South Zone of The Jungle, Calais, France, March 2016
This was my first time back since the dismantling of the South Zone voted by “la Cour Administrative” of Lille on February 25th. I was anxious to show my friends, Hamid Karazai’s shop where I drank coffee and found Afghan food, probably better than food in some Parisian restaurants.
When we arrived at the entrance of the jungle, first came the shock and incomprehension.
Where’s Hamid Karazai? I thought they said that they would not touch the shops?
Everything is burned to the ground, still smoking. It was a true no men’s land. I move forward, trying to locate myself between the soulless barracks ruins. The church is still here.
During the past few years, I have been able to build myself a ground experience in the slums, but it’s the first time I’m confronted to such a scene. My friend is filming me, trying to ask me some questions but I’m not capable to answer objectively to any of them. The emotion is too strong and I
feel it on my companion’s faces also. Their first time on the ground, they’ll probably never forget it.
They are troubled, they don’t know where they are, they don’t understand. They ask me a bunch of questions, comparing this to some war scene they could see on TV. They are right. From the South Zone I use to know, remains nothing, but an astonishing and violent silence.
We meet some volunteers that take care of maintaining the school up and running. “Nobody comes anymore. Some adults do but the children are gone. Parents don’t let them come in the South Zone since what happened”. We wander around a bit in this no man’s land, some shadows on bikes cross our way and keep us company.
Then, we finally cross the border between south and north, and there, in half a second, everything changes and comes back to life : Noises, people, shops, faces, barbers, hair dressers, restaurants, dust tasting coffee, mosque, smiles but most of all Allaa and his Syrian companions.
In the North Zone of the Jungle, all along the dunes, makeshift houses are growing every day. It’s necessary to get organized, to rebuild a daily routine and find ones’ dignity. Moreover, keep one’s dreams in mind.
This hookah has traveled with them. As the material witness of a life they have to leave behind them.