselves in what he describes as the « zone tampon » between Poland and Belarus, near the border post.

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