Personalities

Muhammad Ali: A bitcoin dreamer who fled to Turkey from the Taliban

Written by The Frontier Post

Monitoring Desk

Muhammad Ali said he dreamt of building a cryptocurrency business before the Taliban began its sweep through Afghanistan, forcing him into a daunting journey west through Iran and Turkey, evading border guards and security searches as he went.

The Taliban victory in Afghanistan has raised concern in Turkey, a staging post for many migrants trying to reach Europe and already home to nearly 4 million Syrians, of a new influx of refugees. It has ramped up security on its border with Iran – but some Afghans are still getting through.

Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Sheltering in a drainage tunnel outside the Tatvan district of Turkey’s eastern Bitlis province, Ali, a young man in his 20s from Afghanistan’s Khost province, said he was waiting for transport west and wanted to go on to Europe. Around 50 others were sheltering with him.

Ali said he had studied computer science and taught web and graphic design in Afghanistan. He said he had a YouTube channel where he posted videos on topics including how to make money online.

Afghan migrants hide from security forces after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Afghan migrants hide from security forces after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

“I was planning a bitcoin or ethereum mining business… Suddenly everything changed and the Taliban took over all of Afghanistan,” he said.

“There is no internet. If there is no internet, I cannot do my job there. If we had smart phones that had a camera, the Taliban wouldn’t allow it.”

An Afghan migrant hides from security forces after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
An Afghan migrant hides from security forces after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

After trekking for weeks through Iran, migrants who enter Turkey’s eastern province of Van make their way by foot, bus or boat to the town of Tatvan on the western shores of Lake Van.

On their way they try to evade police checkpoints, raids on their hideouts and coast guard vessels which patrol the huge lake, where a boat carrying around 60 migrants sank last year, killing them all.

Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Wais Muhammad Shehrzad, 30, said he left Afghanistan a month ago, paying $1,000 to traffickers and walking up to 50 hours at a time with little sustenance on the way.

Afghan migrants hide from security forces after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Afghan migrants hide from security forces after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

“Our feet are blistered, we have no clothes, no food,” he said, taking off his shoes to show a bruised ankle, and telling others in the group to sit down to avoid being seen.

Shehrzad said he was from Kabul and had worked as a shoe maker and previously as an English teacher. He wanted to get to Istanbul, find work, and send money back to his family.

Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

In recent weeks Turkish police have detained thousands of Afghan migrants among an estimated 300,000 in the country. Those caught in Bitlis are sent to a repatriation centre in Van, although Afghans are currently not sent back to their country because of the turmoil there.

Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Afghan migrants hide from security forces in a tunnel under train tracks after crossing illegally into Turkey from Iran, near Tatvan in Bitlis province, Turkey August 23, 2021. Picture taken August 23, 2021. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

A day after he spoke to Reuters, Ali sent a text message. “We are arrested by police,” it said.

Courtesy: Reuters

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