Around the world, one border at a time
6 February 2014
On 21 March (Kurdish New Year) the self-described peace pilgrim will set off from his London home without a passport or money, using bike, bus, car, train and foot to travel the globe – first stop Saudi Arabia. This is where he had to abandon his first trip back in 2012.
In a month he had managed to cover some 3000 miles from Britain to Iraq but was unable to continue heading south. He headed back up towards Turkey, through Cyprus and on to Egypt where he was first denied entry into Gaza and then Israel. He then travelled across Jordan towards the Saudi border where he was robbed of his few possessions.
Six months after New Internationalist had told the first part of his story, Earthian found himself stuck in no-man’s land between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. He was given an ultimatum by the Saudi authorities: to return to Britain or to stay in the country indefinitely. He decided on the former option, but it hasn’t dented his determination to navigate the world’s borders. This time he will travel west, following the setting sun through Iceland, Greenland and Canada – aiming for Saudi Arabia from the other direction.
Earthian arrived in Britain in 1997 seeking asylum as a Kurdish pacifist, having fled Iran to avoid army conscription during the Iran-Iraq war.
He worked as an IT engineer in England before the 2008 global economic crisis changed everything for him. ‘The crash was so major, it made me realise how pointless it was to be a “good citizen” ’,’ he recalls. Turning his back on the injustice of the capitalist system, he began working out how he could return to the Middle East.
‘We have conflicts all over the planet and feel powerless. We are not,’ he says by way of explanation for his solo peace mission. ‘I advocate for world peace, resource-based economies, no borders, no Weapons of Mass Destruction (WDM) and the abolition of the death penalty.’
Rejecting borders is grounded in Earthian’s Kurdish roots. His family was divided between Iran and Iraq: ‘This barrier was created artificially by the British. It needs to go. All borders create tensions. Everyone should be able to travel freely.’
He remembers when he was challenged at the Slovenian border and said ‘I’m a citizen of planet earth.’ On that occasion, the guards just let him pass – but in other countries, a lack of documentation meant nights in jail.
During the summer of 2013, Earthian toured the British festivals, sharing his experiences. ‘Getting into Glastonbury was the hardest; its security fence is like a country border,’ he mused.
Earthian doesn’t travel with money because, ‘It opens the gate and I do not want that.’ He explains that when he tires, he simply sits down with his book and people come to him – probably drawn by his bright yellow jacket marked with the words ‘peace pilgrim.’ ‘I don’t approach people. This way, I know that people’s interest and help genuinely comes from their heart.’
Recently Earthian hand-delivered peace letters focused on Syria to embassies in London. Unlike other calls for peace, the letter urges countries to accept a fair share of people displaced by the country’s three-year civil war, and advocates a truly inclusive, Syrian-led peace process.
Explaining why he chooses to deliver the letters personally to embassy staff, he says, ‘We have lost a great deal of communication: it is all done through a keyboard. Challenging this is one of the reasons of my journey.’
If he could, Earthian would probably converse and share ideas with every human, not just their representative embassies.
Follow Earthian on his journey.