Officer Sinan

24. Juni 2013 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

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The photo shows Rozaje town square

Harking back a few days to the moment when I was sitting on a bench in the square of Rozaje, the mostly Muslim north-east corner of Montenegro, I remember clearly the man who suddenly materialised on the neighbouring bench. Swarthy, dressed casually with naked shoes in slippers and a nervous twitch around his eyes, he addressed me in English at first, but we agreed on French, his stronger foreign language. This gave rise to an explanation: he’d gone to school once ear Geneva. Also, his sister lives in the area, she has a big house because she married some Swiss tycoon’s son.
One thing led to another, and he told me he was a police officer, in the criminal department, but off duty now, because he had two weeks of holiday. Normally, they were very busy here, there was much drug trafficking, alcohol and a bit of violence mixed in. Rozaje has about 5000 inhabitants, and the prison population stands at 360. When an elderly man with a beret approached us, my police officer looked at him quickly whereupon the men drifted away. You see, he said, I sent him to prison once and now he’s scared of me.
He also mentioned that he had a 14 year old daughter, and his wife had just given birth to a baby son. So he was reconsidering if he should go on holiday at all. He wanted to go to Switzerland, but that would cost him more than 1000€, and his salary was 600 a month.
He also knew German, but not so well, he’d been to police school at Karlsruhe. As an officer, you had to know languages, because criminals can come from everywhere. Was it a police officers school or a language school he’d been to, I was curious enough to ask. It was a kind of programme, too complicated to explain.
But they’d made a lot of progress in policing. The area was now safe.
I told him about my bike trip and inquired about the road to the Kosovo border, and if the border crossing would be open on a Sunday. He knew it would be, so I was surprised he took out his mobile phone and called up a memorised number quickly. He spoke for a minute and said yes, they were open, but I might have to wait. There were sometimes lots of emigrants who queued up, it might take five hours or so.
I didn’t quite believe this last one, perhaps during school holiday time in Switzerland and Germany. I was still going to set off now.
He reassured me I’d be safe even if the route to the pass would be lonely. No one dares touch a tourist, or else they’d go to prison for five years. He gave me his name, Sinan, and mobile phone number: Anything happens, you can call and I’ll jump in my car.
A very young man came up and chatted to him. My new colleague, Sinan said, he wants me to go drink coffee with him.
Obviously, I felt totally protected on my long slog up. It was true, I was carrying quite a bit of expensive material with me, the iPad for one, the bike itself, the glasses that I needed and that had cost me 1600 francs. So it was very special to have an unseen guardian angel down in the valley.
When I was halfway up, I was suddenly assaulted by doubts out of nowhere really. Police officers needed language knowledge, but wouldn’t it also serve criminals rather well? Hadn’t Sinan, if that was indeed his name, behaved a bit too informally fir a policeman, based on the experience I’d just had? And could I be sure he’d called the customs officers while the man on the other end might have been an equally swarthy chum with an old VW Golf, who was now on his way preparing an ambush site? Maybe that’s why Sinan hadn’t approached me for a little financial help before (I’d sort of expected an appeal after the story of his job and salary). Of course you don’t have to be number two at the local police commissariat to know a thing or two about the scene – perhaps he’d seen the inside of the jail from another perspective than I’d assumed in my unquestioning trust.
Was I scared now? A little nervous I was, but not as anxious as a few hours before in the long and badly lit tunnel at Lokve ( I bet it’s easier to walk in the absolute dark than to cycle with 20 kilos of baggage). I’d give up on the euros but persuade the highwaymen to let me keep my photos and my passport. And then I would talk to them seriously and shame them into handing everything back.
None of the cars that passed me stopped abruptly to block my progress. And the speculative thought actually helped to make the uphill cycling a bit less tiresome. But I wanted to be 100% sure, and so I asked the customs official behind the small counter opening after he’d already said good-bye to me.
– Did you get a phone call from Sinan about me?
– Which Sinan? What name? he barked back.
– Sorry I don’t know his last name. But here’s his number. Did he call?
– Ah, Sinan X (a name like Petkovic), the police officer?
He shouted something to the men in the dark behind him.
– No, no phone call. Is there problem?
– No, no, I hastened to say, and bid good-bye to Montenegro quickly.
I had time to think for the 5 km to the Kosovo border post that perhaps Sinan had called those guys. But then perhaps I was just thinking too hard.

Me at the top, still unrobbed:

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