The “Rêberê”: Thrilling and Tiring Profession through Smuggling Routes

Expressive image of Syrian refugees trying to arrive to Greece from Turkey (Getty)

Expressive image of Syrian refugees trying to arrive to Greece from Turkey (Getty)


“To live as a character in a Hollywood thrill, secretly crossing the borders,” with this words Hamada, 24 years old Syrian young man, describes his job as a “Rêberê” at the Turkish-Greek borders, stressing to Enab Baladi that it is a profession of both adventure and “good” money.

The “Rêberê” is the person who leads and guides a group of people, “illegally” crossing the borders. So, he directs their way in Turkish territories and then in the Greek ones.

The “Rêberê,” as a requirment for his job, must know how to deal with the army, the border guards and the police at both sides to get the group to their destination. This journey adds some vitality and excitement to the routine life this young man used to have before coming to Turkey after he finished his university education, as Hamada said.

The Meaning of the Word “Rêberê”

Hamada has been doing this job for three years now, without knowing the source or the reason for using the name “Rêberê,” saying that “it is one of the principal sides of the smuggling square, consisting of the smuggler, the broker, the Rêberê and the people wishing to cross the borders.”

He adds that the “Rêberê’s” profession is different from that of the smuggler and the broker, for he walks with the journeying group, crosses the borders and risks his life, which necessitates that he be careful about himself and the group accompanying him.

The source of the word “Rêberê” is Kurdish, and it means “the leader,” which makes it one of the famous names used by Kurdish people.

Not Everyone Can be a “Rêberê”

Mohammad, a 22 years old smuggler, based in the popular area of “Esenyurt,” the Turkish city of Istanbul, believes that the “Rêberê” or the guide must be more honest of the smuggler and the broker, using the Syrian local idiom, “his and the group’s feet are being whipped,” so he is most of the time open about the journey, resorting to the very minimum of lies and allusions, unlike the broker and the smuggler whose job is limited to guidance from a distance.

According to Mohammad, this job has specific requirements that those who wish to try it must meet, including a good memory that help them memories routes and read maps, in addition to wit as to make convenient decisions, adding that “time, cleverness, and experience are all decisive elements that help the group pass and arrive at the desired destination.”

Mohammad believes that the most important thing for the “Rêberê’s” profession is possessing the leader’s skills, for he will be supervising and guiding the group, in addition to controlling their behavior and forcing them to abide to his orders, as well as the ability to contain rebellions and opinions different than his in the group.

He also has to be physically fit, which allows him bear with the road’s’ difficulties and face all the challenges during the journey, according to Mohammad.


The Women Do It, but It Is Dangerous

“This job is not easy,” says Ali Mohammad, 31 years old smuggling broker in the city of Istanbul, explaining to Enab Baladi that “there are logistic difficulties, relating to equipment and travel mechanisms. Some of these have to do with communication during the journey, others are security-related, having to do with the Rêberê and the accompanying passengers’ safety.”

Despite this, the job attracts dozens of young people as Mohammad said, especially those between 18 and 25 years old, who are driving by their financial need and the desire to experiment.

He stressed that the job is not limited to men, for there are many young women who do the “Rêberê,” guiding the people through the borders.

The “Rêberê” Is to Be Held Accountable

The “Rêberê” or the guide is exposed to severe penalties at the two sides of the borders, if he/she are captured, according to Ali, who quit the job, after he was seized in Greece and imprisoned for months.

“The authorities do not differentiate between the different sides to the smuggling process; they think that the guide is the key element, neglecting the idea that he/she is a small part of a bigger process and an extended network, abundant with connections and means, which knows how to deal with authorities,” Ali says, while he is yet facing many charges in Greece, for he was released though the suit against him is in progress and the charges are not abolished.

He, thus, took an opposite road and resorted to the Turkey, preferring to depart from this “beloved” profession, as he describes it, through which he used to feel that he is a leader, working his way to survival with the group accompanying him, saying: “Money is important, but the most beautiful thing was the happiness over delivering the group to safety and the look of joy in their eyes, as well as the true thankful words.”

Mohammad and Hamada are yet doing this job though the number of migrants has decreased these days, expressing their concern over the intensified security procedures at the border openings and the increasing penalties imposed on people related to smuggling jobs, insisting that they are doing a noble profession, as they put it, via realizing the people’s dream of reaching a better place.

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