TRUTH AND TER ROR 1
EDITOR’S LETTER Donald Trump is on our cover, not because the magazine is all about him (though he crops up from time to time) but because of what he represents. Trump is a symbol of a global political turn towards an authoritarian, nationalistic, closed politics, which many find seductive but many others see as deeply alarming. The theme of the magazine is Truth and Terror: in keeping with this, we are looking at some disturbing aspects of the contemporary world but also at people and organisations who are striving to make things better, whether photojournalists wrestling with the ethics of their profession or organisations providing practical help for refugees. This magazine was produced in the Journalism and Publishing department of London College of Communication (part of University of the Arts London). Our aim was to produce something that was both collaborative and international in outlook. So there is work by LCC students -journalists, photojournalists, designers and illustrators —and by students at other colleges at UAL. There is also work by our alumni and articles and images produced by students at Universitat Abat Oliba in Barcelona, our partners in this project. As well as London and Barcelona, there is work from or about Turkey, North Korea, Belarus, Germany, France, Austria, Pakistan, Ecuador, the Czech Republic, Nigeria and Indonesia. This reflects the student body at LCC, which is international in both make-up and outlook. Trump is on our front cover but on the back is a quote from the Nigerian Nobel prize winner Wole Soyinka, which has informed our collective response to the grim new political climate. The magazine covers some tough topics and includes some sobering material but we hope you find it, at the very least, thought-provoking. It would be great to have your feedback —mail us on email@example.com
CONTENTS Contributors Grace Ahn, Ana Alegre, Eduardo Altaribba, Guillermo Altaribba, Jara Atienza, Christoph Bangert, Grace Barnott Jones, Nour C, Sebastian Blum, Etienne Bruce, Pau Castello, Isabel Coello, Francesco Colucci, Emi Eleode, Soren Engelbrecht, Sabrina Faramarzi, Michael Fleshman, Jorge Franganillo, Tereza Gladisova, Kirsten Jackson, Wan Hui Keoy, Maha Khan, Yi Li, Inha Lindarenka, Leyre Merino, Paola Paredes, Evander Pedersen, Irina Pshippi, Mawaan Rizwan, Beatriz Romao, Antonio Ruiz, Defne Saricetin, Sara Silvennoinen, Emilia Slupecka, Hazel Tang, Paulina Thillmann, Antonella Vismara Vivas, Beatriz Vasques, Montse Vila-Masana, Lea Wieser, Yanjun Yu
Cover Donald Trump, photograph: Gage Skidmore via flickr CC —adapted
04 Theories of terror Inha Lindarenka
58 Cruelty in paradise Sara Silvennoinen
08 The search for a home Etienne Bruce
60 Can #bringbackourgirls bring back our girls? Emi Eleode
14 Black-market Barcelona Francesco Colucci, Soren Engelbrecht and Leyre Merino 16 Losing Turkey Anonymous 22 The cruelty of belief Emilia Slupecka 36 The truth about my grandfather Paulina Thillmann 46 The threat to little Portugal Beatriz Vasques and Beatriz Romão 47 I’m not scared Nour C
Tutors Simon Hinde (LCC), Miguel Santos Silva (UAO)
48 Don’t ask my name Hazel Tang
Facebook artefactmagazine Twitter @artefactlcc Instagram @artefactmag Feedback firstname.lastname@example.org
Art Direction & Design Oswin Tickler, Smallfury
52 Homeless but not hopeless Evander Pedersen, Jara Atienza and Montse Vila-Masana
66 Voices from Brexitland Grace Barnott Jones 68 Photographing horror Sebastian Blum and Ana Alegre 74 Flirting with Fascism? Pau Castelló and Eduardo Altarriba 76 Under surveillance Tereza Gladisova 80 Inside the world of the hijras Maha Kahn 81 The novelist who predicted Brexit Defne Saricetin 82 Finding work for refugees Lea Wieser
“I know little about my grandfather’s time as a soldier—and his relationship to the Nazi regime”
Published by London College of Communication, London SE1 6SB 3
Words: Inha Lindarenka
F O S E I R O E H
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Depending on our geographical location, we live in or watch real or mediated wars, armed conflicts, and terror attacks that bring new fatalities every day. The brutality of these events shocks, traumatises and intimidates communities all around the world. At the same time, last year was marked with a declaration of a “post-truth era” that not only brought debates on losing track of what is really happening on the local and global scale but also questioned if truth is still important in our everyday life and political decision-making. In what way
are terror and truth connected to each other and how does their relationship characterise the modernity that we live in? As a notion, terror has two meanings. The first refers to the phenomenon, the second one refers to the feeling. Firstly, terror describes an act or period of frightful violence, which is usually associated with ‘terrorism’. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek suggests that in order to critically approach the whole discourse around terror and terrorism, we should consider the difference 5
between, on the one hand, an act of horrible momentary disruption of normal everyday life and order such as a terroristic attack and, on the other, a state of permanent brutality and violence. The latter is a terror which presents, for instance, in such deeply problematised areas as Somalia, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. These are countries whose daily life almost totally lacks modern achievements of our civilization—human rights and social security. This perspective helps us in the West not only to understand why people are escaping from these unsafe distant areas, but also to join a stream of thinking that sees terror not as attacks against particular countries or cultures and as isolated cases, but rather looks at it on a global scale as an attack against all humanity. Regardless of the duration, intensity, and target of implemented violence, terror’s aim stays unaltered— to intimidate. The second semantic meaning of terror implies an intense, overmastering and paralysing fear. Fear that is not a spasm or shock of short-duration fright, but rather a fear in the future tense—a fear of the presence or imminence of danger, a fear that causes anxiety and a deep feeling of personal or collective vulnerability and disorientation; a fear that, in fact, leads to the formation of the “society of fear” which, in its turn, shapes the politics of our time—“the post-political biopolitics”. According to Žižek, such ‘politics of fear’ are formulated as a ‘defence against a potential victimisation or harassment’, and introduce measures that increasingly demonstrate how they will insulate people from a ‘flickering threat’. In other words, the new politics introduces policies aimed not at drawing a picture of a happy tomorrow, but at protecting us from the horrors that tomorrow might bring. While the concept of terror is rather constant, the dominant discourse around it has changed over time. The current research of social theorist and philosopher Brian Massumi is focused on the rise of preemptive politics and theory of affect. He describes how a feeling of ‘looming threat’ and ‘shadow of threat’ is used by contemporary political powers. Massumi suggests that 9/11 was the point when the Bush doctrine (the policies of the 43rd US President George W Bush) changed ‘danger’ to ‘threat’ in public discourse, when the emphasis was shifted from a danger that is ‘observable’ to ‘threat’ that ‘is felt to be’. The 9/11 attacks on the United 6
States represented a historical point that drew away attention from the criminals responsible and the complex systems behind their crimes to the simple and vague idea of a ‘war on terror’. It introduced a mutated global security landscape that influenced the formation of new meanings and knowledge around terror and threat, as well as ways to deal with it. Massumi states that a threat as a notion has a future in its meaning, it has a ‘loom’, and it’s enough for a threat to be felt to be real. Massumi says that even if some event does not happen to an individual in reality, if it was pronounced, mediated or just imagined, the ‘shadow of threat’ is experienced as an event that has already happened though sensation, perception, and memory. A threat, compared to danger, reinforces subsequent reaction and action. In this logic, if something is going to happen, it is better to strike first and prevent it—to launch a ‘war on terror’ and to introduce it as the only available approach to stopping the violence. Thus, terror is a tool that produces fear, while ‘fear’ is a political resource that is utilised by those who intimidate and those who protect the intimidated. It is a very interesting fact that the more we arm ourselves with the realm of social media in order to fix and document reality as it is, the more reality escapes from our hands and the more we feel confused when losing track in the flows of information noise. In a philosophical sense, the
“Regardless of its duration, intensity and target, terror’s aim is to intimidate”
actual events and reality cannot be accessed, and it is impossible to mediate them through understanding and description. From the point of view of cultural studies, a real event will be anyway deformed in the complex media production cycle. However, in a world which is constantly mediated, a piece of information appears to be more or less credible depending on its communicative potential and access to reproduction. It leads to a simplification of the complexity of deeply problematised situations, their reduction to simple concepts, a failure to relate them to global political, economic and social issues. This in turn results in the creation of mystical and largely unchallenging ideas about the most problematic contemporary issues. What is post-truth then? The post-truth phenomenon is rather illustrative indicator of our time, which shows all the complexity of the modern mediascape. The Oxford English Dictionary declared posttruth to be the Word of the Year 2016, defining it as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. The problem is not that the truth is already unattainable, but that the truth is not so important anymore. The truth is, in a way, becoming a matter of choice—between complex and simple, comprehensible and incomprehensible, conservative or progressive, soothing or annoying, hope and hopelessness, bright tomorrow or apocalypse. New truth appears to be a great menu, where everyone will find something to their taste, and, taking in account media’s affective role, this process of selecting the best option is also sometimes non-cognitive, non-conscious and irrational. Thus, a power of mediated artefacts lies not so much in their factual foundation but rather in their ability to create ‘affective resonances’. Stories on ‘terror’ are also inscribed into media texts of particular representational styles that are selected in accordance with a publication’s professional standards and values, and in order to meet the demands of the competitive market, they circulate widely. The softening of news, tabloidization and the growth of infotainment are the trends that characterise the contemporary media state. News with politically relevant topics, societal relevance, thematic framings, impersonal and unemotional reporting circulate in the same market with messages that are not politically
“The problem is not that truth is unattainable but that it is not so important any more”
relevant but prioritise personal and emotional reporting styles. Therefore, the marketised economy prioritises specific framings on the basis of their potential competitiveness, while their authenticity may play an insignificant role. A cognitive and emotional perception of representations, regardless of their relation to reality influences our knowledge formation. The majority of media stories relating to ‘terror’, whether this is war events or brutal attacks, tend to focus on suffering. Lillie Chouliaraki, in her book Ironic Spectator, examines the question of the representation of suffering in the domain of the ‘post-humanitarian imaginary’. She suggests that vulnerability is commodified and depoliticised in a media-driven consumer market. According to Chouliaraki, market-centred journalism turns vulnerability into sensational spectacles. In this marketised and depoliticised environment we may observe the disappearance of a factual background describing the deep political causes of the suffering. Thus, considering it through the prism of Massumi’s approach, media products with higher affective potential take priority in the creation of knowledge independent of the authenticity of their content. And if we ask ourselves what media narrative we meet more often— the one that puts the terror, suffering and the ‘promise of retaliation’ in one meaningful narrative or the one that focuses on terror and its economic and political viability and how to undermine it—the answer will be quite obvious. Perhaps the era of post-truth does say that the effectiveness of communication defeats the truth, though there may be spheres for which it is not so catastrophic, but the global challenges of modernity, one of which is terror, can not be resolved without a public request for truth, even if this concept requires redefinition. b 7
Words and images: Etienne Bruce
THE SEARCH FOR A HOME Images of disorientation and loss at the Calais refugee camp
Dépaysement means a sense of disorientation or a change of scenery—a feeling of not being in one’s home country. The word forms the title of an on-going piece of work I am making in Calais, a city that has undergone a sense of dépaysement on many levels. Since the Kosovo war, Calais has become a refuge for thousands of people fleeing hardship, a pause in a continuing search for home. The signing of the Treaty of le Touquet saw the movement of Britain’s border to French soil. The British government invested fifteen million euros to build fences along the coastline, and in 2015, two hundred and fifty acres of trees were razed to the ground to remove cover for undocumented migrants and to facilitate video surveillance. Responses to migration here have impacted the city itself, its inhabitants and its environment. The perspective from outside of the camp—dominant media reportage conducive to fear and hostility as well as the physical manifestation of this in the form
of the securitisation of the arearepresents a manufacturing of fear based in political interests. During demolition of the camp, graffiti scrawled on shelters proclaimed ‘lieu de vie’, underlining the sense of human life caught in political crossfire. Graffiti was everywhere in the camp, with its association of revolution and political expression, not abiding by a hierarchy. As such, it stands defiant against divisions that are constantly created and was in opposition to everything that the fences represented. Since demolition, the camp’s presence remains—both absolutely (people who were living there have not disappeared from the area), and abstractly. Strikingly, both the longstanding and recent residents experience a similar but distinct phenomenon of being victim to circumstance and representation. This shared sense of dépaysement is what I seek to document in my development of this work. 9
No gas No more war Stop wars now Left behind what about their dreams A life is worth hundreds Hello my name is a sign of my idea left on a boat without captain Prison a ciel ferme Think about the world You’ll never walk alone Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door. Liberty You can’t kill your slave I stand Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie Lieu de vie ... Graffiti from the so-called ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais, collated March 2016, Authors Unknown
Black-market Barcelona Inside the world of the drug-dealing ‘lateros’
Words: Francesco Colucci, Soren Engelbrecht and Leyre Merino Image: Jorge Franganillo via flickr CC
It’s 2am on a Friday in Barcelona, and we’re walking through the Gothic neighbourhood in the city centre. We walk along Escudellers Street to George Orwell’s Square where we see a few can street sellers, or “lateros” as they are called in Spain. When the night falls, the old part of the city is full of lateros selling beers for one euro. We focus our attention on a latero with just one can in his hand, hinting that he wasn’t there to sell beer. He is not from Spain. As we get close to him we ask: “Do you have something?” “What do you want?” he answers. “We want MDMA”. He says to follow him. Our investigative team is composed of an Italian, a Danish and a Catalan who looks Northern-European so the latero may think we’re tourists. We follow the latero who tells us his name; Ali. He is a very friendly man. We walk along Codols Street, turn to La Rosa Street and down De end Serra Street. It is a two-minute walk to the flat where they keep the stock. Ali presses the first floor button on the entry phone, says something we cannot understand, and then the door opens and we come in. On the first floor landing there is a man on patrol, he allows us to enter the tiny and dirty flat. There are two men on the couch of the living-room with a bag in the middle full of little colourful plastic bags weighing 0.7 grams. They separate each drug by colours. We were told to say that we’re not tourists. The man takes out another bag for us that is also full of colourful little bags. Apparently if you’re a tourist you get bad quality drugs, and the majority of buyers in this neighbourhood are tourists. We explain that we’re looking for
stairs to the second floor. The door is opened and he goes in. Nico is in his bed with his television and computer on. The most surprising thing is that although he has a Spanish name, he’s also the same nationality of the lateros. He offers a choice between 50, 60 or 70 Euros per gram. Nico sells mostly cocaine, and he has three kinds, the most expensive is supposed to be the best quality. He buys and sells bigger quantities of one or two kilos too, he’s well known amongst buyers because he sells until 7 am. Nico offers to try the three of them and then choose. There’s no opportunity to bargain this time around. Nico talks as if he was an old friend of yours but at the same time transmits fear. Our reporter buys and Nico reminds him that his man is always on the same corner, and with a serious expression he tells him to leave the building without making any noise.
MDMA and the man with the bag offers us some to try. After sampling what they had to offer, we start to bargain, come to an agreement and then leave the apartment. Ali is waiting for us in the street, he gives us his phone number for future occasions and then we all leave. The experience confirmed that it’s quite easy to buy drugs in the city and it also revealed to us that the lateros might be selling cans in the street as a front to sell drugs. The place we went to was for irregular consumers or tourists who don’t know the city. The next step to the investigation is find out how to buy drugs in a higher quality place. For this second mission we couldn’t go asking in the streets like before instead we found information on where to go and who to ask. In the corner between Avinyó Street and Condesa de Sobradiel Street, there’s always a man selling beer cans. Again, he’s not from Spain and looks the same nationality as Ali. At 3am on a Saturday we approach him and ask if he can call Nico. We were told to ask for Nico and the man in the corner is the only one who can contact him because he changes his number every week. He phones Nico, who tells him to take us to his house. The man agrees but says just one of us can go, and has to go alone. Our Italian mate follows the instructions of the latero, who’s not as friendly as Ali, he’s much more serious. He tells our partner to go to Ample Street, close to the Central Post Office building. Once there, our partner rings to the second floor, first door, the flat he has just been told. “Who is it?” asks a voice from the entry phone, he asks if Nico is in there. The door opens and he goes up
“We explain that we’re looking for MDMA and the man with the bag offers us some to try”
Confirming the activities of the lateros Roberto Tierz, who’s the President of Friends and Merchants of Plaza Reial, the association of shopkeepers and neighbours of the Raval, said that nowadays, lateros don’t only offer cans but also drugs and prostitution contacts. Furthermore, he said that these organisations are linked to mafia groups but that the police aren’t doing anything about it. We found that there’s a fear to talk about the topic in some places. The owner of an old pub in Rambla del Raval told us that there weren’t lateros anymore in the neighbourhood as the police solved the problem years ago. The security man from Hotel Barceló Raval said that at around 12 pm, the Rambla is full of lateros, and the street next to the hotel is packed with prostitutes. Also an old man from Bangladesh, the owner of La Fragua restaurant, told us that he can’t sell beer during the night because he sells his beer for €1.60 and the lateros sell beer for just €1: “How am I supposed to compete with them if I have to pay €3,500 for rent, plus taxes”. We wanted to know if there’s a link between the lateros and drugs in the city centre of Barcelona, and it happens that there is. And we have experienced it. We tried to speak to a police officer on the street but found out that they aren’t allowed to talk to the press and that we must contact the Police Press Department to get some information.
Unfortunately the process and the bureaucracy slowed everything down. In order to get an official statement, we needed to send an email and then wait for the answer that will take around two or three weeks to reach us. We didn’t have the luxury of time so we looked for alternatives. Finally we found a police officer, who we’re going to call L., that agreed to answer some questions. L. told us that most of the lateros have a familiar structure and that they create groups to cover different territories and buy the cans in the local supermarket. In addition, he stated that most of the lateros come from Pakistan. The lateros usually move around with impunity, when they’re caught by police they get rid of the cans. But losing their goods isn’t a big issue because they can go to their safe warehouse and get more, if they don’t have them nearby in sewers, bins and containers. In 2011, 300,531 cans were confiscated. One safe warehouse can hold up to 80,000 beers. We asked L. about the last police raid, where 79,028 cans were confiscated in an
“These groups are linked to the mafia but the police don’t care”
illegal warehouse on Olivera Street in the Raval neighbourhood, but he couldn’t provide any clarification about that. Another concern we had was that even with the raids, it doesn’t seem like this problem is being solved. L. explained that when they catch a latero selling cans, they can’t detain him because in Spanish law they just receive a penalty of €265. For this reason, it is very difficult to eradicate the lateros because they earn more money than they pay for the penalty. Furthermore, he added that there are so many of them and most of them do not even have papers which complicates the current situation even more. According to the testimonies we collected, and our own experiences, there’s a strong connection between can sellers and drug dealing. We asked L. what the police know about this link and he told us that this isn’t always the case but that the problem had been detected and that it has become a prime concern for the district police. Several important raids have already been made with excellent results. b 15
Words: Anonymous Images: Antonella Vismara Vivas
LOSING TURKEY I grew up in a culture of tolerance and freedom. Now a referendum is putting all of that at risk
I come from a country which was founded through defence, endurance and war. Not just against the soldiers and guns, but against dependence, dogma and ignorance. It was sunrise when ashes of the Ottoman Empire gave birth to the Republic of Turkey. It was after sunset when President Erdogan prepared to deliver his referendum victory speech on 16th April, declaring its death. “We are carrying out the most important reform in the history of our nation”, Mr Erdogan announced in the same preacherly tone that led many changes within the country in the past decade. His last, however, is his most controversial, as well as an end to Turkey as we know it; a secular, democratic Republic. President Erdogan, dressed in one of his signature checkered suits, addressed crowds of cheering supporters after being granted sweeping new powers by 51% of the voters: these include choosing the majority of the senior judges and ministers, enacting certain laws by decree and being able to declare a state of emergency. With the ability to even dismiss Parliament, this new, unique model of a President will be head of the executive, state and will continue to have ties to his political party. Tens and thousands of ‘yes’ voters poured into the streets of Istanbul raising scarlet flags to celebrate the new regime. Elsewhere in Turkey, the mood was very different. ‘No’ voters took to Twitter, quoting Star Wars: “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.” Some protested the legitimacy of the result, especially in the three biggest cities, Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, all of which voted no. I stared blankly at the TV screen, watching history restate itself in my future: a leader grabbing alarming amounts of personal power in an atmosphere of fear by promising security and stability. Many observers now fear that under President Erdogan, Turkey is rapidly moving from a secular democracy on the European model to something more akin to a Middle-Eastern autocracy or the elected authoritarian models resembling Russia and Hungary. “An elected dictatorship”, The Economist called it. “R.I.P. Turkey,” wrote Steven A. Cook of Foreign Policy, stressing that Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t just win his constitutional referendum, “he permanently closed a chapter of his coun-
try’s modern history.” “What do they want? New sultans to rip Turkey from the modern world and take to darknesses similar to Afghanistan?” wrote Erol Manisali, a columnist for an opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet. The editor, journalists and cartoonists of this pro-secular and left-leaning publication are, like many other Turkish journalists, currently in prison. “The repertoire of this new generation of authoritarians is by now familiar. You control the media, you knit a patchwork quilt of elastic legal provisions under which you can prosecute almost anyone”, historian and columnist Timothy Garton Ash stated in his piece in the Guardian, a piece which urged foreigners to stand up for human rights in Turkey. “You ensure political control over a cowed judiciary, and you pump out your own nationalist populist narrative through television and social media, while accusing independent media of being a fifth column paid by foreign sources.” “Paris to Tehran real quick”, read one tweet, expressing the increasingly common fear of Turkey becoming like Iran overnight. It was a remark that I found made its way across many dinner tables in Istanbul a couple of months ago; lauded as a bitter joke to be brushed off as exaggeration and washed down with Malbec, at least while it is still legal. Just as how it could be imagined that in one day, the tiny tangerine tables outside cafes and bars where people drink could be packed up for good, or that kissing your girlfriend goodbye in the tube could come with a warning. Istanbul, a city keen to be known as ‘European and civilised’ is transforming into a more religious and less tolerant place. Shortly after the referendum, I stumbled upon a video circulating Facebook, a vox pop of yes voters explaining the reasons behind their decision. “Whatever he (President Erdogan) does, he is right”, says one middle-aged man, “If I catch Tayyip Erdogan on top of my mother, I would blame her for being a whore!” he jokes. This declaration seemed particularly shocking to me as Turkish traditions, especially among the conservatives which make up Erdogan’s main base, value honour and dignity obsessively and possess an almost sacred perception of motherhood and mothers. In the video, other reasons for voting 17
yes followed: “Foreign forces are against it, so it must be a good thing.” “I say yes to everything.” “That man can do no wrong.” Ten years ago millions applauded Erdogan’s plans to take Turkey into the European Union. Now the same people are cheering him as he abandons European values—even democracy itself. As a Turkish person, what I see as my country’s current most dangerous problem is not the referendum, yet what I feel it demonstrates: a division between the two poles in society and the hatred between them which has never been this striking. Turkey has always had a turbulent history with military coups, a rural/urban divide and at times, a flawed democracy. But it was improving—or so we thought. I believe I speak for many Turks when I say, despite all, we’ve always had hope for progress. Until 16th April. “I wonder if the schism Turkey is going through is a surprise or an expected result given its dual nature as the bridge between the east and the west”, said Emre Aydogan, a 28-year-old ‘no’ 18
voter who has now moved to Berlin as he doesn’t see a bright future for himself in his hometown anymore. “The real danger doesn’t lie in the schism itself, but rather the unpredictable breaking point of the rope that the east and west are pulling from opposite sides. Will it be the passionate future that the West promises or the strong roots that the East holds onto that wins and stands its ground as the rope breaks?” Perhaps it is difficult for someone not familiar with Turkey’s history to understand the panic of ‘no’ voters. The country was sometimes viewed from outside as lacking in civilisation, yet it gave its women the right to vote and be elected many years before the French or Swiss. Turkey’s difference from other Muslim-majority countries was that those in favour of democracy and secularism are not a distinguished and educated minority. It seems to be at least half of the country, as the referendum suggests. They are people who were used to living in a decent amount of peace with lifestyles and freedoms not drastically different from
those of their European counterparts. Now they are being denounced as siding with terrorists by their own government, simply for not wanting a one-man regime. Especially one making sure a purging leader stays on the job until 2029. I forget the current state of my country on rare occasions and remember it as the diverse, harmonious tourist haven it used to be, with its people known for their hospitality and warmth. The Turkey of my childhood was not merely a naive illusion of mine but a reality for many Turks. A place where it was safe for girls to skip around in short skirts, which in some parts of the country is not a freedom to be taken for granted. A place where it was safe to think and have different opinions and voice them. Beneath the rosy goggles of my youth lay inequality for its people, both financially and educationally. Perhaps this is what led us to the state we are in now. On the night of the referendum, I remember my aunt telling me there didn’t used to be such strict lines between people in Turkey, that it was once considered
“So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause”
shameful to ‘judge thy neighbour’. She told me of some people fasting during Ramadan and some not, in the same neighbourhood. But at the end of the day, they shared their bread in massive wooden tables in their gardens, one bringing pilav, and the other yoghurt to help with the summer night heat, how they would visit each other’s houses for late night tea and gossip. She told me of wedding tables, one woman with a headscarf chatting with another woman who is sipping raki. There was no judgement, no funny looks. Loud men in tavernas, shouting and arguing over political debates with turquoise and violet veins bursting through their foreheads, then playing tavla with laughter. “People used to have kindness and respect for each other”, my aunt muttered, more to herself than me. Ours is a culture sprinkled with Mediterranean and Eastern roots, strong faith, being loud, short-tempered, yet respectful and soft-hearted, facing towards Europe. Or at least that was my idea of our culture; one of diversity, harmony and tolerance. The first thing you learn in Turkish
history class as a kid is that things never actually change overnight. To the surprise of many foreigners, Erdogan was once a politician, who served his time of five months in prison when he was the Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor. His conviction was for “inciting hatred based on religious differences” during a political rally speech, where he recited a nationalist poem in a troubled area in the south east of Turkey. While a convoy of two thousand cars accompanied him to his private section in prison, chanting “Turkey’s proud of you”, Mr Erdogan was banned from taking part in politics at a time when the country was very sensitive about religious rhetorics and secularism. I recall a conversation I had with a cab driver, young, chatty and somewhat conservative. He tells me he was inspired by the film Taxi to do this job as he offers me a Marlboro Red and the conversation shifts to politics—a routine tradition with most cab drivers in Turkey. “What is really going to change if it’s a yes, anyway?” he grins whilst making a sharp turn, raising his voice to drown
out the upbeat Turkish pop, “I mean, they blame him for everything but not one person can do that much bad by himself, think of it, someone not a university grad, from a poor neighbourhood, all on his own, becomes the President of the country! Now, that is something to be respected, isn’t it?” I realise then and there, this infatuation with Erdogan’s underdog story and his populist rhetoric that lies behind his strong public support. His supporters care more about the man than a change of policies or what is happening to the country’s governmental system. To them, they see a person who is one of them, who can be the voice of those who did not feel represented by the government for many years. Nobody saw Turkey becoming the fearful state it is today when Erdogan was first elected. Critics were muffled by a stabilised economy following the crisis of 2000-2001, and Turkey saw business growth, a construction boom, and EU promises under Mr Erdogan. Becoming the Prime Minister in 2003, he represent19
ed the conservative working class and sought reforms for them such as allowing women to wear headscarves in public institutions, which was once illegal. In the Turkish language, there are two corresponding words for ‘religious.’ One describes a person who has faith and practices his religion and the other a person who views religion in a sectarian sense; banishing all other doctrines and beliefs in order to spread religion to all areas of life. It was during his rise when Erdogan collaborated with Fetullah Gulen to take down his possible secular enemies; the man he accuses of attempting the coup d’etat this June. Gulen is a cleric residing in the U.S. with many followers in Turkey of unknown identities, in high-position jobs. One of Turkey’s biggest strengths has been its military system and powerful army, to many a legacy from the past, part of the ‘jingoistic rhetoric of our Ottoman ancestors.’ The country had a history of coups during times of chaos by the once famously secular Turkish Armed Forces which some Turks saw as a sort of guard for democracy in the past. The Gulenists, it turned out later, infiltrated the army, the police, the judiciary and many other agencies: however, all the secular army generals and journalists who warned about this potential danger were locked up at the time and couldn’t help. Eventually, as with all the power-oriented alliances between self-centred leaders, Erdogan and Gulen fell out and between them began a cold war. Gulen released tapes alleging that Erdogan and his family were partaking in corruption, which the President strongly denied. Turks are used to going from shifts of power strong views quite rapidly. Elif Shafak, a Turkish novelist, political scientist and a writer for The Guardian describes Istanbul as a place of collective amnesia. “Our history is full of ruptures, and every new establishment that comes to power starts by erasing the legacy of the previous establishment,” she stated. President Erdogan, who recently became the sole rule maker of Turkey, was facing the shutting down of his party by the judiciary system in just the close date of 2009. He is now in complete control of it, removing any potential peril of being questioned, checked or restricted. Not so long ago in 2015, President Erdogan saw a significant backlash from 20
a large part of Turkish people in the Gezi Park protests, he denounced the peaceful protesters as ‘terrorists’, provoking his supporters against them and responding with police brutality. What made the most impact on people’s minds, however, were the constant and brutal terror attacks. I saw that there are few things that can change perceptions as profoundly as fear when I witnessed glimpses of despair in every face that walked by me in Istanbul and signs of depression in almost all of my peers. The bus home after a long day’s work has become a time of the day where you fear for your life, or feeling a fist in your stomach when your parents don’t give a call within ten minutes of landing at the Ataturk Airport. I am saddened to write that feeling paralysed and obsessively refreshing the news page and Twitter is a norm for Turkish people these days, followed by guilt for being alive and well. The coup d’etat attempt was the final straw. It was rebel soldiers in the army in massive tanks versus the people, urged by President Erdogan to occupy the streets and fight back. Between the continents of Europe and Asia and over the waves of Bosphorus, many civilians were shot under fire from tanks, giving their lives without a second thought. With 265 people dead, the coup attempt failed, yet its aftermath was a state of complete paranoia as it seemed anyone could be a Gulenist, thus a traitor to the country. A witch hunt began as nobody could be trusted; policemen, academics, soldiers, generals, judges were all in the firing line and over 50,000 people were arrested and another 10,000 sacked. Whatever remained of the police force began arresting anyone that President Erdogan might perceive as a threat, which was anyone from a teacher in one of the many schools funded by Gulen, to a man who shared a caricature of the President on Facebook. Turkey overtook China to became the world’s biggest prosecutor of journalists, and the bridge of tolerance between the west and east became a place of fear, drenched in blood and injustice. The single most crucial fact about the Turkish referendum is that it took place in this atmosphere of paranoia, quite literally while there was still a “state of emergency” declared. The propaganda to change the system dramatically began
in a climate where everyone just wanted to feel some kind of stability again. While Turkey entered a new path with its new regime, there is serious doubt about the legitimacy of the referendum which was won by a narrow vote. The election was viewed as unfair by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, warning of irregularities after a Turkish electoral board decided to allow votes that were not officially stamped. Officials from The Council of Europe—which Turkey is a member of—“pointed to an inadequate legal framework and last-minute changes in counting the ballots, as well as a ‘skewed pre-vote campaign’ in favour of the yes vote and intimidation of the opposition.” “A government that does not even trust their own voters”, read a headline by Emre Kongar, a Turkish columnist, “they are distorting the truth, they cannot even say yes we trust our leader and we’re bringing one-man powers.” The posters I saw all around Istanbul promoting the yes vote were shockingly misleading, suggesting the exact opposite of their targets and policies. Big bold words exclaimed how this would be an addition to the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, how this would make the President more questionable. While the President’s new authority to renew the elections is openly highlighted in their motion, they deny this by saying there is no power to dismiss Parliament.
“First, know your place”, stated Erdogan in a victory speech, addressing foreign criticisms, “We won’t see or hear the politically motivated reports you prepare. We will continue our path.” The President does not seem to care it is a path that half of the nation did not agree to partake in. “Mankind is a single body and each nation a part of that body”, said Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of The Turkish Republic; a secular, modern and self-sufficient country. Also known as ‘Father Turk’ he was the most influential leader the country ever saw until Erdogan. Turkish people who are concerned about where the country is headed under Erdogan’s rule are more passionate than ever about defending the values of the Republic and Ataturk. “We must never say ‘what does it matter to me if some part of the world is ailing?”, stated Turkey’s founding father. “If there is such an illness, we must concern ourselves with it as though we have that illness.” Turkey’s new drift to an illiberal state makes it a cautionary tale as its future will affect that of the entire region. The fact that ‘a threat to democracy somewhere is a threat to democracy everywhere’, is one reason for the world to be concerned about what is going on in Turkey. Just as important is Turkey’s geopolitical position between Europe and the Middle East as well as its vital role in the crisis in Syria. But we are not alone in this journey. There is a new worldwide trend
at present; that of the authoritarian, macho, nationalist, strongman leaders. They demonise oppositions, associating them with terror and creating a common enemy. This helps them to grow their supporters and power, but it also creates divisions between their people. Nations who are divided within themselves or have flaws in their democracy cannot have a safe and prosperous future. Leaders who thrive on hatred, polarisation and fear are not new to the pages of history. I’m afraid this chapter we’re experiencing is awfully reminiscent of one that brought nothing but poverty, war and death. With that being said, my aim is not to invoke panic but to inform. If you need fear to prove a point, your argument isn’t strong enough. Different opinions or maybe even clashing values should all be welcomed in democracy—until the point where there is no democracy nor freedom but intimidation and injustice. As one authoritarian encourages another, intellectuals everywhere should be concerned with these perils that they think will never affect them. It should concern every American as Turkey’s case shows an extreme of what a leader of the same character, ambition and the agenda of personal power is capable of doing. It should concern every European to have an illiberal Islamist state on their borders. What is happening in Turkey should concern every human in favour of democracy and freedom. b 21
Words: Emilia Slupecka Images: Paola Paredes
THE CRUELTY OF BELIEF Paola Paredesâ€™ pictures reveal the suffering caused by conservative attitudes to homosexuality in Ecuador
Ecuador is known as an amazing place to travel and for its otherworldly landscapes which are attract lovers of wildlife. With its Andean peaks and Amazon rainforest, this is a country that seems to have it all. However, what is less well known is the extreme and conservative culture among the older generation that makes life hard for many Ecuadorians. Ecuador is a place where old and narrow-minded opinions clash with the thinking of young liberal millennials. It is this conflict that informs the work of Paola Paredes, a thirty-year-old gay Ecuadorian artist and photographer.
Through her photography, Paola tries to blend traditional documentary with stage imagery. Her work mostly focuses on the LGBT community issues and attitudes towards homosexuality in Ecuador. “I did my bachelor degree in graphic design. I really enjoyed it and felt that I could be suited to do it for the rest of my life until I realised I didn’t like the commercial aspect of it. When I was in school, I received basic photography classes and I fell in love with it.”, she mentions when asked about her background. Paola completed her MA at Middlesex University and has recently 23
graduated in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication. In 2014 Paola documented her coming out story in a photo series called Unveiled. The project shows her journey and how she tried to prepare her parents for the conversation about her sexuality until the moment when she actually revealed the truth. She spent weeks following her parents around to get them used to cameras. She photographed them cooking, brushing their teeth, shaving, smoking, walking, tying their shoes and waking up until the moment when they sat down at a dining table and she finally said the words: ‘I’m gay.’ Her family were, fortunately, loving and accepting. However, not everybody is this fortunate in a society where the teachings of Catholicism are so very deeply ingrained. Her latest photography series Until You Change exposes the realities of many gay men and women in Ecuadorian clinics that illegally carry out conversion therapy. Most of the clinics—many of them run by Christian-based groups—claim to be drug rehabilitation centres but there seem to be many cases of gay people, most of them women, being abused simply for being gay. Througout the project, Paola shows the viewers what was never meant to be seen. The perversion of pills and prayer books; the regime of forced femininity in make-up, short skirts and high heels; torture by rope or rubber gloves and the ‘corrective’ rape. Emilia Slupecka interviews Paola Peredes about her photography, inspiration and plans fr the future.
Ecuador, I thought it could be something that could happen to me. I was also appalled that someone could actually be tortured, emotionally and physically, for being gay. It was a story I had to tell.
Your stories are very powerful, please talk us through the process of making them? How do you come up with all these strong ideas? I get inspired by stories that are close to me, and stories that are personal. Unveiled was a story of cathartic release through art. I never intended to come out to my parents, but the idea of doing it in an artistic way gave me the push I needed. I also thought that this kind of idea had not been done before and I had an interest in pursuing it. Until You Change was a story I had in the back of my mind since the time I first heard about these clinics. The story of the existence of the centres that aim to “cure homosexuality” touched my heart. Being gay and from
I feel like your projects are very much related to the situation in your home country, Ecuador, where sexuality is still a taboo. Is that true and can you please tell us more about it? Yes. Unfortunately, it is still a big issue because of how Catholic Ecuador is. 80% of Ecuadorians identify as Catholic, so they believe the teachings of the Church that tell them homosexuality is wrong. I came out to my parents, but I have not come out to my extended family yet because they are hardcore Christians that would probably not accept me. The society here just needs to be taught tolerance towards diversity. It is also something that perhaps needs to be taught in school.
Where do you mostly find inspiration? Movies are a huge source of inspiration for me, I always research a lot of movies after I have an idea for a project. For Unveiled I analysed movies and dinner scenes to figure out where to put the camera. For Until You Change I analysed a lot of violent movies to study the framing and the intentions of the characters. While out and about with my camera, I get great satisfaction from composing and shooting an image that catches my eye. However, that is never enough for me. When confronted with an image, I always think: How can I rip it, stitch it, paint over it in order to enhance the content? How can I take it a step further? This same thought process happens when I find a particular story I want to tell. Especially, the stories that deal with human injustice. I look for ways of presenting more clarity, a deeper truth. I like telling stories in a creative way. What’s your favourite film that means a lot to you? I have so many, it’s so tough to choose. But I absolutely love Peter Greenaway’s classic The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover. It is a sensory experience. It is a very beautiful movie and very disturbing as well. I also love anything by Lars Von Trier. Dogville is a classic and a must. I could go on for days..
â€œSociety here just needs to be taught tolerance towards diversity.â€? 26
“It’s the subject on the streets I find interesting, their facial features or the way they carry themselves.”
What’s your favourite camera to use? I don’t think I have a favourite. I tend to choose the camera in relation to what is the best camera to use for the project I am doing. For Unveiled the table shots had to be done with a digital camera and with an intervalometer. But I shot a lot of the portraits of myself and the ones of my parents with a medium format Mamiya and Pentax. With Until You Change it was also a mix of digital and film. For this project I tried for the first time an MPP 5x4 field camera. I really enjoyed it. The process is so slow and you really have to think before you take an image. If you could work with anyone, either alive or dead, who would you work with and what would you do? What a fun question! I guess I would love to work with Lars Von Trier, just to spend the day with him would be amusing. I don’t know exactly what I would make with him, maybe just take some photographs of him. I would not choose to work with another photographer as I am very stuck in my ways but I wouldn’t say no to a collaboration with Cindy Sherman. She is so wonderfully creative. 34
I looked at your Instagram feed and there are many beautiful portraits. What is it about people that inspires you to photograph them? I guess it’s either the subject on the streets I find interesting, their facial features or the way they carry themselves that make them very interesting. Or it can be close friends that allow me to mess with them. When it’s with friends I like experimenting with light and just having fun. I guess this is when inspiration hits. What advice do you have for other young artists and photographers trying to make it with their talent? To work hard every day, if they are determined and driven it will get them places. To get ready for a lot of rejection. It is incredibly tough out there and you will get a substantial amount of nos before you get that one yes. To stay creative and unique, to not imitate but to be original. To tell stories that are important. To watch out for their egos, always stay humble, grateful and with their feet on the ground. Are you currently working on any new projects? I’m not working on any new photographic project right now. I did Unveiled and Until You Change so close together that I decided to give myself a break for a year and just focus on promoting both projects. I just started teaching photography at a university and I’m really enjoying that. I have also started collaborating with a friend and the university in creating a show around recollecting archive in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city. We will see how it all comes together. What’s happening for you next? Teaching for now. I am a bit nervous that I still don’t have a clear idea of what my next photographic project will be. I’m hoping that the inspiration will strike soon. Unveiled and Until You Change will definitely be tough to follow. b
Paola has recently been shortlisted for One World Media Awards and nominated as Magnum Graduate Photographer.
Words: Paulina Thillmann Images: Yanjun Yu
ABOUT MY GRANDFATHER A young German’s efforts to uncover the truth about a relative’s role in the Second World War take her on a journey to Russia
“Dearest Maria. I am sending you my heartfelt wishes as a Russian war prisoner that I have been since the defeat of the capital, on the second of May in 1945. I am sharing my destiny with many other close companions and I am still doing well. Please do not worry about me. Often, my thoughts are with you and the little darling. Hopefully the both of you are always fine, the same as I am expecting from the other relatives, whom you need to inform, especially father. And now, my beloved Maria, my dearest wishes again and kisses. With health and loyalty, your Clemens”. 36
My grandfather’s words are scribbled down on the little piece of paper that I am holding in my hands. It is a letter he wrote to my grandmother on the 12th of January in 1947. It confirms the fate of many soldiers of the Third Reich: with the end of the Second World War, he is now a prisoner of war in Russia. There are many stories told in my family about what happened to him. But this is the first time I read about it in my grandfather’s own words. It is the summer of 2016 and I have found a little box in my mother’s room. The carton is worn and faded pink and smells like old books.
On the top is the name of my grandfather. Inside are 95 cards from my grandfather to my grandmother. 1932, 1938, 1940... On and on until 1949. The cards cover seventeen years. The last one was written four years after the end of the war. With the end of the Second World War, the story of my grandfather’s letters began. On the 8th of May in 1945, at 11:01pm, Germany surrendered. During the years that the Second World War lasted, over 65 million people died in total. Led by Adolf Hitler, Germany’s nationalism caused the death of more than six million Jews. The country was responsible for one of the most horrible crimes in human history: The Holocaust. Before he signed up to become a soldier for Germany, my grandfather had been a primary school teacher. He studied in the west of Germany, in a small city called Bonn, which became the capital of West Germany after the war. Born in 1912 in the north of Germany, he grew up on farm together with his parents, seven brothers and one sister. After joining Regiment 225 in 1939, my grandfather was trained in how to become a sharpshooter in preparation for the war. The training camps were located in several towns across Germany. During these few months of travelling around the country and preparing for the war, my grandfather met my grandmother Maria at a dance in Koblenz. By the time they were married in 1942, my grandfather was a trained soldier, part of the “Heeresgruppe Nord”, a regiment from the north of Germany. Throughout the six war years, he fought in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Russia and Latvia. With Germa-
“There is something I know very little about; my grandfather’s time as a soldier... and his relation to the German Nazi regime.”
ny’s defeat, the “Heeresgruppe Nord”, which was based in Latvia at that time, surrendered on the 8th of May too. Boats were prepared for the soldiers to return home to Germany, but not all of them were able to do so. Amongst many other soldiers, my grandfather was taken to a camp in Telšiai, a town in the West of Lithuania. He became a prisoner of war, along with eleven million soldiers of the German “Wehrmacht”. More than three million were held in prisons in Russia and used for forced labour, rebuilding the country’s destroyed cities and landscapes. Over one million of them died. Meanwhile, my grandfather’s wife and their son were waiting in Germany for him to return. She had only been married to my grandfather for a few years. My grandfather had not met his son, who was born in 1943 , by which time he was in Russia, fighting in the battle of Volkhov. I never met my grandfather. By the time I was born, he had already passed away. There are, of course, stories I know about him. Whether these stories are true or not, I am never quite sure. They 37
are memories, sometimes memories of someone else’s memories. Now, suddenly, I am holding his own words in my hands. For the first time, I can imagine the sound of his voice, what kind of words he used when he wrote to my grandmother. For the first time, I can base their relationship on some sort of proven facts. But there is something I still know very little about: my grandfather’s time as a soldier. This is my family’s history and its relationship to the German Nazi regime. Holding the little pink box in my hands, I am slowly understanding what I have found I am about to find out about who my grandfather, Clemens Lamping, really was. It is a sunny afternoon in late August. My uncle Ludger is squinting against the sun. We are sitting on the balcony of his family house, a three-storey building in a small village called Nordborchen. Since I was a baby, I have spent a lot of time in this house. Ludger inherited it from his parents, my grandfather Clemens and his wife Maria. This is the house where my grandparents brought up most of their children when they moved from north Germany to west Germany in the 1950s. Ludger was born in 1956, he is the second youngest of their five children. “Your grandfather would have never signed up to a political party or the army. What he wanted to do was teach. They drafted him for military service in 1940. Before that, he worked as a teacher.”
I am looking at a document lying in front of me. It’s from the German bureau of information on the deceased soldiers of the Wehrmacht. In detail, the document explains which regiment my grandfather was fighting for, where he was fighting at what point in time and for how long. On this document, it says that my grandfather signed up voluntarily to become a soldier for the Third Reich army: On the 31st of August in 1939. Ludger disagrees. “He didn’t sign up to be a soldier voluntarily. But at one point, there was no other choice for him than joining the army. He had to do it.” I am only at the beginning of retracing my grandfather’s history as a soldier and I am already encountering different versions of the truth. I believe the official statement. My grandfather didn’t wait until he was drafted. Maybe because he believed that Germany would win the war. Maybe because he thought he would have to join the army sooner or later anyway. Most importantly, I am beginning to understand that my grandfather’s children might only know a modified version of the truth. The next day, I am walking down the road of my uncle’s house. The streets are as quiet as I remember them from my childhood. The school that my grandfather was the head teacher of still exists. It’s on the same street his own house was and where my uncle Ludger lives with his family now. My aunt Mechthild’s house is two minutes away. She was born one year after my grandfather had returned home and is the second eldest of his children. Now she runs the village pharmacy. I am hoping that she can remember more about the time of the war or stories my grandfather told her. I am curious about her version of the truth. “As a teenager I asked him why he never did anything. Millions of Jews were killed in front of his eyes; hundreds were deported in trains. “Why didn’t you do anything?”, I asked him. You must have known what was going on.” Mechthild remembers confronting her father. “Again and again, he would say: “’We didn’t know what exactly was happening’. So, I just believed him. I don’t think he would have lied to me.” Is that possible? For her to really believe that an intelligent man of 27 would not have been capable of understanding what was really going on during the Hitler regime? Yet, they were the words of her father. So, she trusted him.
“I can’t assess whether he was serious about it or whether he was just trying to suppress the harshness of reality. But I know that he would have never supported Nazi beliefs. There was absolutely nothing he had against Jewish people. Never would he have said: “We are Arians and we have to kill Jewish people just because they aren’t.” I remember him saying that he found Jewish people highly intelligent, good conversation partners and very business savvy. He wasn’t a fanatic supporter of Hitler. He was a follower.” Operation Barbarossa -the invasion of the Soviet Union—began on the 22nd of June 1941. Around four million soldiers from the German, Italian and Japanese military took part. More than one million Soviet Jews were murdered and five million Soviets were taken as prisoners of war, of whom three million were starved to death. It ended with the Battle of Moscow, and Germany’s defeat in December 1941. Around 75 percent of the German military took part in Operation Barbarossa. My grandfather was one of them. Despite the fact, that he seemingly didn’t talk much about his experiences during the war, he shared some information with his children. During the conversation with my aunt Mechthild, she tries to remember. “To some respect he was lucky during his time as a soldier. He never had to shoot anyone, you know. He never fought frontline. His role was an observational one.” Her memories mirror those of Ludger’s, her younger brother: “Your grandfather’s job was to measure flight paths as part of the artillery. So instead of shooting soldiers, his main occupation was to strategically help the movement of the regiment by calculating distances. That is why, often, he had to ride ahead of the other soldiers. They assigned him that task because he was a clever guy with mathematical skills and he also knew how to handle horses growing up on a farm. I guess he must have been lucky many times, riding in front of everyone.” Operation Barbarossa was only able to be implemented if the residents of the Soviet Union were deprived of their food. If Germany was to win the war, according to the fifteen senior German officials who met on the 2nd of May in 1941 to discuss the Barbarossa’s implementation, the German soldiers had to survive on the food of the Soviet people. The aim of the oper-
ation was thus to starve the inhabitants of Leningrad to death by systematically destroying factories that were producing or storing food. That way not only the Soviet people would die, but the German soldiers were also able to survive without food supply by Germany. In addition to that, the industrial infrastructure of the Soviet Union was to be destroyed, except in the areas German troops were dependent on the Soviet transport. The general aim however, was for the Soviet Union to return to its agricultural state. I am sitting in the back of my parents’ car. We are leaving Nordborchen, the place my grandfather lived most of his life. My mother is driving. “Did you
never ask yourself what was he actually doing as a soldier,” I say to her. “Not until you started this project. But since reading his letters and finding out things I didn’t know before, I am slowly realizing that he didn’t tell us everything.” She remains silent for a little while after I ask her whether she ever wondered if he killed someone. “No, actually. But I don’t know why I didn’t. I just never imagined him in the role of someone who killed someone else. To be honest, maybe he did. Maybe he did murder someone. I think we did at some point maybe talk about it with my siblings, but never dug deeper. We always came to the conclusion that he would have been way too sensitive to do something like that.”
By January 1942, the German army had built up a defence line along the Volkhov river, which had become part of the German blockade of Leningrad. Snow made things difficult and the Soviet troops only moved forwards very slowly to attack the German defence line at the river. My grandfather’s regiment was sent for support. Regiment 225 hadn’t been in the Soviet Union long. Since summer 1940, its soldiers had mainly been stationed in France and the order to move came without much warning. From Amiens, Regiment 225 took the train to Danzig. By ship, they arrived in Riga on the 24th of December 1942. Still wearing their summer uniforms, the soldiers of Regiment 225 had to face temperatures of minus thirty. By 1943, 46 soldiers of them had died, 152 were wounded and one was missing. Eighty-seven were suffering from third-degree frostbite. The battle of Volkhov battle didn’t last long: the Soviet army lost around 95.000 soldiers. 40
My grandfather survived the battle of Volkhov.. A year after, his first son Alfons was born, but he was already back East. Meanwhile, his wife Maria was left alone with their child. There are more battles: Demyansk, Volkhov again, Ladoga lake, Leningrad, and then finally, Courland in Latvia. That’s where, with the defeat of Germany on 2nd of May in 1945, he became a prisoner of war. “God help us if we lose the war, your grandfather thought when he realized how the Russian soldiers were treated by the Germans”, Ludger tells me during our conversation in the summer. “He admitted to me that he was very scared.” I am back in Cologne, going through the box of letters. I haven’t read all of them yet. Some of them, the early ones, go back to the 1930s. There is one that makes me cry. It is a letter addressed to my grandfather, from his younger brother Alfons. In July 1937, Alfons is writing from Görlitz, a city in the very east of Germany. At that point, he is being trained as a military pilot. After describing his training in detail, he mentions the Czech Republic: The country has been defeated by the Germans. He can’t talk in detail but it “once again has been a triumph of our Führer.” Alfons didn’t see the need to hide his support for the Nazi Regime in front of my grandfather. The letter is evidence of a very common way of thinking amongst Germans during the rise of Adolf Hitler. They would willingly call him “Der Führer”, believing that his agenda would enrich the lives of many people in Germany. The promise of prosperity and power is a seductive argument but it is not an excuse for blindness. It becomes clear to me now, that my grandfather might not have lived by this standard. It is the 20th of October and I am sitting on the plane to Moscow. It is only the second time that I have travelled outside Europe. Even at the airport in Germany, my mother and I feel weirdly disconnected. The people queuing with us to get into the plane are mostly Russian and seem grumpy. The security guy is shouting at us but we can’t understand him.
“Your grandfather spoke quite a bit of Russian,” I remember Ludger telling me when I met him in August. He never heard his father complaining about the time in Russia. “With the aftermath of the war and the destruction of their country, the Russians were in despair just like your grandfather. They were all sharing a general feeling of pain and exhaustion.” After my grandfather was taken prisoner in 1945, he was sent to a collection camp in the Latvian town of Telšiai and then from one prison to the next. At some he staysed for months, at others just for a couple of weeks. Most of them were in Russia. My mother and I have made an impulsive decision. We are going to visit Mozhaysk, a small town near Moscow. It is the final place my grandfather spent time in as a prisoner of war. We want to see whether we can find the actual location of this prison. There is no address, no picture, no description, but there are two people that might be able to help us: Leonid and Arseniy. A former business partner and now friend of my uncle, Leonid had been living in Moscow since he attended university as a young man. His son Arseniy and I have been in contact about the trip. Despite the fact that neither my mother nor I have ever met them, they are keen to help. Two days before our arrival in Moscow, Arseniy sends a message that sounds hopeful. Dear Paulina, I have managed to find a small memorial in Mozhajsk dedicated to the military prisoners of the prison point #465. Mainly it is dedicated to the Hungarian soldiers who were the majority there.
“Personally, I have not done anything wrong... Yet I have to endure imprisonment until its very end.”
But according to some materials that I have found there is a lost German cemetery...no graves...nothing...really lost between old garages.” It sounds like good news. War prison number 465 is the one my grandfather was held in. 03.03.1947 After an irresponsible betrayal, because of the biggest disappointments and mendacious promises, but also because of threats that have been explained in the past and need to be kept secret, we will walk into the future frankly and freely. For two years now, my grandfather has been writing to his wife back home, who is waiting for him with their first child Alfons. During that time, something dramatic must have happened. It sounds as if he has been forced to do something against his will, or as if he has been blackmailed about something. Yet, there isn’t a single word about it in his following letter, or the one after. All I know is that when he was writing this letter in 1947, my grandfather was captive in a prison in Tver, a city north-west from Moscow. It is the third prison he is stayed in since 1945, at least four more are yet to come. Going through my grandfather’s letters is exhausting. His writing is scrawly, his tone is difficult for me to understand. It takes me a long time to go through every single letter he wrote to my grandmother. Many of them are less exciting than I thought. Until this one from March 1947. Something must have happened. This city never ends. Its roads string together in countless lanes of stationary traffic. The cars that aren’t stationary, race along the streets at such speed, it is impossible to understand how pedestrians are able to get around safely. For hours, it seems, the roads have swallowed us up in their net of junctions and spirals. Sometimes, it’s the city’s skyscrapers that menace us, sometimes there are lines of dilapidated huts. Moscow is one big splash of grey, broken by dashes of blueblack sky. It is a Saturday morning and we are on our way chasing my grandfather’s trails in Russia. Once we managed to escape Moscow’s jungle, we are driving down the M1 motorway. Mozhaysk is a small town in the Oblast Moscow, a little 41
over 100 kilometres South-West from the capital. Around 31.000 people live here. Because of its proximity to Moscow, Mozhaysk was the scene of much fighting during the War “We have never been to this town before. I guess because there’s not that much here to see.” Arseniy and Leonid are sitting in the front of the car. They have fully planned this trip. 9.30am pick up at the hotel. Two hours drive. Spend some time in Mozhaysk, try and find the old prison and the cemetery. Go look at a monastery, have some lunch. Drive back. One reason why my grandfather’s letters were less exciting than I had was because he concealed the truth. He didn’t mention Mozhaysk in his letters once. In fact, he never really talked about the prisons. This seems to be a common pattern throughout his entire life: Don’t talk about the bad stuff. Keep positive. Ignore the unpleasant circumstances of the present. Look into the future. My grandmother had no real idea where he was during his imprisonment or how he truly was feeling. Everything was always fine. “Keeping up appearances”, my mother calls it. When we enter Mozhaysk, the greyness of Moscow is replaced by muddy browns and khakis. The capital’s bustle is replaced by stillness. I am thinking about my grandfather and his time here in Mozhaysk. Five years of imprisonment and still no sign of getting back home. On top of that, he had to deal with the mysterious betrayal he mentioned in his letters. Was he forced to stay in Mozhaysk because someone was plotting against him? “He did tell me about some sort of betrayal.” It is Ludger, who is the first of the children that seems to remember something when I am interviewing him. “Another soldier falsely accused him
of having done something terrible, which is why your grandfather got into a lot of trouble with the Russian soldiers. But apparently, it was all made up. The other soldier just told this lie so he could be released earlier than your grandfather.” 10.11.1947 Can’t be long until big reunion. Hoping for this to be the last card. My grandfather had been away for nearly five years at this point. It was five years since he married my grandmother. Two years since the end of the war; two years as a prisoner of war. By now, his only child was almost four years old. There were yet three years to come in Russia. Still nothing about the betrayal, he mentioned in the letter in March of 1947. Instead of explaining the situation, my grandfather became quiet. War imprisonment is the hardest and most difficult destiny a person can have, he wrote. During our conversation, Ludger revealed more. “He did tell me about some sort of betrayal. Another soldier falsely accused him of having done something terrible, which is why your grandfather got into a lot of trouble with the Russian soldiers. But apparently, it was all made up. The other soldier just told this lie so he could be released earlier than your grandfather.” “The soldier’s name was Hamacher I think. He was from Cologne and your grandfather met him at one of the camps. If I can remember right, he accused your
grandfather of being heavily involved with the Nazis. He claimed that your grandfather was responsible for the calculated planning of killing Jewish people.” Arseniy is driving us down a road past a grim-looking apartment building and an abandoned playground. He makes a left turn into a desolate courtyard. There is a guy leaning against a wall, smoking a cigarette and looking at us. Leonid jumps out of the car and walks towards him. Arseniy leaves the engine running. We can ́t hear what the two men are talking about. The stranger shakes his head before Leonid makes his way back to the car. “This is the wrong way”. A short discussion in Russian again. Arseniy drives down another cart track lined with old garages. There is nobody around. I try to crack some jokes about the likeliness of finding a corpse in one of the garages but really, I am just thinking to myself how idiotic of me it was to believe I could possibly find anything here that stands in relation to my grandfather’s time in Mozhaysk. It’s too late. Arseniy stops the car. Both men come to the back to open our doors. We walk around a group of trees and in front of us are two tombstones. One of them is black and lying on the floor. Fifteen Russian names are written on them, together with their year of birth and the day they died. Seven of them died in 1945, five one year later, three in 1947. Next to it is a stone plate with a gravestone standing on it horizontally. It says: “In memory of the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the country of Russia. Your bravery will never be forgotten.” On top of the gravestone are two helmets. One is slightly rusted. The other one has lost some of its layers and turned green in some parts. Both helmets have big holes in them. “The one on the left is the helmet of a Russian soldier. The one on the right belonged to a German”. Arseniy sounds so convinced, I want to believe him and ignore the fact that they look the same to me. But maybe the helmet did belong to a German soldier. Maybe it belonged to someone from the German war prison in Mozhaysk. “According to that soldier Hamacher, your grandfather worked at a concentration camp in the North of Germany, in Esterwegen.” After Ludger told me this, I looked up Esterwegen. It is a town close
to the Dutch border, near the North Sea, not far from the farm my grandfather grew up in. 07. 11.1948 Who of the both of us is having the more difficult time? Maybe it’s you. I might have encountered difficult moments, but they all pass and then you ask yourself why you took everything so seriously. All things considered, they are just moments.”. “I don’t know why we had to have such a tough destiny. Personally, I have not done anything wrong as you know. Yet I have been chosen to endure imprisonment until its very end.” We are back in the car, leaving the path and garages behind. My mother seems composed. Maybe, like me, her curiosity is taking over. The fact that we found a memorial in honour of soldiers of the Second World War and thus my grandfather, in the outskirts of a small Russian town seems incredible. It takes less than a minute before we stop at a rectangular, quite shabby, white building, not surrounded by much except some bleak trees. Three different rows of fences encircle what is now a institution for youth offenders but was the prison where my grandfather spent the last eight months of his time as a prisoner of war. I glance over to my mum, still no tears. “Of course he never worked at a concentration camp.” I wasn’t sure if I was going too far asking Ludger whether he believed the accusations or not. But he is sure of his father’s innocence. “How do you know, grandfather didn’t work at the concentration camp in Esterwegen?” “Because he told me so.” 19.07.1949 A long letter, folded into four pages, from my grandfather to his siblings. Finally, the case is explained in his own words. In 1947, the first time he talks about a betrayal to my grandmother and how he had to make a statement in Russia rebutting Hamacher’s claims that he had been a guard in Esterwegen, which had for a while been the second biggest concentration camp in Germany, after Dachau. In 1949, he was forced to give a second statement. He was supported by the testimony of another soldier and it seems this finally convinced the Soviet authorities. But it seems that, because of the accusations, 43
my grandfather may have been a prisoner much longer than he was supposed to be. In his letters my grandfather is reluctant to dwell on the case “Why the many words, my dearest? Only a few weeks and I will be there” he writes in a letter to my grandmother in 1949. Could it be true that my grandfather worked at a concentration camp? Before he signed up to become a member of the German army, he was a student and after finishing his degree, he started working as a teacher. Yet, there could have been a timeframe that would have allowed him to work at a concentration camp. There are no particular details about his first job as a teacher. I am checking his files of the German agency for soldiers of the former German Wehrmacht. There’s nothing. Not a word mentioned about a possible engagement with any concentration camp. There must have been circumstances in which prisoners of war would say or do things in order to go back home again and perhaps my grandfather had been a victim of that. “This might also be a setup”, my grandfather suggests in his letter. Maybe it wasn’t Hamacher at all, maybe the whole scenario was constructed by Soviet soldiers, he writes. The intricacies of the case seem to have convinced my grandfather not to further dwell on it. “Why the many words my dearest. Only a few weeks and I will be there” he wrote in a letter to my grandmother in 1949. She seemed concerned. Many times, my grandmother wants to know more about the Hamacher case. Many times, my grandfather refuses. It is late 1949 and all my grandfather can think about is his return home. Strangely my grandfather writes that he is planning to invite Hamacher “as a friend” and help him to get a job as a plumber. “He did invite Hamacher to our house after he came back to Germany”, Ludger remembers. “Your grandmother wanted him to confront Hamacher about the horrible things he did to him. Apparently, at some point during the meet-up, they started talking about it. That’s when all the wives had to leave the room.” Ludger doesn’t know what the men talked about. “The fact that Hamacher made it all up really hit your grandfather. But there was nothing he could do really, back in Russia. Once he came back home, he was sick of talking about it. Things like that happen amongst war prisoners.” 44
After standing in front of the prison for a while, Arseniy, Leonid, my mother and I walk back to the car. I take some last pictures. This is my final chance to see this place. Physically, this is the closest I could get to understanding my grandfather’s life as a prisoner of war. It is depressing that my capacity to soak it all in is limited. If I had only known more about it from my grandfather’s perspective. I take more pictures of the memorial, the two hats on top. I am sad because of the reasons my grandfather was imprisoned here. Sad about the pain he might have caused other families. Sad because I can never talk to him about it. On the 23rd of April 1950, my grandfather was finally allowed to return home. After seven years away from his family, he returnsed to Germany, to be reunited with a wife and a son he he had never seen. Before he became imprisoned, he had known my grandmother for three years. The time spent apart was much longer than the time they had spent together. “Everything was grey. His coat, his face, his hat, his suitcase.” By the time my grandfather returned, Alfons, his eldest son, was almost seven years old. “I remember your grandmother and I were standing at the train station waiting for him. When he got out of the train, I didn’t recognise him. I didn’t know what he looked like.” “Once he returned home, his time as a war prisoner was a finished chapter, that’s it. You just wouldn’t talk about it.” It was a topic he wanted to avoid and to a certain extent, Alfons seems to understand. “When he first arrived back home, he probably didn’t have the strength to enjoy being home. He was just tired and run down.” It surely helped him to continue a life he had imagined in his head so often during his time at the prisons. But it meant his children came to only know a modified, simplified version of their father’s story. It also means that his grandchildren will never be quite sure about their family history. I grew up knowing that my grandfather had been a prisoner of war after fighting for the German army during the Second World War. Yet before finding the letters I knew very little about him as a person, or what he was doing as a soldier and as a prisoner. I never asked questions.
When beginning this project, I wanted to know whether my grandfather had supported the Nazis. Whether he killed people. What his convictions were. After months of research, I still don’t have all the answers. It was my hope to be able to say, after all of this, that my grandfather was too intelligent to be affiliated with Nazi ideologies, that he had no other choice but to submit and join the army. The truth looks much more complicated. He did join the army voluntarily, but he didn’t join the Nazi Party. He fought in the army, yet he didn’t strive for any military career during his years as a soldier. He was held as a prisoner in Russia under difficult circumstances, yet he always spoke very highly of the way people treated him during his five years of imprisonment. My grandfather’s story is one that millions of other Germans share. It appears that he was another person who looked away from what was truly going on. Hopefully, he did so out of fear. Yet, it is difficult to believe he wasn’t aware what was happening. He was an intelligent person: he studied, he read. But I won’t ever know for sure. Most of my friends have relatives who were in some way actively involved in the Second World War, most as soldiers. My own family history never felt special to me, it is one story among thousands. It hasn’t affected my family dramatically, I always thought. My grandfather didn’t die. Compared to the countless other, more tragic impacts families dealt with, my family’s history didn’t seem severe enough to need dealing with. Now, I understand its worth. I believe it has affected all of us: my grandmother, my mother, her siblings, my cousins, myself. I would like to say that I understand what my grandfather did, but I can’t. It is impossible to put myself into his situation. At the end of the day, he’s someone I have never met or had the chance to ask questions. Although he might have shaped me in positive ways, I do feel violated sometimes when I let his story become too much of my own. It is a difficult state of being. I don’t feel responsibility for what has happened in the past, but I still feel ashamed. If I don’t condemn my grandfather for what he might have done, I would be excusing the genocide of millions of people. Often, I forbid myself to feel
sorry for him and his time as a prisoner of war. What he experienced was a logical consequence. If I show empathy with his actions, even if he didn’t have a choice, I carry on the guilt. I struggle to understand why my mother has never asked herself whether her father ever killed someone. I struggle to understand why my grandfather’s past hasn’t been much more discussed amongst my family. Could it be that I am the first one that ask whether my grandfather had been a Nazi? Maybe, now, my family can start to talk. b
The threat to little Portugal What will Brexit mean for a European community in the heart of London?
It is not uncommon to bump into a Portuguese in London. According to a 2011 report by the BBC, 36,402 people born in Portugal have migrated to Britain in the last decade, with half of that number residing in areas of South London. Taking a stroll in Stockwell, South London feels comforting yet eerie: we feel at home while living away. Stockwell high street is filled with a number of Portuguese restaurants and Portugese grocery shops where you can buy the same products that are sold in Portugal. As we entered “Three Lions”, one of the many Portuguese restaurants in London, Benfica (the Portugese national football team), was playing in the background and an elderly man was holding his Sagres beer; half of the customers cheered whenever Benfica scored, while the other half rooting for Sporting, the other Portuguese team, frowned in disappointment. Well, as the Portuguese saying goes: one cannot please both the Greeks and Trojans (Não se pode agradar a Gregos e a Troianos)! Figuring out why these people had migrated here is not difficult, but each one’s purpose differs slightly. Yet despite this, most state their reason for migrating as “opportunities”. The majority had felt they were not living to their full potential in Portugal due to the lack of opportunities back home. Taking into account immigration tensions caused by Brexit and most recently a snap general election, some Portuguese immigrants have expressed an uncertainty about their future in this country, while others are not at all. We spoke to two other Portuguese on their thoughts about living in London post-Brexit. Guilherme Rosa moved to London in 2001 when he was 28 years old. He became politically involved and now represents the Labour Party for Lambeth Council, South London. Being the first in the family to emigrate, Guilherme remembers a time when he juggled four jobs to make ends meet. Because of this experience, Guilherme now works closely with Portuguese communities to help and advise families experiencing financial difficulty. When asked about Stockwell in particular, Guilherme told Artefact: “It is an atypical area where most of the people are considered lower-middle or working class, and with no education and no financial possibilities, they’re what I consider ‘economic refugees’.” 46
But Guilherme stresses that not every Portugese that comes to Britain is unqualified or uneducated. There too are highly skilled and highly qualified Portuguese professionals who come to study and work in Britain. However regardless of education or qualifications, when a Portugese Londoner misses home, they usually go to these places like Stockwell to find a sense of familiarity, unity and mutual respect. Apprehensive about the consequences that Brexit might bring, Guilherme ran a rather successful campaign against Brexit that mobilised a sizeable number of the Portuguese community in London. “We have a responsibility to participate in the country they chose to live in”, says Guilherme, who thinks of Brexit as a “radical decision and probably one of biggest mistakes ever made as far as UK politics are concerned.” When asked about Portuguese who want to move to the UK, Guilherme advises that “organisation is key. It is not wise to move abroad without any sort of guarantee or planning”. On the other hand, London is a particular popular place for Portuguese students. According to Portuguese newspaper “Diário de Notícias”, more than 800 students had started their first year of university in London in 2016. Mariana, a 22-year-old currently studying film at UAL, realised she had to move out of Portugal after a year of
Words: Beatriz Vasques, Beatriz Romão Image: Simon Hinde
studying there. The Higher Education system in Portugal did not provide her with the same opportunities, so moving to London became imperative for her. “I came here in search of a better job market and better curricular activities”. Transitioning to a new lifestyle and culture might not be easy, but Marianna managed the move from Portugal to London pretty well—having an American accent and a Portuguese flatmate helped ease her into London life. “I am able to be paid for my photography here, which would have been unthinkable in Portugal, so I do not intend to leave anytime soon. The snowball effect has already begun so why would I stop pushing it?” Reflecting on Brexit, in particular the rise in hate crimes, Mariana seems hardly worried at the moment: “I do not necessarily believe that people who were racist before probably will continue to be, it’s just that now they have been given a platform to verbalise it, and they are taking pride in it. We live in a London bubble. London is the melting pot that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the United Kingdom, so I’d like to believe that immigrants are treated better here.” Division and fears aside, we think it is safe to say that a camaraderie exists amongst the Portuguese community: if someone faces any trouble, a fellow Portuguese would gladly help in whatever way they can. b
Words: Nour C
I’m not scared
I’m not scared to go back to America I want to go back to America I have already lost a country, I can’t lose the other I’m saving the other I’m not scared to tie my hijab on my head, every single morning I’m not scared to speak my own language My passport shouts that I’m Syrian, I do too My hijab shouts that I’m Muslim, I can do too I’m Syrian, I’m Muslim and I’m an immigrant Wasn’t that what America is all about? I’m not scared But I’m scared that people will go through a news fatigue of the Muslim ban, just like they did of the refugee “crisis” I’m scared that as I watched Syrians pour into Europe, I’ll watch Muslims pour out of America I’m scared of walls I’m afraid we will start forgetting the importance of bridges I’m scared that people will get tired of protesting, organizing and resisting That is what I am scared of
Nour is a Syrian who lives in the USA but has been studying in Britain for the past year. During this time, Donald Trump has come to power and the country’s political rhetoric has taken a chilling turn against Muslims. These are her thoughts on her imminent return.
Words: Hazel Tang
DON’T ASK MY NAME North Korean exiles in Britain are reluctant to talk about life in the Hermit Kingdom
We have read the news. From the continuous testing and launching of new missiles, to the proclamation of nuclear weapon, and the initiation of a possible war with the United States. As far as headlines are concerned, the country never fails to create an impression that she threatens the survival of humanity. We have heard their stories. From “Nothing to Envy”; a detailed narration of numerous defectors from the city of Chongjin, to “Without you, there is no Us”, which gazed into the capital’s lives from the eyes of a female undercover, and “The Accusation”, the latest addition which revealled secret stories presumed to be told by officials who had once worked for the government People have been, in one way or another, smuggling details out of the state like drugs, to piece together the public’s understanding like an ever-ending, unknown puzzle. Yet life in the country remains a mystery to most people; not for nothing is it known as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’, a term used by HIllary Clinton in description of a place which “wilfully walls itself off the radar”. This is North Korea, the World’s most authoritative yet mysterious regime. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) statistics published in year 2015, there are roughly 680 North Koreans living in the United Kingdom; the largest in Europe and probably, outside of South Korea. This figure could have been higher if those who were granted UK permanent residency or citizenship were included. A considerable number of North Koreans are now living together with their South Korean counterparts in New Malden or “Little Korea”, a southwest 48
London suburb somewhat 15 kilometers away from the city center. The presence of a large Korean community in New Malden is not something new as its history can be traced back to the 1950s when a conglomerate was agreed between a Korean businessman and a UK aerospace company called Racal Avionics. The old South Korea ambassador’s residence along Lord Chancellor Walk and the European headquarters of Korean electronics firm—Samsung established in the area, had all added to this unexpected population boom. However, if you have a chance to walk along the high street, you will find that New Malden does not feel as Korean as one may expect it to be; it is not at all like Chinatown or Brick Lane, where street signs are written in dual languages. Other than the two gigantic Korean words printed neatly on the William Hill signboard, a handful of Korean restaurants and supermarkets, and occasional Asian faces, New Malden seems not much of a different as compared to other outskirts like Bexley or North Harrow. At least that was the feeling I have got when I first arrived. The North Koreans in London had started their very own newspaper in year 2011 to condemn their former homeland. Known as “FreeNK”, the launch dates of both its digital and print versions were strategically selected to coincide with the regime’s Party Foundation Day (10th October) and the death of the founding president—Kim Il-Sung (8th July). Sandwiched between a Korean bakery and a food company in the Wyvern industrial estate, a 15-minute walk from the New Malden train station, it is very easy to miss the main door leading up to
this bilingual (i.e., Korean and English) publication located on the second floor. I tried contacting the FreeNK editorial team several times via phone calls and emails but did not receive a reply. Likewise, it was 11am on a weekday and no one answered the door. If not for the yellow sign which said “Free NK NGO, Free NK newspaper”, I might have walked away thinking that I had found myself at the wrong place. I knew some of the editorial members also worked in the next door Korean food company, therefore, I decided to try my luck in the neighbourhood. There is something interesting about Asians. Sometimes, just by judging at looks alone, it can be quite hard for one Asian to tell which country the other Asians are from. As long as they never say out their names or start speaking, there is no way I will know if the person I am conversing with, is a Korean, Chinese, or a Southeast Asian like myself. The first man I spoke to, turned out to be the supervisor of a nearby factory. Knowing that he is a Chinese, I immediately switched to Mandarin, so as to sound less of a stranger. This tough-looking gentleman told me that he had met the FreeNK editorial team before and in fact, they were here earlier this morning. This man added that there are many North Koreans working in this area so I will not have a hard time finding or speaking with them. However, when I tried to ask for his name so that I can find out more. He just walked off claiming that he has got work to finish. Owner of the Highway Café just behind the industrial estate gave me a similar story. In her heavy Malaysian accent, she told me in Cantonese that she had been living in New Malden for close to 30
years. She noticed an increase number of North Koreans at one point of time, but there are less of them now. The lady boss gave me the name of this eatery which she claimed to be owned by her North Korean friend. However, she could not remember the phone number nor the address on the spot. She urged me to look it up on my own instead, stating that it would not be hard, but “Expon Japanese restaurant” really did not lead me anywhere thereafter. Again, in spite of her helpfulness, she wished to stay out of an interview. As I spent more time roaming around, trying to speak to people, I began to receive stares from a group of Korean Ajumma who worked at the Korean food company. I tried to approach them politely but they refused to speak a word after knowing that I don’t know any Korean. Nevertheless, the South Korean girl I met at the office-turned-staff-canteen right below the FreeNK newsroom, shed light on my strange morning encounters. Conversing in fluent English, she said that the North Koreans, especially the FreeNK editorial team, had been interviewed by many media organisations. Hence, the people here are quite sick and tired of having to entertain more. As it was close to lunchtime, she offered me some of the rice and seaweed soup available in the canteen, adding that North Koreans are just as friendly and hardworking as everyone else. “They are normal people like you and me.” But when I took out my notebook, in hope to ask her more questions, she said she needed to work and just left. This collective interview-rejection plus refusal to surrender their identities reminded me of a North Korean propaganda song—Nae ireum mutji maseyo or “Don’t ask my name”. The lyrics of this song tells the story of a journalist who wished to write about the achievments of an ordinary girl but she declined the interview, claiming that her deed was insignificant compared to what the regime had done. The song ended with her praise about the party and offering her loyalty to the country. Sadly, the reality of my experience was nothing like the song. Because to the non-North Korean, not giving their names mean they could prevent themselves from having any con50
nection with this group of people. Their reticence was probably due to the public assassination of the Great Leader’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur International airport, the fleeing of Thae Yong Ho, the highest rank official ever exiled since 1997, and the recent freezing of assets of a London based company which believed to have transfer money to finance a nuclear weapon program. These negative connotations about North Korea had created a general fear and suspicion among the public. Casey Lartigue, co-founder of the Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), said in a small public awareness talk which took place in New Malden Methodist church on 5th April, that he was once a target. An individual whom Casey was helping then, was still sympathetic towards the regime, and hence he had planned to destroy Casey’s reputation. Based in Seoul, South Korea, TNKR is a non-profit group which help North Koreans to improve their English standard. In the same awareness talk, there were also representatives from the European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK), a UK based organisation to raise awareness of the human right issues concerning North Koreans. To these groups of people, who are constantly and actively providing assistance to the North Koreans, the unwillingness to have more contacts with the media is because they believe it is not the best way to help them. Like the email reply I received from Michael Glendinning, the current director of EAHRNK, “…Interviewing North Koreans can be difficult as they get many requests and very few articles genuinely help their community…” Finally, to the North Koreans, revealing their identities publicly, can be a matter of life and death. Casey mentioned in the talk that he had once met with a North Korean lady who wanted to commit suicide about four years ago after a reporter accidentally exposed her family members’ identities, resulting in their prosecutions back to North Korea, which ended in much tortures and eventual executions. Jihyun, the current project officer of EAHRNK, is no stranger to this. Having escaped North Korea twice, Jihyun used to hide herself as she was afraid of retri-
bution, until today, she still has no idea where her mother and siblings had gone. In our interview, which took place in Manchester a week after the awareness talk, Jihyun explained that language barriers had aggravated the problem between North Koreans and the outside world, as most of the time, North Koreans need the help of translators. This is especially the case when they first arrived in the UK. “When we were in school, we could not choose which foreign language we wished to learn… We were randomly assigned to either learning English or Russian… but all we learnt was propaganda.” Often, even the South Korean translators have difficulties as they are not able to understand the North Korean accent. As a result of western influence, the Korean which South Koreans speak is infused with English or other foreign-inspired words while North Koreans still speak pure traditional Korean. As a result, there is no way a South Korean can properly interact with a North Korean, despite being ancestral brothers. “In my opinion, even though North and South Koreans shared the same language and nationality, we see ourselves as entirely different. The North is DPRK (i.e., Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) while the South is ROK (i.e., Republic of Korea); we are two countries… … The North and the South had been divided for 70 years so we both have very different cultures and lives and South Koreans do not have an entire understanding of the situation in North Korea. In fact, we are still enemy countries, with South Koreans seeing us as spies.” This is why human rights groups generally regard it as inappropriate for Western countries to refuse North Koreans refugee status in the UK and instead direct them to South Korea. Moreover, as explained by Jihyun, most North Koreans escaped without bringing sufficient documents or evidence with them to prove their status. There had been incidences whereby Chinese nationals living along the border of North Korea and China, imposed themselves as North Koreans. Also, some North Koreans who had already received their South Korea citizenship continued to seek asylum elsewhere, and others had lived in China for so long that they had lost their accents and forgot their lives in the regime.
“Everytime when we open the newspaper, we find news about refugees from many other places but hardly anything is being mentioned about North Koreans.” Therefore, UK authorities became rather skeptical when it comes to immigration status investigations. Often North Koreans applying for asylum would be asked questions like “How did you escape from North Korea?” or “How did you arrive at this country?” These questions can be difficult for North Koreans to answer as they evoke unpleasant feelings or bad memories, especially female North Koreans who are more succumb to forced marriage and human trafficking. The story of their defection might be too shameful for them to discuss with strangers. On top of this interrogation, refugees also face a 200-question test which most young North Koreans find it overwhelming as they have not received enough education on the country’s history to answer all of them. As a result of all these, many North Koreans chose to keep to themselves; fearing that openly seeking help would alert the governments (i.e., North Korea and UK) again. What surprised Jihyun most is the disparity in terms of help given to North Koreans and other refugees. “Every time when we open the newspaper, we find news about refugees from many other places but hardly anything is being mentioned about North Koreans… People are only interested in nuclear weapons, missiles, and politics. They don’t know anything about the human rights in North Korea… What people know is Pyongyang, not North Korea.” According to UNHCR, a refugee is “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence”. However, there is still an inadequate recognition of North Koreans as refugees internationally. The main reason is all information about North Korea stayed sealed within the regime. With her citizens not knowing
and believing that they are living in an authoritative state and if there is a need to fight for their own rights. Likewise, no one is able to export enough information and evidence out of the country to prove that people are truly being repressed or had suffered in a massive manner. Nonetheless, Jihyun counted her blessings as she had received a lot better and more humane treatment in the UK. “I told my children that I am a very proud mother because many North Korean women could not keep their children but I have all of them with me… Most importantly, UK has taught me how to love.” Jihyun said she almost cried when she met up with two other North Koreans in Germany as they were housed in refugee homes. The local government would only provide them with a small amount of water and food each day and they were being barred from moving freely. Because the staple diet of North Korean is rice, surviving on minimal bread and cucumber every day is like re-experiencing the widespread famine took place in the 1990s North Korea all over. “In North Korea, we have this food problem… when we escaped to China, we also have the same food shortage problem, when we arrived in European countries, we want to find freedom but still we cannot do so because life is no different from what we used to have.” Hence, Jihyun believed it is encouraging and is a good thing to have more and more North Koreans stepping up to speak about the regime. Because truth erases fear; like the way fear undermines trust as put forward by Lars Svendsen. “Inside North Korea, there is always execution with people being sent to correction camp but others just don’t understand this because they have never seen the country… what people need is facts and not rumours.” Coupled with the Manchester rain, “Don’t ask my name” automatically played in my head again while I was on the train back to London. To be honest, the tune was so catchy that it does not sound brain-washing at all. At that moment, I began to wonder, if the girl depicted in the song was truly humble or was she like everyone else I have encounted, bounded by reasons which prevented her from revealing her name to the journalist. b 51
Words and Images: Evander Pedersen, Jara Atienza and Montse Vila-Masana
HOMELESS BUT NOT HOPELESS In Barcelona a new initiative is helping people to get back on their feet
In the second week of July 2016, Vincent and two other workers in a small bike and scooter shop in Barcelona were introduced to a new colleague. Over the next couple of weeks, his new mate became part of the team and next to Vincent, they would rent bikes and scooters to tour around the Catalan city. That was until their colleague revealled his true identity; he was not a new colleague, but a businessman trying to have a sense of the company. Instead of investment, he wanted to hire his relatives, which meant that Vincent and the other workers would lose their jobs. But they’d not only lose their jobs but also lose their shelter, they all used to sleep in the shop. A week later, the 49 year-old Vincent went from being an adventurous Londoner who had quit his nine-to-five job as an educator back in 2013 and bought a one-way ticket to Spain, to a homeless man in Barcelona. That July, Vincent became one of the 1,000 homeless people sleeping in the streets in Barcelona and the other 2,000 people who have to be house in hostels or social shelters. In the city, the number of homeless people has varied throughout the years. According to the recent study by Joan Uribe, Ines Marco and Albert Sales in The situation of homelessness in Barcelona evolution and intervention policies, the number of those affected is a lot more stable since the growth that took place after the financial crisis of 2008 to 2011. Barcelona is not a unique city when it comes to problems with homelessness. According to the Homeless World Cup Global Statistics, there are 100 million homeless people worldwide and almost 1.6 billion lacking adequate housing. In accordance with the Second Overview of Housing Exclusion in Europe report, published by the European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless in March 2017, homelessness in Europe is rising alarmingly, except in Finland. The document remarks that young people are the most likely to be exposed
to homelessness due to the elevated cost of apartments, which an average of 48 per cent of their salaries had been sepnt on. In Spain, the number of homeless people varies between 23,000 and 40,000, depending on the study. In Barcelona, there are homeless people of all ages but the general profile of a homeless person is male, aged 31 to 51. Similar to Vincent’s case, little more than half of the homeless do not have any type of income. The main causes of homelessness worldwide are unemployment, poverty, migration, ageing, health problems, relationship issues, and the lack of affordable housing for sale or for renting. At the very beginning, being homeless was challenging for Vincent. During the first month he slept on the beach, but as it got colder he began to sleep inside cash points on cardboards without any sheets. In the beginning he didn’t know where to eat for free, so he only got something to eat when some of the other homeless people, with whom he shared shelter, offered him a piece of sandwich. “The worst thing was the pain in your stomach when you were hungry and there was no food. It was terrible,” said Vincent. Even though he found the first period challenging, Vincent was in good health condition and had a positive attitude, he had better conditions than many other homeless people, for example; alcoholics, drug addicts and the mentally ill. “Lots of people drink to make it easier, but that’s not the solution,” he warned. Vincent had some examples to follow; his “digital heroes” who had crazy ideas and people didn’t bet on them until the ideas materialised, such as Henry Ford who developed the first automobile that middle-class Americans could afford. Vincent thought social tools were made to help people to get out of the streets, but one of the things that had surprised him the most was the big group of homeless people who have their basic needs covered and preferred to live on the streets rather than working to get their own
home. “They are getting food, they can live here for free, they can get clothes and they can wash themselves, so they can’t see why they need to work. I believe that I am made for more than this. The world is much bigger.” About those that lack his motivation, Vincent thought that, first, they should get rid of their alcohol and drug addiction problems so as to have a more positive attitude towards life. “If you are positive, you will attract the people, the resources and the opportunities that you need to grow.” That was exactly what happened when back in November he was introduced to Andrew Funk, the man behind the initiative Homeless Entrepreneurs. “During this time”, Vincent explained with reference to the period when he was sleeping on the street, “On one of the places I went to eat, I spoke to somebody that told me about Homeless Entrepreneurs. And I thought ‘okay, I’ll get in touch with that man, Andrew, and maybe he’ll find some strategies’”. Homeless Entrepreneurs began in year 2015 as an initiative to help homeless people to get off the street by getting jobs. It focuses on talent as a way out of homelessness, tells its founder Andrew Funk, an American who, for most of his life, has been working with people on personal and professional development. “We motivate the homeless by working by their sides and finding out what their talents are. We give them resources, tools, the right network and unconditional love, so they can advance,” says Andrew Funk. He thinks that everyone has a talent, because nobody was born on the street. “You are not talking about people that are completely useless, but people that probably had bad luck, poor environment or made some wrong decisions in life”. Right now, Homeless Entrepreneurs is helping six homeless people get off the streets. One of them is Daniel, a former photojournalist, who right now works 10 hours per month as a community manager. At the same time, he is working on a 53
â€œThe idea of work as a way out of homelessness is the most effective one because providing food and clothing does not change anything.â€?
project called Shelters with Names, where he takes pictures of homeless people’s homes and tells their stories. Another homeless entrepreneur is Paco who just got a full-time job as a web developer. If a homeless person gets a full-time job due to the help they received from Homeless Entrepreneurs, they will have to donate 10 per cent of their salary to for the first six months. This money will then be reinvested to venture the recipient’s next talent. Since Paco likes rapping, the money is now being used to help him in creating a rap album. The idea of work as a way out of homelessness is the most effective one because, “Providing food and clothing does not change anything”, thinks Andrew Funk. “There are no naked people walking around in Barcelona, and nobody is starving, because the social lunch rooms provide food for them. A lot of people like to help homeless people by doing things that really don’t help. Because if people don’t get actively involved in society again, then you are just maintaining their situation. They need to work for it, in my opinion, so they can pay for these things, instead of society giving them everything for nothing.” The new buzzword: Housing First Homeless is a word which speaks for itself. That’s why the social policy model Housing First wants to help people who sleep in the street by erasing the ‘less’ from ‘homeless’. In the 1990s, organisation Pathways to Housing created the model Housing First which was born from the question; would the homeless improve their situation if they first have their own house? After testing the model it had great success and was rapidly incorporated in many European countries like in Portugal, Finland and France. Seven Spanish cities have implemented the innovative model, and Barcelona is one of the pioneers. In 2014, the Barcelona City Council together with the NGO RAIS Fundación started a programme named Habitat, based in the Housing First model. But Habitat isn’t about giving the homeless a shared flat or a room in a hostel, it guarantees them their own permanent place to live. However, this programme is only available to the homeless who are in the worst conditions. Before giving a residence, the City Council analyses the situation of each person. He or she must have been living in the street for a long time, and must have a disability, addiction or mental problem. In addition, people who enter the Habitat programme must follow certain rules; accepting a visit once a week by a volunteer of the organisation, give the organisation 30 per cent of their income if they have one, and follow the basic cohabitation rules. After establish-
ing them in a home of their own there is still work to do; such as improving their lives by helping them to socialise, to take care of their own health and to find or maintain jobs. Many studies point out that implementing the Housing First model would reduce significantly the public cost of social services. According to the Spanish Statistical Office, in Spain a room in a hostel costs an average of €39 per day, while a one-person apartment with all the basic needs included, costs €34 euros per day. Without mentioning that the use of sanitary emergencies, police interventions, doctor visits, the number of ambulances and so on is also reduced. The philosophy behind the the Housing First model and Homeless Entrepreneurs model is very different as they’re addressed to different kinds of people. Housing First is addressed to people in very raw conditions, while the work of Andrew Funk’s association is addressed to those people who can work themselves. Despite the differences, Andrew Funk is surprised that the City Council and other homeless associations in Barcelona see Homeless Entrepreneurs as an opponent instead of a new teammate in the field. “The biggest surprise is that we are getting blocked by other associations that are supposed to be helping homeless people. They see us as competitors in the sector. But there is public money behind those other initiatives, maybe that’s why they create obstacles for new associations like ours that is trying to add value.” Despite the obstacles, the association is developing every day. Now, they have six ‘Homeless Entrepreneurs’, and Andrew Funk says that if the organisation continues to grow at the same rate, the number of ‘Homeless Entrepreneurs’ will double every six month. Andrew Funk believes it’s possible to end homelessness in Barcelona, even though he admits that it’s a slow process in the beginning. “A lot of people on the street are not convinced yet about working, because they know they can survive without doing so, so we have to show them that their lives will actually improve if they work. When they see their friends leaving the street for a happier life, they hopefully begin to consider following the same steps”. The way Homeless Entrepreneurs can make other homeless people “jealous” is by using social media, which Andrew Funk calls “essential” to their success. Therefore, the results of all donations to Homeless Entrepreneur are posted on social media like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. For example, if a Homeless Entrepreneur receives a donation so he or she can travel without getting a fine, 55
“Getting off the streets has definitely something to do with a frame of mind, so if you don’t have someone encouraging you, your situation is not going to change.”
they post a picture of their T-10 ticket, so people can see that even small donations can make a difference. Since Vincent and Andrew Funk met each other for the first time back in November, Vincent has grown a lot, but he’s still homeless and lives in temporary accommodation at Sant Joan de Déu, which he must leave in five weeks. Nevertheless, he’s still very optimistic about his future. He teaches English a few hours per month and he’s also writing two books; 28 Ways to Improve Your English and 28 Ways to Improve Your Life, where he’ll tell short stories from the streets. “Writing is an opportunity to show the people of Barcelona that these Home-
less Entrepreneurs really grow. Look at where they started, and where they are now. When I publish the book, I want to show people that I’m an example to follow.” Vincent’s expectation is that he will end his homelessness in about three months. But even if he succeeds, he’s still going to keep working with Homeless Entrepreneurs because he wants to give something back to the association that gave him so much. “Getting off the streets has definitely something to do with a frame of mind, so if you don’t have someone encouraging you, your situation is not going to change. For me, the future is bright and I have the support that I need. I grow every day.” b 57
Cruelty in paradise In a beautiful Indonesian island resort, horses are mistreated for the benefit of tourists
The Indonesian Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. With their white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and lack of motorized transport, the Gili Islands are tropical paradises to many. I decided to visit Gili Air, the second largest of the three. However, I found myself having to end my trip earlier than planned because of what I had witnessed. To get to any of the Gili Islands one needs to catch a boat, preferably from the harbour of either Lombok or Bali. At this point of my trip I have had enough of hectic Lombok and decided to unwind at this place so many claimed to be paradise. Together with locals, other travellers and a hefty amount of water, beer and additional supplies, we set out to sea. Twenty minutes later, I stepped foot on Gili Air. As the humming of the boat engine ceased, I heard the jingling of bells, rattling of harnesses and heavy footfalls of horses in the sand. “Cidomos” came to mind: I recalled reading about these— carts pulled by horses, serving as the only public transport on the islands. In the corner of my eye, I saw a row of horses. There were probably thirty of them, standing with their heads bowed to the sun. As I went beyond the hectic harbour and approached the main road, I got a closer look at the horses. It turned out that they were more like ponies. As an animal lover, I was excited to go stroke them. But as soon as I approached one, it drew its ears back in aggressively and started walking restlessly in place. It became clear to me that the pony was uncomfortable with human contact, so I stepped back and decided to admire them from a distance instead. Suddenly, thick, white thick foam was pouring out of their mouths. Having had previous equestrian training, I knew the foam indicated dehydration, so I started looking for any water source around but to no success. My gaze then fell on the ponies’ sweat. The apparent layer of sweat sat on the back, stomach and legs of the ponies like a hot blanket. My stomach wrenched as I realized how exhausted they probably were. My thoughts were interrupted by a Russian speaking couple who had approached a driver and his pony, dragging what seemed to be heavy suitcases with them while carrying big backpacks on their backs. The driver offered 6 USD for 58
a 10-minute ride. Watching watched them load their baggage into the cart made me sick. With every thud on the harness, I could see the pressure building up on the pony’s back. I could tell it was struggling, convulsively shaking its head in distress. But before I knew it, the pony was struck by a whiplash and off they were. After an entire day of witnessing similar atrocities—ponies pulling numerous tourists and unwieldy amounts of construction material, food supplies and even diving oxygen tanks—I was furious. Not only were the ponies laboured throughout the day without water or shelter, they were also heavily beaten. When I returned to my hotel room later that evening, I investigated further into this and found out about an activist group who has evidence of a serious neglect and abuse towards these ponies. According to Gili Air Horse Carriage Support, most of the ponies are wild horses that’ve been captured on a neighbouring island, then trained to pull carriages. The ponies are believed to be “tamed” by being chased into a large hole, where they are kept until they are weak and easy to handle. Thereafter, they are brought to the island to start working. With an estimated lifespan of 1-3 years old, the horses are literally worked to death. Their list recording cases of neglect and abuse is long and heart-breaking. Not given any form of shelter, the horses are left out in the sun even while waiting for the next passenger. The perpetual exposure to sunlight eventually leads to eye injuries and blindness. Sometimes the handmade parts of the carriage, saddles
Words: Sara Silvennoinen Images: Kirsten Jackson, Sara Silvennoinen
or other equipment used on the ponies can also cause painful lacerations that, if left untreated, will result in deadly infections. It is also not uncommon for owners to leave their horses strapped to their carriage even after their shift, permitting them no rest as they are left to stand throughout the night. But what I had witnessed and read was hardly new. There’s been uproar from countless locals, tourists, restaurants, hotels and activist groups for several years. Even so, little has changed since. Femke Haas, employee at Jakarta Animal Aid Network who started working with the horses as early as 2010, can attest to that. “In 2010 I received a report from a caring tourist about a bleeding horse at Gili. Another about the abuse followed, criticising how the horses were beaten and made to stand in the sun all day. They also had no access to water and were being overloaded with people and heavy luggage’s,” she said. Another tourist, Leslie Zeder, who had travelled to Gili Trawangan, had confronted a similar situation. “I witnessed horrendous conditions. The poor ponies are hooked to their jingling cart 24/7, treading on roads that are badly maintained, with loose sand and shattered glass scattered all over. They also have no paddocks to graze on (I rode a bike around every nook and cranny of Trawagan in search of one). Although I found a decrepit tiny stable on Trawangan, it was so small the ponies could only stand still. I’ve not seen hay anywhere so I have no idea what they are fed either.” It’s not hard to believe how little has
changed. But efforts have indeed been made to alleviate the situation. Yet, not all horses on the Gili Islands share the same fate: only a fraction of them have received help in terms of proper food, clean water and medical attention. Not long ago, all the horses were served brackish well-water mixed with salt water mainly because clean water is expensive and most owners are uneducated. Now with a supply of fresh water to the islands, some of the ponies’ conditions and health has improved. In spite of these efforts, the horse’s well-being ultimately comes down to the owner and how willing he is to care for his horse, according to Aussie Veterinarian, Kirsten Jackson. she was first introduced to the Gili ponies in 2014 when she travelled to the island to organize free clinics for the horses. The medical clinics are still organized twice a year and offer free veterinary care and treatment. “Changing the attitudes of the drivers is still the biggest challenge to overcome. Trying to stay respectful, kind and positive to ensure that the drivers will continue to bring their ponies to the clinics and allow us to treat them can be challenging, especially when some clearly have no interest in its welfare. To some, the pony is just a piece of ‘equipment’ and when it is broken, they get a new one.” Kristen adds, “Although the overall attitude of drivers has improved, it doesn’t mean much to the pony who continues to be scalded by boiling water, which is poured over their back to ‘make them strong’, or having petrol, oil and boiling water scrubbed onto their severe leg laceration to ‘clean the wound’.” Much more effort certainly needs to be put in place to educate owners in order to prevent such misguided abuse from persisting. The most basic need for a horse is clean water and a paddock to graze on after a hard day’s work. According to Femke, the latter still doesn’t exist, at least not for the horses pulling rubbish on the islands. While it’s one thing for a horse to be seen looking somewhat presentable and healthy, and another to hide away those rubbish-pulling, wounded ponies from the public eye. “The rubbish-pulling horses are some of the hardest working ponies on the island. Ten ponies cart around 22 tonnes of rubbish per day during peak tourist season but they aren’t fed enough to be able to cope with the workload.
However, clean water, proper food and equipment only go so far to improve the welfare of these ponies. If ponies keep working up to 18 hours a day, and die before the age of 3, these resources are nothing more than a temporary solution. Moreover, the clinics done twice a year are only a band aid on a huge gaping wound. According to Femke, it’s crucial to look for an alternative solution and fully replace the horses with something that isn’t as old fashioned as carriage horses. “Solar carts would be the best solution. Welfare can never be guaranteed here as the islands simply don’t have fresh grass nor a fresh water source available. Also, no one is monitoring the welfare of the horses. The government doesn’t take action despite receiving thousands of complaint letters from tourists
was: would the horses really need to be laboriously toiled if it weren’t for tourists? Equines no doubt have been used for labour since centuries ago, but for an island that’s growing constantly economically, could certainly do without ponies. A lot of harm could be avoided if tourists decided to walk instead of taking rides on ponies. Obviously, the problem is much larger and complex than that; but, it’s important to realize that these businesses rely on the money of tourists: choosing to pay for a ride is as good as promoting the horrible abuse of horses who get worked to death for the sake of tourism. However, if you do choose to use a pony (and this goes for any animal attraction in any country), Kirsten Jackson has some advice for you on how you—all of us—can do to initiate a change to the
about the poor treatment of the horses.” I was dismayed to learn that in addition to a government who had no rules or regulations in place, there is also a socalled Horse Mafia Network ruling the Gili Islands. They became more active around 2008/9 when the islands started to gain popularity amongst tourists and hotel construction was on the rise. As a result, horses were also used for lugging cement bags and other construction supplies. Many of the horses today are owned by a handful of affluent people who pressure the drivers to make as much money as possible out of the ponies. For them, it’s all about the profits they can reap from it. What I couldn’t help wondering
livelihoods of these ponies: “My advice would be to think twice about whether you want to use a pony on the island and support their use. Please look closely at the pony and choose one that is in good condition, with no wounds. Check the legs, the strap that goes under the belly, the neck and the corners of the mouth: these are the most common areas to have lacerations. If people like us are taking notice and only choose to ride ponies in proper equipment and good condition, without wounds on them, drivers will be encouraged to provide better welfare for the ponies, giving them a greater financial incentive to look after their pony more carefully.” b 59
CAN #BRINGBACKOURGIRLS BRING BACK OUR GIRLS? Nigeria struggles against Boko Haram amid continuing clamour for the return of its kidnap victims 60
Words: Emi Eleode Images: EU/ECHO/Isabel Coello and Michael Fleshman via flickr CC
The name Boko Haram may be seen as a constant presence on our news feeds and in international news reportage. However, its troubling fifteen-year existence became an international crises since the kidnappings of 276 school girls, (known as the Chibok girls) in 2014. More than one million people, including the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama alongside celebrities such as Cara Delevingne, have tweeted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. Whether the tweets have gone towards helping the crises of the kidnapped Nigerian school girls or if it was another opportunity for people to engage in first-world hashtag activism, is another matter. The whole world watched in apprehension when news organisations first broadcasted the story that 276 girls in the northerneastern part of Nigeria have been abducted by terrorist group Boko Haram. People followed the news, gripped by the horror of the situation on their TV screens and obsessively keeping track of further developments on social media. Breaking news stories made a constant appearance on most if not all of the news channels. This terrible event, one that was hard to imagine happening in modern society, became a global case where millions of people worldwide united and held vigils, prayers and marches held in many countries such as Nigeria, the United Kingdom, France, America and Australia. Many also took to their social media to express their outrage and concerns, posting hotline emergency numbers for anyone who might have information. The global reaction to this movement began with tweets posted by a group of Nigerian citizens and government officials. The campaign offered a $300,000 reward for anyone who was able to locate or help rescue the missing girls from their captors. With the support of Barack and Michelle Obama on social media, people were inspired to fight for the cause, establishing public protests
on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. Barack Obama also sent military aid to locate the girls, a total of 80 personnel to neighbouring regions such as Niger and Chad. However, all the international activity and interest has had few positive results: as of May 2017, 113 of the 276 girls remain in captivity almost three years since their disappearance. Nonetheless, #BringBackOurGirls continues to call for the rescue of the remaining missing girls by the terrorist group. Before the insurgency, the country had been regularly torn by attacks by Boko Haram, though many cases remained unreported in mainstream news organisations. Because of the economic situation of Nigeria– Africa’s largest economy, most populous nation and biggest oil producer; money laundering and corruption has made it difficult to develop the country’s infrastructure, a factor which the insurgents have exploited. Boko Haram stated aim is to abolish Western influence and overthrow the Nigerian government by replacing it with a regime based on Islamic law and Sharia criminal courts across Nigeria. Its name translates to ‘Western education is forbidden’, with the word boko originating from the English word for book. The group has existed since the 1990s but did not become an official group until 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno. Its formation was lead by Islamic sect leader and founder of the terrorist group, Mohammed Yusuf, a preacher with fundamentalist and rigid interpretations of the Quran. Yusuf was trained in a school of thought often identified with jihad. He believed that the establishment of British colonial rule in Nigeria had created a Western way of life for Muslims. Some might argue that during his leadership, he had moderate views in the way the group should operate compared to his rival Abubakar Shekau. There have been debates whether Yusuf had a direct involvement of the violence which broke out in 2003
and early 2004, however, he denied his participation by claiming that the young people who carried out the attacks, followed his teachings of the Quran. In 2009, Mohammed Yusuf was involved of what is known as the 2009 Boko Haram Rising which resulted to his death. The conflict was between the terrorist group and the military factions of the Nigerian government. The assault caused the death of 1000 civilians, 700 of them being from the the
Left: Boko Haram’s attacks have displaced 2.4 million people across Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad. Above: People gathered in New York to demand the release of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram
area of Maiduguri. An inquiry later discovered that the foundation to the conflict was caused by an outbreak of unrest between some members of Boko Haram and police forces of the city of Maiduguri. Taking charge of the terrorist operation in 2010, Abubakar Shekau threatened attacks on Western influences in Nigeria before supporting al-Qaeda’s operation and threatening further attacks, this time to the United States. Under Shekau’s rule, Boko Haram has grown in size with mass followers. The group had shown their operational capabilities with the usage of highly functional explosive devices and vehicle based weapons, the rise of female and child suicide bombers, and since 2014, an increase of near-daily attacks in Christian dominated surroundings, schools, media centres, police and government buildings, attacks against other muslims and many other public spaces which are deemed as siding with the teachings of the West. Shekau’s escalation of violent attacks in the country has left many devastations, 61
Left: Families from some of the areas worst hit by Boko Haram attacks receive emergency assistance Right: Internally Displaced Persons in the city of Yola, in the Eastern part of Nigeria.
causing international outrage. Boko Haram’s bloody legacy has claimed the lives of millions of people and left thousands without a home to return to or access to healthcare and education. Aid workers from the Borno region of Nigeria have reported that thousands of civilians continue to live in fear of the terrorist group, many of them refusing to return to their hometowns. The Nigerian government has claimed that the attacks have subsided but there are further reports of civil unrest and attacks in the neighbouring towns and villages. Many Nigerians have fled from Boko Haram’s insurgency but the constant threat that the group poses is causing emotional trauma from the continued struggle of living in an environment where danger is rampant. More than two million people, many of them children and victims of sexual violence, have been displaced from their homes since 2009. As many as 80 percent of the displaced come from the Borno region, the hotbed for many of the terrorist group’s attacks. Civilians have taken refuge in Maiduguri, the 62
largest city of the Borno State in Northeastern Nigeria, or living with family members, friends or renting overcrowded accommodations– often living in squalid conditions with limited access to clean water or basic sanitary needs. There has been a major outbreak of cholera in September 2015 which killed over 20 civilians while 1500 have people been sickened with the disease. This disease including many others have been a constant threat to the people living in overcrowded accommodations and camps due to as many as 100 latrines being used by the thousands who inhabit the area. The remaining people have fled to other neighbouring countries including Niger, Chad and Cameroon, places where reports of Boko Haram’s operation have been sighted. A lack of housing facilities has been a major dilemma in other parts of Nigeria due to the growing population and from the immigration of people who have escaped the group’s terrorists activities. The arrival of the thousands who have been displaced by the insurgency of Boko Haram has been interrupted in fear of the continued
threat posed by the terrorist group; in turn causing a reluctance to return to their hometowns. Many of the the country’s north-east region has been destroyed. Fear– a huge factor of the crises, drove civilians out but upon returning to their hometowns, they find their households destroyed beyond repair. Another growing problem are the victims of sexual assault from the survivors of Boko Haram’s regime. As a large number of the country’s population practice the Christian religion while the remaining (mainly those from the north) follow the teachings of Islam, aid workers have uncovered that the more conservative believers did not want to associate themselves with victims of rape in fear that aligning themselves with ‘unclean’ or pregnant ‘unmarried’ women goes against their beliefs and would further perpetuate a retaliation from the group. These girls become outcasts in their own towns and
“Boko Haram’s aim is to abolish Western influence and replace Nigeria’s government with a Sharia regime”
Displaced people are hosted in church compounds.
villages with nowhere to turn to. The reality of the situation is a far cry from the imagined outcome a few years back when 267 girls known as the Chibok girls were kidnapped from their homes causing an international reaction with the social media campaign #Bringbackourgirls. While many of the schoolgirls are still missing, people presumed that those who managed to escape would receive a warm welcome back and help to adjust from their traumatic experience. However, the truth is far different. They have been subjected to public scorn and verbally abused on the streets, people often calling them ‘Boko Haram’s wives’ and saying people should not trust them. Nigerian authorities said that the ignorance also comes from the fact that many of the recent bombings carried out were done by women,
many of them implemented by girls under the age of 18. Few of them being the girls who have been kidnapped and forced into marriage and sexual slavery, girls who have then converted into assassins. There is no telling of the thought process of the girls who decided to become killers, however what we do know is that they have all been subjected to violence beyond measure of understanding. Since the beginning of the conflict between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram, many people have been left on the brink of starvation, prompting a surge of foreign aid. The humanitarian crisis has seen people, many of them children, at the risk of famine from the northeastern region of Borno. Reports from the United Nations have stated that hundreds of civilians
have already died from starvation and that thousands could die over the next few months. Military forces have managed to push back against the threat of Boko Haram attacks in some areas to allow relief aid trucks to pass without further casualties. The start of the dry season is also causing concern to aid workers who have said that the terrorist group is focusing on refugee camps to carry out their assaults. The implication of the group’s operation has affected Nigeria’s economy. It may be of a local scale for the time being but economists fear that agricultural products of the north has decreased cross-border trade with neighbouring countries Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The northern regions of the country bear most of the burden of poverty with lack of develop-
“Kidnapped girls who have returned have been subjected to abuse in the street and called ‘Boko Haram’s wives’”
ment and infrastructure compared to their southern and western counterparts. Nigerian government policies fail to discuss the need for more job opportunities or improving education and the socio-economical situation of the state. With lack of investments to aid the north, Boko Haram has seen it as an opportunity to operate and spread their bloodshed. The terrorist group exploits the deficiency of infrastructure, development and poverty of the north, using it to highlight the government’s inability to solve the crises. They use it as a way to present themselves as an alternative power for the northern population. Boko Haram sees that they have a legitimate claim to govern an Islamic state in the northern regions as the government factions of the north is failing to curb poverty of the mostly Muslim population which is impoverished and volatile due to the continued clashes between tribes. Poverty creates a space where terrorism can spread and influence the population. Terrorist groups like Boko Haram will continue to exist and exert their rule so long as government policies do not address the underlying issues of of infrastructure and poverty. It is easier for terrorist organisations to operate in places that are above the poverty line and have a better standard of living. Communities with a lower poverty rate, have the means to provide a system in place essential to manage political and socio-economic stability. Another factor to consider is the complicated dynamic of tribes, religion and hierarchy which have contributed to the instability of the country. They bring everything down to a black and white way of dealing with situations; North vs South or Islam vs Christianity, leaving no room for compromise. The government has often exploited these issues to further their agenda and cause further divisions between varying localities. Terrorist group Boko Haram has plagued Nigeria over the past fifteen years, claiming the lives of thousands and causing dis-
placement. The armed group has increased its violence by controlling large areas of the country and by 2015, they have captured and resided over many towns and cities of the north. There have since then been worrying reports of sightings of the terrorist group’s activities to countries outside of Nigeria such as Chad, Niger and Cameroon. They are looking for ways to extend their influence and further radicalisation by attacking these neighbouring countries and killing innocent civilians. It was announced in February of 2015 that the governmental bodies of the four nations would form a military alliance to help defeat the insurgents, Chad leading the assault since they are known to be the most feared military force in Africa. Like most things, this military formation has led to retaliation from the opposition. Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau made a public statement by releasing a video in support of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or IS (Islamic State). He overhauled the group’s agenda by rebranding it as the Islamic State’s West Africa Province as a way to confront the oppositions power. Shekau’s video also had a personal message to Chad’s president Idriss Deby, claiming that they are ready for any attacks that will be made against them. Nigeria is on the verge of change. The current president Muhammadu Buhari is tackling corruption– known as Buhari’s anti-corruption war. During his election campaign, he declared that one of the things he will accomplish is to fight corruption. Some of the recent cases have seen politicians and people in power arrested for extortion. They had the option to transfer all the laundered funds back to the economy or risk being imprisoned if they did not adhere to the rules. This is a big step to ensure that the threat posed by Boko Haram will begin to have less of an impact in the country. It will also help to restore Nigeria’s lapsing economy and infrastructure. b 65
Voices from Brexitland People who voted Leave in the referendum explain their reasons
Last summer, Britain officially became a divided nation when we had to decide whether or not to remain part of the European Union. The result was a narrow, but a pretty decisive, vote to leave and the debate raised a host of issues from the funding of the NHS to immigration. The nation was split geographically, too, with some areas voting overwhelmingly to leave and others opting equally strongly to stay. The citizens of London in particular tended to be very pro-Europe but much of the North and the Midlands was in favour of Brexit. When the results of the referendum were revealed and it became clear the UK would officially leave the European Union it came as a massive shock to many Londoners and a cause of rejoicing to many outside the capital. At the time of the referendum, I was working in an extremely multi-cultural primary school in Leeds, where over 33 languages were spoken and where the children came from around the world to learn. I was in no doubt that I would vote to remain and assumed that most of my colleagues would do the same. Yet it emerged that and although I had firmly made up my mind on how I’d vote, many others were far less certain. In the end, Leeds voted narrowly to remain but the rest of Yorkshire voted to Leave. When I moved to London in the early autumn of 2016, with Brexit fresh in people’s minds, I found myself being blamed for Brexit by angry Londoners because I was a ‘northerner’. Because of where I was born and had lived, I must, in their eyes, have voted Leave. In their anger I detected little real understanding of why so many people in my home city and places like it had voted to come out of Europe. Those who voted Remain pointed to the worrying number number of post-Brexit incidents of racist abuse and violence as evidence that Leave voters were both ignorant and prejudiced. Was it really a vote based on fear and discrimination, as many in London claimed? A few months later, on the 29th March 2017, the papers were signed and article 50 was delivered to the EU, meaning that the process of Brexit had formally begun. It seemed like a good moment to find out what people in the Leave heartlands were thinking about it. So I decided to take a trip to the East Midlands. The first person I spoke to was Genevra Jones, 66, a retired journalist 66
who lives in Derby. Her reasons for voting to leave were more complex. And that’s partly, she said, to do with her age, having been born and grown up in the era of strong links to he British Commonwealth, when butter and lamb came from New Zealand, meat and wool from Australia with British branded goods, from China to cars shipped back in return. “When we were asked to vote on whether we wanted to join the new Common Market, we lost many of those links. And do notice the words ‘Common Market’ which was all we that was in question during the last referendum. It was all to do with trade. Shortly after that we started hearing stories about ‘butter mountains’ and ‘wine lakes’ as the new common agricultural policy started to encourage farmers, with financial incentives, to produce vast amounts of milk and alcohol, which was sold off at cut price in European supermarkets.” Genevra argued that, from its be-
Words: Grace Barnott Jones Image: Yi Li
ginnings as a trade arrangement, the EU has grown to exercise too much power. “Over the years, Europe gradually started taking over other aspects of our lives, and started interfering with our laws. New rules came into force, which were legally binding, but had not been agreed by the British Parliament, but which had to be carried out by our judiciary. “Then came the Euro, which thank goodness, we did not join, and which has, caused such financial chaos to some of the poorer countries which joined the EU market later, and which suffered, as should have been obvious, to cope with the greater financial stability and strength of the German economy.” “People believed that if we left Europe, our economy would fail. We would no longer be able to export our goods. This, if I may say so is a load of rubbish. As if we didn’t have the rest of the world to make trade agreements with. Other countries exist without joining the EU.
And there is the question of the cash we get in European grants. They of course will disappear. But should be more than made up for by the billions that we will no longer have to contribute to the European melting pot. So. Why did I vote for Brexit? Well because I wanted my country back in control of our laws, our finances, our trade, and yes, our immigration. I am proud of my country and its strengths, and believe as an independent nation, as we once were, we can thrive on our own.” Genvra was angered by negative attitudes to people who voted Remain. “Brexiteers have received a lot of stick from Remainers, being branded ‘racist’ or sneeringly ‘Little Englanders’ for their views that helped nudge the recent referendum’s swingometer just over the line from remain to leave. And their attitude leaves me feeling rather angry.” However, she acknowledged the role that migration played in the political debate. “There was no thought, when we joined the Common Market, that it would open the way to vast numbers of people who could enter our borders freely through joining the European Union. “Though Europe seems to be stretching its borders and definition on a daily basis. When the borders were opened, there was an initial trickle, which has since turned into a rush. England is one of the, or perhaps even the, most highly populated countries in Europe. New people means new houses, new schools, hospitals, doctors, the whole kit and caboodle. And the cash to fund our overstrained infrastructure is just not always there.” Tim Diltry ,28, is also from Derby and, though initially he felt undecided, ultimately he opted to vote Leave. “I didn’t really understand the system as it was never really anything that came up in my life until Brexit. After doing a lot of research, I discovered that the EU parliament is meant to be democratic and so the president of the EU rotates, which is something I generally agree with. But, problems for me occur when it turns out that that most people who end up in this position have bought their way in! For me, this is the main reason I voted to leave.” Like Genevra, Tim said that migration was significant in his decision-making process. “EU law is that refugees must apply for refugee status in the country they will be residing in, but these
laws were ignored. Angela Merkel let in so many people into Germany that the UK followed suite and the people that entered these countries are uneducated people who have no-prospects for the future. If these laws are made and not being upheld, then what is the point of the EU law? There is the equivalent of a small city’s worth of people coming into the UK each year, and that obviously means new schools, new hospitals along with everything else people need and I just do not think we as a country have the resources to pay for that” Nine months after the decisive referendum took place , Tim said that he had no regrets about voting to Leave. “My hopes for the future now that we have left the EU is that we will become a stronger market again and we still start trade deals with growing markets. As an English man, I have a very strong English heritage and I want to be able to pass on more of a cultural identity down to future generations.” Chloe, 25, is a research assistant in Nottingham who knows many people who voted Brexit for different reasons. However, she believes that a significant issue for many of the voters, particularly to leave, was the feeling that the power had been taken away from ‘ the normal worker’ by a distant European elite. “People I know saw the EU as unfair with Brussels centralising wealth and power . The people at the ‘top’ do not inspire confidence and do nothing to create trust between themselves and the people of the EU. Small people did not matter to them and it can be seen in trades and deals like TTIP.” For Chloe, the European project of integration between countries seemed to take little account of the national identity issue. She believes people voted voted Brexit because they felt powerless and ignored. “Many people who voted to leave had little to lose, people who were poor and felt let down by the government and the EU. With few jobs and prospects these people felt that uncertain change was better than no change. This referendum was the first-time people were truly able to express themselves. They were unhappy and though the government do little to help, neither did the EU. Chloe says that she is already seeing the benefits from the Brexit vote. “Overall people feel it has made the community a lot closer and more positive. My town
was a majority leave town and when the referendum came around and people began talking about politics, they realised that they agreed with each other on most of the things. Even people who voted remain felt many of the same things and recognised the EU’s shortcomings. It has got people talking to each other. Many people hope we will be in control of our future, be a completely self-governing nation. They want production to come back to the UK, and to bring back the industries that were the centre and the wealth of the small communities that were built around them.” David Finn, a 68-year-old retired Journalist living in Derby, voted Leave because he felt that it would give Britain greater control over its own destiny. “When the UK voted to join the European Union back in 1973, the monsters that are now Brussels and Strasbourg were then but little babies. Since then the powers that the EU has been able to wrest away from its member countries have been nothing short of dictatorial. Hitler himself would have been proud. The intervening years have been like watching a country and nation we are proud to call home wrenched away from our control. Before joining the Common Market, UK could happily and profitably trade anywhere in the world we could do business. Now we have to stick to EU negotiated tariffs and markets.” “But the actual laws now throttling our way of life are my main gripe. When we sign Article 50 and two years later actually break free, we shall have to take into our constitution all the EU legislation. Once that is done we can then cherry pick which of the parts we want to keep. That gives us the opportunity of a lifetime. The opportunity to reclaim our sovereignty. The opportunity to actually make our own way in the world, unencumbered by EU red tape. David has a message for Remainers who believe Brexit is bad for Britain. “For those people who are fearful of our being able to stand on our own two feet, and a lot of these would be young people who have not known life outside the EU, I encourage them to be proud of who we are. Proud of what we have achieved over the centuries. Proud of how we have helped to shape the world. Proud of our ability to invent and keep moving forward. Simply be proud to be British again.” b 67
PHOTOGRAPHING HORROR Two photojournalists discuss the ethical issues raised by images of suffering
Taken in 2015, the iconic picture of Aylan Kurdi, a three year old Kurdish refugee child drowned on a Turkish beach, became a symbol of the humanitarian Syrian crisis. Marking a triggering point that led to a short kind of global awareness, it is now considered to be a symbol of one of the most terrifying crisis of the 21st-century. At the core of the debate that followed the publication of Kurdi’s photos, the moral and ethical decisions taken by different newspapers editors became of central importance. However, the discussion focused mainly on editorial decisions and excluded the moral dilemma photojournalists have to face in their everyday work. To highlight the difficult ethical decisions faced by photojournalists, we talked to Christoph Bangert from Germany and Antonio Ruiz of Spain,who are both renowned in their field. They expressed a great passion for their work and emphasised the high ethical standards they aim to fulfil: in order to clarify the importance of their work and the its social role within a media environment where companies are competing for public attention and taking editorial decisions based mostly upon financial success. Christoph Bangert, born in Daun, Germany, studied Fotodesign at the college of higher education in Dortmund and photojournalism at the International Center of Pho68
tography in New York. He worked among other places in Afghanistan and Iraq, documenting the war for the New York Times. In his book War Porn” (2014) he questions the self-censorship of photographic work in areas of conflict. Interview by Sebastian Blum Why did you decide to dedicate yourself professionally to photography/photojournalism? As for many of my colleagues it was more an accident, I firstly studied a smattering of mechanical engineering, but it was so horrible, I thought: “This can’t be everything, I have to find something different.” I always liked to photograph and was enjoying travelling around Europe, doing Inter-rail and taking pictures. Then I just created a portfolio and applied to different universities and it worked out in Dortmund. I started to study there, enjoyed it a lot and got on pretty well with the people there and soon realized that I wanted to become a photojournalist. Being always interested in political issues I decided to photograph them. One thing led to another, I made an exchange for three weeks in Palestine and Israel, which was really exciting and from then on things just went further. When did you decide to deal with war and conflict areas, this seems to be slightly unconventional at first? As I said, I always was interested
Words: Sebastian Blum, Ana Alegre Images: Christoph Bangert, Antonio Ruiz
in political issues, politics. I wanted to see different places. It started with Palestine and I realized how interesting it is circulate around both sides. It went on and I realized there and after my study, that I am able and willingly to work in difficult situations. Afterwards, I was in Afghanistan and worked on my portfolio and received my first assignments. But it was more a kind of a first experiment. Journalism is still an interesting mixture of theory and practice. One should have a high intellectual aspiration but it is still something that is really manual—you should just try and
make it, it is a really great combination of both of these elements. How did your career start: for what media did you publish? Before my studies, I did an internship with the FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and worked as holiday cover during one summer as photographer. It was a brilliant education and I had my first published pictures, but mostly in the Rhein-Main-Zeitung, the local and regional newssheet of the FAZ. I continued studying, firstly in Dortmund and soon in New York, while still having some small
commissions for the FAZ—one time in Afghanistan as well—until I had the big chance to work for the New York Times in Iraq. This was my first really big commission and I continued to work for them in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, I used to work for Stern, Neon and the Neue Züricher Zeitung. Do you think photojournalism changed since you started working in the field? Well, yes, but the change was not as radical as in the 15 years before. Everything was in decline but it had already started before I started 69
working. The ‘golden years of photojournalism’ were between the 1970s and 90s—good commissions, long commissions—photojournalists were quite well paid then. Today it is way more complicated, but that doesn’t mean that there are not possibilities. I think you should find the right mix out of publications for online and print media. It is necessary to work in still pictures as well as in video whereby one can focus on something. Sometimes, I produce some smaller multimedia stories, but it is not my major thing, my speciality is still photography, the still image. There are some colleagues who are producing more audio-visual material and less photography. You have to find yourself a little bit—it is difficult but not impossible. You talk a lot about self-censorship—can you remember the first time you hesitated before taking a shot? Yes, that happened quite a lot, but you have to force yourself to do it. It happens frequently that you are not allowed to photograph or somebody says you: “Put your 70
An Iraqi man burned in a bombing raid on Baghdad
camera away!”, but in general, people rarely tell me that they want to be photographed. Most of the time, you can take pictures as people agree with that. But if you are allowed and people agree, you have to take the picture. You can’t say then: “That’s too much for me”, or something. You has to be strict with yourself and say: “I am not here for my private pleasure, I have a commission. I am here as journalist and I have to work as professionally as I can”. What happens afterwards with the pictures is a different question, but the work has to be done. We have to report properly and to take photographs of what we experience. However, there are some colleagues who have a different point of view, but I personally believe that you have to photograph everything, if you are allowed to—if you don’t manage it, you have no business there. Providing the pictures to the editorial team is again a different question. But still, in certain situations I hesitate as well. There is this one picture of this elderly man, covered by horrific full burns. I had to overcome myself, I didn’t want to take it at
first but it is an important image. It reflects the situation in Baghdad then, when many civilians were killed by bomb attacks. It was not only a terrifying image, it stood for what happened there in this time. Some days ago the attacks in London took place. Some mobile photos were published of people lying on the ground, surrounded by pools of blood. What do you think about it? I think it is important to distinguish. This is “breaking news”, a tremendously fast kind of journalism. There were those pictures by a Reuters photographer as well—it is really important who is the author of the picture. There is a big difference between somebody who makes a picture with his mobile phone and a professional. In this case the difference is not that big at all. But if we talk about pictures, taken in a different context, somewhere in Aleppo, than it is important who made the picture and why. Can we trust this author or not? In a situation like London, there is not such a great difference, it is crucial that we don’t think in single frames.
Everybody is able to take a single picture of an extreme situation like that. It is more important, more interesting and more substantial, if we work with a series of pictures. Most mobile photographers don’t work with series—they only have one spectacular single frame. I believe that only in a series set in a context, do such extreme pictures of victims make sense. The context can be other pictures, but it could be text. Pictures can’t stand on their own, they always need a context, created by the form of creation. There is a difference between an online and a print publication. Online publications can evoke different representations to the public: the manner of presentation is decisively important! So you are in favour of a broader storytelling? Correct, if you integrate your work into complex reporting, you can publish such pictures and you can say: “Okay, it was a part of what happened there.“ But showing those pictures in isolation would be a catastrophe and has nothing to do with journalism. These are just shocking images with no further function. You have to confront extremely emotional situation. Is there an emotion for you which is particularly hard to record? Emotions are actually easier to record: facts are difficult. Capturing emotions and displaying emotions—photography does that particularly well: hate, intimacy, desperation, grief. Photography does that pretty well—and the still image frame does better than moving pictures, because it is still. You can always come back to the same picture—it is a medium which encourages reflection. It is going to be difficult when it comes to facts. There is the moving picture, including audio and subtitle and the precise text itself, which means photography is a really open medium, leading to a different kind of interpretations. We need a contextthat can explain the facts to us.
“Emotionless pictures don’t exist at all. I don’t believe in being neutral or trying to be: that is not the strength of photography.”
So it is nearly impossible to take neutral images? Yes, you can’t take neutral pictures anymore. Emotionless pictures don’t exist at all. I don’t believe in being neutral or trying to be.: that is not the strength of photography. Things are extremely complex and this is the power of photography: it is open and a lot of people can connect with it very well. Doesn’t this contradict the “claim of objectivity” of journalism? Journalism finally is getting away from it and I think that is a good thing. We should speak less about objectivity and neutrality, and start to talk about honest reporting that corresponds with the experiences of the journalist on the spot. We talked a lot about emotions. Last year the image of the Kurdish boy Aylan Kurdi appeared across nearly all global media. How would you evaluate the media’s handling of the refugees crisis? You can’t assess this generally. Photojournalism is always made by human beings, being subjected to different kind of political pressures and mistakes. Journalism is really chaotic andthis is a good thing. Regarding the Aylan Kurdi picture, I found it interesting that it was shared a million times online and even though millions of people have already seen it, the German media still agonise over whether they can publish it or not. That confused me, I thought it was a really good image, touching
emotionally, but not the kind of picture that shows something really explicit. You can’t see his face. It was definitely an acceptable image. It has a clear function, it was the right picture at the right moment, and maybe this explains the success of the picture. It became iconic, not because the picture was that strong. It was simply the right picture for the right time and it has become a symbol of that time—the symbol of the flow of refugees. An impressive picture, which surely had to be printed. For you as photojournalist who is used to working in conflict zones, such an evaluation seems to be obvious, I think it results out of the personal conflict. Yes, sure, I have a completely different experience. But this showed me again how the benchmark varies and how we censor ourselves, if we are reluctant to publish such a picture. The argument against this is obvious: it concerns the right of the own picture, the dignity of the victim, the dignity of the child and the family. Sure, this is all correct, and it has always got to be weighed up and should not be lost sight of. But one should always ask in such cases, when their dignity was hurt? Wasn’t it earlier, when they suffered during this war? You have to weigh things against each other—what is the purpose of the image and what are the rights of the depicted person. In this case the function of the images is surely what is important. 71
Antonio Ruiz studied Fine Arts. As a photojournalist he has worked with publications such as El Mundo, ABC, Le Monde, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Corriere della Sera, Clarín Magazine TIME, Magazine TIME, EFE, France Press and Periodismo Humano. Currently he is collaborating with El Pais in Spain and the most recetn award that he has wone is the photographuic prize “Light against Racism” SOS Racism 2017. The theme of his photographs centres on migration, specifically on the Europes’s southern border. Why did you want to devote yourself to photography, and to photojournalism in particular? I have always identified very strongly with social movements, in the struggle against injustice. Photography is a powerful tool for the public denunciation thinks that are wrong and that need to be put right What themes do you address and why? What is the subject of your work? Currently I am very focused on what is happening with migration on the southern border of Europe. There are no specific subjects: what is happening in the streets currently is really hard to ignore. In what publications do you generally work and what kind of work do they ask you to do? Currently I am working on El Pais and I occasionally work for Periodismo Humano and El Salto, a new publication that has been around for a few weeks. As a freelance I am usually trying to sell my pictures but if something interesting is going on in a place where I’m working, I may get a commission. What photo reportage have you done? I’ve done many photo reportages—perhaps I can concentrate on recent years. “Fatima’s Hell. Inside the cult of hate”, “Without a burka I don’t want to live”, “Music is the Devil’s flute”, “Spain is no country for refugees”, “Don’t say that you 72
are Syrian”, “Melilla’s best porters”, “Melilla, Europe’s first barriet” etc. What do you think of photojournalism in the press currently about the treatment of Syrian refugees? In your answer can you talk about what you told me that you were surprised by the media’s focus but at the same time we use the word immigrants for those who come to Europe in search of a better life. Photjournalism began when a pictyre was enough to tell a story: later images with captions became news and this seems to be continuing in the social conflicts that are taking place in our time. The media has focused strongly on events in the Middle East. Like a contagious illness spreads, the wave of empathy and solidarity suddenly seized a great part of society. Fine, you certainly have to be happy about this social and humanitarian movement that Europe felt towards Syrian refugees but I can’t escape a feeling of confusion at the lack of empathy and the solidarity with people fleeing other ways from other parts of the planet, in this case from Africa. In the last three years, of the 36 wars across the world, Africa is the continent with the greatest number. It is clear that these are forgotten conflicts and the victims are invisible to the rest of the world. In this context it is really strange that we don’t use the word ‘refugees’ for sub-Saharan people who climb the walls of Ceuta and Melilla. Have their been editorial decisions that have affected your work and the reality or objectivity of your photographs? Can you give an example where this can be clearly seen? And what do you think of the decision? What were the reasons for it and what did they say to you? There are always editorial decisions. Everything depends on the interest that the public has at that moment in a particular news story. Sometimes they change cover
Below: Police try to prevent a migrant getting into Europe Right: A migrant who has succeeded in scaling the fence
stories about matters of social importance for news about sport. These are subjective decisions. My personal interest in a particular story may be different from that of other people. I don’t judge them. What image do you think magazines transmit of refuges/ immigrants with the pictures that they publish? With what intentions do they publish some photos rather than others on this particular topic? What does the public understand from the photos? From my point of view, the depiction of refugees depends on the country in which news of similar impact is published. It isn’t the same in countries in which stories of this sort are not affected politically: information is not the same in Hungary and in Chile. In photography everything depends on the filter that a newspaper uses for its photography section, if it has one. These sections are usually run by picture editors who have a shared opinion on which pictures are best suited to a story.
Have you faced ethical and moral questions in your work? Can you tell us about it? How did you reach a solution—in other words what did you do to take a decision that was moral and ethical? Well, not only do you have to be OK with the things you are photographing, you have to love what you are doing. It is about explaining to people and helping them to understand what has happened before your own eyes. Photojournalism is intimately bound up with a social commitment to show things that are going wrong and things that are going right. It is simply about common sense. Have you ever self-censored? For example, stopped taking a photo or decided not to send it because you were 100 per cent sure that it would not be published? Never Now most people have smartphones, in situations like the attack in London, photos are taken of victims, which are explicit in
that you can see faces, wounds and blood, and the media publish them. Do you think this is a good thing? How should this sort of picture be treated? Do you think that at the moment immediacy and shock value outweigh the proper use of these pictures? Society’s means of communication are developing rapidly and unfortunately this has led to a certain lack of empathy towards victims of, for example, a terrorist attack. There is no doubt that sensationalism is a constant issue. There are many people who protest against images of this sort but at the same time want to look at them. It’s hypocrisy, pure and simple. Of course we can criticise the lack of professionalism of certain media that see no problem with using images taken by people who have no professional training in journalism. What is the emotion that is most difficult to capture in a picture? There are no difficult or easy emotions, because every picture you take is in a way a picture of
yourself. It really depends on your own personal emotions. Has there been a picture that you wished you had not published because it caused you a lot of pain? No, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone into this profession. I have read some articles that you published on Facebook on the precarious life of a freelance. Could you tell us how you see this state of affairs, with regard to prices paid for reporting or photographs or journalism generally? In Spain, photojournalism is not taken seriously, unlike in countries like the United States. So there are really good magazines there. Without good pictures, people won’t read the news. How has photojournalism changed since you started? In the digital eara at lot has changed. It is more immediate and this can seem good but it also produces a lot of mediocre work. b 73
Flirting with fascism? Spain’s new parties of the far Right have echoes of the country’s past
Words: Pau Castelló, Eduardo Altarriba Image: Guillermo Altarriba
In February, the self-proclaimed ultra-catholic group “Hazte Oír” launched a campaign with a bus emblazoned with the slogan: “boys have penises, girls have vulvas. Don’t be fooled”. Another message on the bus read “If you are born a man, you are a man. If you are a woman, you will continue to be one.” Not surprisingly, the campaign was considered by many to be transphobic and some of the most important Spanish organizations and political parties called for its end because it was perceived as inciting hate towards transsexuals. Founded in 2001 and led by Ignacio Arsuaga, “Hazte Oír”—which translates as ‘Make Yourself Heard’—is an organization with the mission of “building a free, conscious, active and cohesive society, with limited public powers that don’t invade social and public spheres they aren’t allowed to”, as stated on their website. This pressure group presents itself as a defender of life, family, freedom, dignity and fundamental human rights: however, the group’s “bus campaign” clearly shows the role of the extreme right in Spain in a moment when Europe is currently witnessing the rise of this ideology. Over the last ten years, Europe has witnessed a rise of extreme right political movements. Politicians making xenophobic, racist, homophobic and nationalist speeches have profited from the uncertainty and suffering caused by Europe’s grave economic crisis and a growing disaffection both with the European project and with traditional political parties. The increasing popularity of these new forces is reflected in the 2014 elections to the European Parliament, where some of them reached historically high results. In France, the National Front (FN) led by Jean-Marie Le Pen achieved the 24,86% of the votes, 18,5% more than in the elections of 2009. In Denmark, the growth was also significant. The Danish People Party (DF) went from a 14,8% to a 26,6% of the votes. In Austria, The Party for Freedom increased its results in more than a 5%, and UKIP from United Kingdom got a 27,49% of the total votes. All these parties had improvements in numbers and all of them making xenophobic and anti-immigration statements. Spain seems to have many of the conditions which have encouraged parties of the far right. The country is suffering serious consequences of the economic
However, since Franco’s death and the democratization of the country, the extreme right has remained marginal and without any representation in the Parliament of the country. The National Democracy party, which has existed in Spain since 1995, shares and defends the extreme right ideology but despite not having any official representation in the Parliament, the party has found its place on social media to share their messages. Their leaders publicly assert the need to stop what they describe as the Islamization of Europe, “Foreigners in our country? Spanish people first!”, they state on their Twitter account, @D_Nacional National Democracy defends itself against allegations of extremism by saying “we aren’t Nazis nor neo-Nazis, we are a Spanish nationalist movement”. The younger members of the party do what they describe as activism work, which involves sticking anti-LGBT posters around the city, and the leader of the National Democracy Youth Faction Juan de Haro, claims that “open homosexuality implies the normalization of paedophilia,
crisis with an unemployment rate of 19% and 28% of the population at risk of poverty. There are more than four million immigrants living in the country and there have been a number of high-profile cases of political corruption, which is leading to the rejection of traditional elites. Spain has witnessed the growth of new movements such as Podemos, which was founded in 2014 and is now one of the country’s biggest political groups and the centrist Ciudadanos party. However, over this period there was no significant growth of extreme right. More so than most European countries, Spain has a relatively recent history of extreme right-wing politics: the country was ruled by the military dictator General Franco from 1939 until 1975. Franco’s ideology was regarded by many as fascism, or at least a form of fascism and his regime committed many violent human-rights abuses against the Spanish people, which further included the use of concentration camps, forced labour and executions: as many as 400,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the Franco regime at that time.
and the LGBT collective is the dictatorship of degeneration”, as it can be read in various tweets that he posted in his personal Twitter account, @JuanDHaro90. Nevertheless, all of these ideas are far from the mainstream of Spanish political discourse as none of the groups in the Parliament share their views. The relative weakness of the far right in Spain may be due to the country’s recent history. During the 1960s, the European far right evolved, modernized and opposed the processes of decolonization (for example in Belgium with the Congo in 1960 or France with Algeria in 1962), but this was not the case in Spain. This opposition to decolonization that received the support of the majority of the colonized population “allowed the extreme right to recover the legitimacy lost due to their collaboration with Nazism during the Second World War”, according to Xavier Casals, historian and professor at the Ramon Llull University of Barcelona. After the Algerian war, the French extreme right saw the necessity of becoming a political organization and they founded a party to avoid further defeats. The Jeune Europe was established as a political party with a Pan-European ideology. This new ideology was developed in 1968 around the “Groupement de Recherche et d’Etudes sur la Civilisation Européenne”, and received the support of the intellectual elites. Some years later, in 1972, the National Front was created. In Belgium things happened differently, but the opposition to decolonization helped the extreme right to achieve a massive approval from the population and emerging political parties. By contrast with what was happening in Europe, decolonization didn’t produce any significant revolt in Spain. The Spanish extreme right “was essentially centred around the ideological axis of 1930: the defence and exaltation of the Catholic religion and of the ideal of Hispanity (Spanish nationalism)”, says Casals. Their inability to modernize and the lack of an attractive discourse during the period of transition hindered its implantation in society because their vision was anchored in the past. Casals states that during the transition to democracy in Spain there was a “generalized desire for national reconciliation: over the course of the four-decades-”
“Campaigners claim open homosexuality normalises paedophilia” long dictatorship a big consensus about the necessity of reconciliation was developed, so that the wounds of war could be healed. That’s why a speech that constantly appealed to return to the trenches of the Civil War could hardly motivate the accession of a population that wanted to overcome the past and win the future”. The economic and social changes of the period of “developmentalism” provoked a modernization of society and back then it didn’t resonate with the ultra-catholic discourse, which was in favour of a confessional state. The far right in Spain didn’t offer a solid project and wasn’t capable of forming a political organization because, according to the historian, they were surprised to “face the process of democratization”. After Franco’s death, the Spanish extreme right was convinced that king Juan Carlos I would continue the dictatorship. However, this never happened, and as a result of that failure, New Force, the political party formed by the right extremist in 1966 arrived fragmented at the first democratic elections of 1977. New Force approached the elections with the aim of maintaining the postulates of Franco’s dictatorship. Two years later and as a member of a coalition, New Force received 379.000 votes, which was 2,1% of the total. Following the results, the party got one seat in the Parliament, which went to their leader, Blas Piñar. Nevertheless, disputes happened to appear among the party members, which, alongside the failure of the coup d’état in February 1981, had lead to the dissolution of New Force in 1982. During the democratic elections of 1982 there were eight political forces presented under the umbrella of extreme right, but the lack of union between them sentenced each of them to a washout. In 1986, leader of the failed New Force
Blas Piñar, founded a new extreme right party—National Front—but just like its younger sister it came to an end a few years after its establishment. As Xavier Casals explains, various factors contributed to the downfall of the National Front. Firstly and most importantly, “the inability to create a strong centralised party that unified the extreme right politic families”, secondly, “the decision making was not at all times guided by suitable criteria”, thirdly, “the fact that they neglected logistic and ideological aspects by not creating an electoral program”, and in fourth place, “even though the National Front had media related to their postulates, journalists wouldn’t support the party on multiple occasions”. All these factors characterized the far right in Spain from 1975 until its (almost) complete disintegration in 1982. The biggest beneficiary of this situation was the People’s Alliance, a conservative right wing party. Still, according to Casals, “the biggest part of the political class that had arisen during the dictatorship did not join the extreme right parties but rather gave their preference to the reformist ones, such as Democratic Union Centre”. In 1989, the People’s Alliance became the People’s Party and ever since then it has been the hegemonic party, which associates a variety of different right wing ideas and principles. Nevertheless, there have been some attempts to create far right parties in Spain in the 21st century. For instance, the cases of Vox or Platform for Catalonia, which have racist and xenophobic beliefs. But even though these parties achieved small representation in some regional elections, the repercussions have always been minor. National Democracy, as well as other smaller parties, is the paradigm of a group using social media to gain influence incrementally. They are slowly piecing together some of the dissatisfied souls on the internet who have strong Spanish nationalist connections and they are starting to make an impact. But, for the time being, there is no clear indication of a big change. Xavier Casals, without hesitating, affirms that “the actual context in Spain does not seem very auspicious for the eruption of a post-industrial extreme right similar to those in Europe, but it could just happen in the medium term” b 75
Digital surveillance increasingly reminds Eastern Europeans of the sinister Soviet past
Words: Tereza Gladisova
“Welcome to the United States.” I may never hear these words again. Not because I am going deaf or because I can’t afford to go. No, my ears are quite fine and with a little budgeting I can probably visit the US pretty soon. But I may not want to go to and here’s why. The American government is considering new security measures for people visiting the US. Visitors may be asked to hand in their mobile phones for security checks, give up passwords to their social media accounts, and even present their financial records, which may result in intrusions and abuse of personal privacy. Very similar “security measures” were enforced on the boarders of countries behind the Iron Curtain between the end of Second World War (WWII) in 1945 and end of the Cold War in 1991. Although people managed to get permissions to travel abroad, usually to allied communist countries only, their possessions were ransacked and their cars were literally turned upside down. Some people may think that comparing the current US to the Iron Curtain is overreacting but I can assure you this is certainly not the case. Coming from the Czech Republic, a country which was ruled by a totalitarian communist
government for over four decades, I have family members who were affected by the surveillance carried out by the state and these so-called “security measures”. This is how my grandmother, who lived under communism for 45 years, describes dealing with the police. “It was necessary to be inventive, because they searched everything at the border. We would hide foreign money we could buy only from the black market in an old medicine tube and plug it into a jar with jam.” If this story sounds funny rather than horrific, don’t be fooled. The border police needed to make sure that they weren’t letting anyone migrate or take out damaging information about the regime. Finding anything suspicious could often lead to a travel ban, harming your children’s chances of getting into university, getting on the watch-list of the political police, interrogation, being forced to work in a labour camp, or even imprisonment. So don’t tell me I am overreacting when I see a democratic country considering the implementation of procedures that will make me undergo the same violation of privacy as my grandmother went through under communism. Over the past few years, we have seen a number of incidents involving vio-
lation of privacy for the government’s use of digital surveillance. There was Edward Snowden, ECHELON (i.e., Five Eyes), and NSA warrantless surveillance after 9/11. All of which had sparked a considerable outrage which I felt was not enough. While I was born in a democratic and free country, generations before me lived in Eastern Europe when privacy practically did not exist because citizens were monitored by state and party. After the communists came to power in Czechoslovakia, my great-grandparents’ house was confiscated and they were moved to a small one-bedroom flat. They were interrogated after my greataunt migrated to the UK. No one could express disapproval with the regime because of the omnipresent surveillance. So I feel it is my duty to say something when the practices of today’s democratic systems begin to resemble those of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes of the past. From 2016 onwards, the Czech Republic government will successively introduce the Electronic Revenue Registry (i.e., elektronická evidence tržeb or EET in short) whereby all cash sales of goods and services will be electronically recorded. This means that every time when a payment is made, the receipt detailing it 77
will be send to a central data repository, so that a unique code is issued to document the transaction. The EET is compulsory for everyone who is liable to be taxed in the country. After the law leading to EET was passed, it sparked outrage among the media and public. The EET is allegedly introduced to fight tax evasion, create space for better control of the grey market, and discourage businessmen from not disclosing all incomes on tax returns. However, to the general public, it is much more than that. The EET requires most businesses to register all payments to a central electronic database. This means that whoever is armed with the right codes will be able to track down the registered receipt of any purchase, indirectly revealing the time and venue where the purchase was made and all the other related information. Moreover, the Financial Administration had created a special website with two sections, one for the businesses affected by the law and one for the public. The former contains guidelines for administrative functions and the latter serves as a tool for reporting and denouncement. Anyone who receives a receipt from a shop or a pub can now check whether it is registered to the database. People can also report any businesses that do not print out a receipt for them. All these can be done anonymously and about 760 of such “reports” had been made on the first week and over 2000 the month after the EET had been implemented. When I first read about the launching of EET, I was really alarmed because I immediately recognised this kind of behaviour and we are not even talking about George Orwell’s 1984 here. Instead, it was very close, if not the same, to what had happened in Czechoslovakia under the communist regime. People used to snoop on their neighbours and report any “subversive” or suspicious anti-state behaviour to the State Security – a political police force controlled by the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. When the EET website was launched, Czech media and the public had an immediate negative reaction. It was labelled the “denunciation web” and the critical responses forced the Financial Administration to take its reporting function down. However, public are still able to check whether their purchase have been 78
registered so what’s there to stop them from giving another anonymous tip to the Administration, which can send inspections and slap businesses with a fine? So there you have it, although the EET is actually harming smaller businesses and forcing some of them to close down and the results may not even bring any significant changes to the budget or tax, the government stands firm on their decision. Even when it negatively affects the behaviour of society and brings back the horrors of what it was like to live in the communist era in Czechoslovakia. Similar tendencies appear all over the world in the name of modernisation and digitalisation. More and more online databases are created and justified as helpful tools that make everyday tasks easier and help strengthen security. Take for instance Poland, neighbour of the Czech Republic. Under the new Act on anti-terrorist activities which was passed in June and came into force on July 2nd 2016, all prepaid SIM cards have to be registered. Anyone with a prepaid card that was purchased before July 25th 2016 had the opportunity to register prior to February 1st 2017 when all unregistered cards would be disabled. So anyone who wishes to buy a prepaid SIM card in Poland today will have to register with their name and surname, personal identification number, and a document confirming their identity. Phone operators do not have the right to sell any prepaid SIM cards unless they can check and confirm the identity of their buyers. I spoke to a friend of mine, Ernest, 22, who is a Polish Fine Art student living in London to find out his native country’s reactions to this new law. “It gets a lot of criticism. There is a widely used joke by the older generation which goes like “conversation is controlled”, which is something you heard when you used a public phone to call others back under the Soviet government.” The tapping of phone lines was commonly used behind the Iron Curtain for identifying and spying on the political opposition. While some of these new laws and measures might seem justifiable in the name of security, they very much resemble practices of totalitarian governments. What strikes me is how little young people from countries that never experienced oppressive regimes know about this.
When I moved to the UK to study, I was very surprised to see my peers didn’t know much about the life behind the Iron Curtain. When I asked around, majority of my friends confirmed that in schools they learnt more about Nazism but very little about the brutalities and abuse of the Communist regime, which had affected people in Eastern Europe for more than 40 years. Could this be one of the reasons to why citizens in western democratic countries don’t really question decisions of their governments to gather and store increasingly more and more information about themselves? Maybe. I don’t know if teachers tell their students that even though 1984 was written as fiction, a big fraction of Orwell’s predictions actually happened in real life too. Something we should never stop reminding ourselves of. When communist regimes were established in Eastern Europe after WWII, one of their first priorities was identifying, monitoring, and even destroying political opposition with the help of newly created security forces. This is evident from their dates of establishment. In Eastern Germany it was Stasi, formed in 1950; in Czechoslovakia it was the State Security, created in 1945; the General Directorate of the Security of the People (DGSP) in Romania, operating founded in 1948, and the State Security Service in Yugoslavia, formed in 1946. The list goes on. There were some form of a political police or force functioned in every country in the Eastern Bloc. These political police started within five years of the end of WWII and their activities were not terminated until the fall of communism in the Bloc and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. These forces were the ones who gathered information not just about the political opposition but also about civilians who performed various “suspicious anti-state activities”. These were the groups that gathered intel and affected personal lives of hundreds of thousands civilians like my grandparents. If you’re wondering what does it mean by “suspicious anti-state activities”, there are basically excuses for which a person could be monitored. For instance, distribution of banned materials, be it literature, music, films or art, which were labelled as imperialistic or bourgeois by the party and thus deemed inappropri-
ate; being part of an unofficial club or an association; a high-ranking member of a religious community; listening to the Voice of America; not voting, which was mandatory in Czechoslovakia and an individual’s absence was considered to be an act of dissent, or like my grandmother who has a relative living overseas. It was anything and everything that posed a threat to the regime. “You could feel the presence of the regime all the time, you could not publicly say out your thought because someone might denounce you, and you would probably be prosecuted for ‘defamation of the state and its representatives’. I don’t remember any specific case of snooping from my neighbours but at work you knew who the snitch was or if there was a State Security informer, so you have to be careful”, my grandmother says. “Every two years at work, we had to fill out a detailed questionnaire about our personal lives, family members, traveling record, contacts abroad etc. Anyone who has overseas family member would be at a disadvantage and couldn’t get a promotion,” she adds. In the Eastern Bloc, human rights were violated each and every day and many of these actions were carried out by the state security groups with the help of surveillance techniques. Some of the most common included the tapping of phone lines which mimics the new law regarding prepaid SIM cards purchase in Poland. Apart from that, the state securities would also install microphones and recording devices into peoples’ homes, which was commonly referred to as ‘walls have earLetters were habitually opened, read, and then resealed. Members of the secret political forces could also carry out house searches, sometimes even without the presence of the owners. If the targets of this surveillance had committed an offence against the state or the party, they would be interrogated, persecuted, imprisoned or in the worst cases tortured and murdered. Jan Charvat, assistant professor of the Institute of Political Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University, Prague expressed that basically, the problem of state control is as old as the state itself. Countries always want to control their citizens, but they differ essentially in the range of control, in options for citizens to ‘control the controllers’ and in
the degree of willingness to push the boundaries of what is legal and what is not. “In states with a communist (or generally any other authoritarian or totalitarian) government experience, state control is usually accepted with less real resistance because of the lack of rooted civic structures that would be able to face and fight such pressure… …Moreover, if you argue for citizens’ safety, there is usually a significantly lower willingness to resist. Nobody wants to worsen the security situation, which the states (regardless of whether democratic or authoritarian) are well aware of. Generally speaking, I believe that society should resist similar efforts as much as possible because mass data collection always creates space for abuse of personal data.” Indeed, it may be hard for Eastern Europeans to fight against their governments’ use of digital surveillance due to the lack of strong civic associations, but it is something one has to be prepared forin near future. In fact, the things people like my grandmother were forced to do, the need to fill out mandatory questionnaires with details about their personal lives, we are still doing them on a daily basis now without even questioning it or being aware of it. We share so much of our personal lives and information online and allow us to be monitored by surveillance cameras all the time. However, my family’s history had taught me that as governments are more likely to digitise and store personal data, we should also be increasingly critical of such implementations. This is because nobody can guarantee bullet-proof encrypting and storing of digital information and thus preventing their abuse. Neither can anyone say that democracy will be here forever and extremists will not get hold onto our personal data and other information. Today people are willing to distribute their personal data and information about their activities in exchange for comfort. Yes, technology can undeniably make our lives easier. But it also makes us comfortable. In fact, so comfortable, that we don’t mind giving up our right for privacy, which so many of us, including my grandmother, have only dreamed of for decades. b 79
Inside the World of the Hijras Armoured by social media and open-minded directors, Pakistan’s transgender activists are taking back control over how they are perceived and alienated by society
Words: Maha Khan Image: Mawaan Rizwan
Hijras are a hidden community that have been around since the 17th century. They began as courtesans in the courts of Moghul emperors and although many people are aware of their existence, they still lack proper representation due to Pakistan’s conservative Muslim ideologies and strict notions of gender. Hijra is an Urdu word and a blanket term for anyone that identifies as a eunuch, hermaphrodite, or transgender. Most do not have gender-reassignment surgery due to the expenses and unwilling doctors, but under the guidance of gurus they learn to wear makeup and dress in feminine clothes. There are vague estimates of around 50, 000 Hijra people living in Pakistan, although there is no official consensus. With little to no support of work or access to education, Hijras often have no choice but to turn to begging and prostitution. In 2009, the Supreme Court of Pakistan made a landmark decision ordering the authorities to allow Hijras to identify as a third gender. While progress had been made, there was a catch that only Hijras with both biological parents or those that had been officially adopted could receive a government issued identity card. Hijras often run away from home, are ostracised by their families, or cannot be formally adopted by the gurus that run their matriarchal community. Even if they are still accepted by their parents or are adopted, the National Database and Registration Authority requests that applicants must undergo humiliating intrusive medical examinations, a further obstacle to achieving their equality. Hijras are often abused and discrim-
inated against. Last year, a trans-woman named Alisha was gunned down, and because she was a Hijra, she was refused treatment at the hospital which resulted in her death. Since 2015 the number of transgender deaths is estimated at 45, but there are many cases that go unreported. Given Pakistani society’s hesitancy
must bring sensitive topics to light.” Whether the movie is aimed at a Western or a domestic audience, he believes that the issues raised will resonate with audiences regardless of where they are, and Pakistan is starting to become ready to come to terms with its rich history, even if it’s “a rocky embrace at first.”
to discuss this issue and the government’s reluctance to make life easier for Hijras, it is wonderful that activists like Kami Sid exist. Kami Sid is Pakistan’s first transgender activist, blogger, model, and artist. She believes that “sex is between your legs. Gender is in your head.” By being vocal on social media and taking on acting roles, Kami wants to show that Hijras can do more than sex work and dancing at weddings. In a country where homosexuality is illegal, movies like ‘Bol’ and Mawaan Rizwan’s documentary ‘How Gay is Pakistan?’ are revolutionary and necessary works to give the LGBTQ+ community in South Asia hope and inspiration. ‘Rani’, which features Kami Sid as the lead character is another step forwards. ‘Rani’ is a short film about a transgender woman who finds an abandoned baby and takes it home and soon realises the repercussions her decision will have on the child. Hammad Rizvi is a US-based filmmaker but has been wanting to film in Pakistan for some time and wrote the script to draw attention to the disenfranchised members of society. On the nature of the subject, he said “film is a medium that
In its attempt to be as true and authentic as possible, the movie includes many transgender people who hadn’t received formal acting training before. But the team at production house Grayscale has fully supported them, and Kami Sid’s dedication and practice to fighting for the rights of Hijras saw her land the lead character of Rani with ease. Filming on location in Karachi with large crowd scenes made security an important component to planning, especially when the crowds became uncooperative and difficult to maintain. According to Rizvi, filming on location was so hectic, that he fell into an uncovered sewage manhole on the first day. Although Rizvi doesn’t feel ‘Rani’ needs to interpreted in any certain way, he wants to allow the audience to take a “hard look at how we treat one another based on labels and assumptions”. After the experience of making ‘Rani’, Rizvi would love to do another feature in Pakistan as there are many more fascinating stories to explore. He’s currently developing a story about a Pakistani-American family that brings social economic themes to the forefront. b
“Sex is between your legs. Gender is in your head”
The novelist who predicted Brexit Bill Broun’s debut novel has proved remarkably prescient
Britain’s out of the EU, Donald Trump is the president of the U.S. Climate change and nuclear weapons are on the political agenda and there are even serious forecasts of a Third World War. This is not a novel or an episode of Simpsons. This is our reality. While it’s getting increasingly harder to differentiate dystopian fiction from the news columns, there seems to be a growing fear or even a trend one might say, that we are gradually taking steps towards doomsday. Enter—the novelist that predicted Brexit, and wrote the first dystopian novel published after it. The book is widely celebrated by the critics who read this apocalyptic vision of Britain, published just two weeks after the Leave Vote. “Broun has built, a story as wildly moving and singular as an animal’s eyes in the dark”, read a review by the New York Times. Bill Broun’s surreal ‘The Night of the Animals’ is set in a future where the monarchy is in power, a cult is trying to sacrifice what’s remaining of the animals in the London Zoo, and there is a vast social inequality to the point of people giving up their right to vote, for jobs. Not to mention the fact that Britain stands alone. ‘The thing that I was influenced by most that would connect to Brexit, was just the idea of a rise in nationalism’, says Broun. ‘The way I see it—nationalism is a massive form of denial, it’s a kind of way to hide the pain of having to get along with the rest of the world. I have seen it in both Britain and the U.S.”, the half-British, half-American author refers to both events the Brexit vote and the election of Trump, ‘an impulse towards indulgent self-destruction.’ The writer surprises me with the sort of unexpected spirituality from a journalist, which resonates through his jokes, friendliness and his repetitions of the words faith, earth and pray. He admits that during the 14 years it took to produce an ‘utterly original’ novel, it has been a spiritual journey for him too. Cuthbert, the old, mentally ill, drug addict protagonist who somehow invokes all the endearing feelings hidden in the modern person’s heart, sets out to free the animals from the zoo. Broun reveals this symbolised his release as well, as he plays with the turquoise amulets around his neck, the liberation of the artistic truth. Without wanting to reveal too much,
Broun hints of his new novel-in-progress for the first time. Unfortunately, it is not a sequel. The new book has aspects of sci-fi and subtle fantasy and apparently, has a lot to do with the eyes. ‘It is better, more entertaining and most importantly—it is going to be out a lot sooner than 14 years’, the author chuckles. Things can get as worse as the novel, ‘if we don’t listen to the earth and the animals’, Broun says. As the writer of a book that depicts humans more animalistic and brutal than animals, I wonder his further predictions on humanity. Even though he says he’s less hopeful after the recent events, he still believes there’s a better world coming and that ‘If we want it, we can still have it.’
Words: Defne Saricetin Image: Bill Broun
past—it could be, after all, often narrowly patriarchal and even reactionary, or simply quite dreary and depressing—a more hopeful and tweaked sort of realism will sell if publishers and agents will get behind it. Which do you think will be the new most powerful country in the world? This is very hard to answer, for it depends on how one defines “powerful.” As cliché as it has become to say these days, I believe it’s China. It’s still burgeoning with seemingly endless creative potential. On the other hand, between America and the Russian Federation are literally thousands of nuclear warheads. Such latent destructive force can never be left out of any discussion of geopolitical “power.” Who do you think will be the UK prime minister—maybe a celebrity a la Trump? Someone thin-skinned, egomaniacal, born to wealth, narcissistic, radically self-regarding, and unencumbered with empathy? Katie Hopkins doesn’t completely match up, but she’s in the territory.
FUTURE PREDICTIONS WITH BILL BROUN What do you think will be the new most popular religious or spiritual belief ? I see a decline in religion and a rise in secular personality cults, the worship of wealth, and the adoration of death. But a “golden ladder” will reach down soon, to echo Johnny Cash. The Messiah’s coming, and when this Christ does come, few will recognize Christ, who will transcend dogma, religion, gender, race, even species— all expectations. That’s my faith. What do you think will be the title and the genre of the best-selling book? The Queen of All Colors. We’re overdue for a return to social realism in fiction, both in America and the UK. Whilst “kitchen sink” drama may be a think of the
What do you think will be the most popular technology/app? I think that a constellation of ecological threats—water scarcity, deforestation, agricultural failures, and civil unrest—will force us to devote more attention, technologically, to managing our lives within a more or less constant ecological crisis-footing. Problems such as where to find potable water stations or safe food or energy, for instance, will increasingly shape our relationship to online and digital life. b
“Nationalism is a massive form of denial”
Finding work for refugees An Austrian start-up aims to tackle problems that politics can’t seem to resolve
Words: Lea Wieser Image: refugeeswork.at
Europe is facing the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War with over one million people leaving their countries in the last two years trying to escape war, conflict or persecution—many of them with little hope of ever returning. When they reach the European border, having put their lives at risk, by either crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe boats, or walking for hundreds of kilometres passing through several countries with many of them having paid vast amounts of money to smugglers, all they seek is safety. At the same time, Europe is being faced with the question of what do to with all these people— to which no one seems to have the answer. The refugee crisis and its effects have become the defining challenge of the Europe of the 21st century, posing huge logistical, financial, economic and social difficulties on the EU, with long-lasting implications for humanitarian practice, regional (in)stability and public opinion. While more and more people are seeking asylum, the Western world keeps moving towards the far right, resulting not only in Brexit, where fear of migration played a crucial role, but also in the election of Donald Trump. (A note on terminology: The term “refugee” is used in this article to refer to people fleeing from armed conflicts or persecution. An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose application is still pending. A migrant, on the other hand, chooses to move to a different country primarily for motives like improvement of quality of life, better education and employment or to be reunited with their family.
that the willingness of corporations to employ refugees did exist, but that those, who were sympathetic to the idea did not know how to approach the issue. And so the concept of Refugeeswork. at was born: Beron’s aim was to create an online job platform that would allow migrants to connect with organisations that offer jops, and provide employers with the necessary bureaucratic knowledge to pave the way for hiring refugees. A couple of months later, in November 2015, Refugeeswork.at was launched. Independent of governmental funding, the social enterprise finances itself with membership fees paid by corporations. According to Beron, businesses can expect a variety of benefits from employing refugees, such as an increased corporate diversity, financial support due to governmental subsidies, improvement of soft skills of their employees, while demonstrating their social responsibility to the public. Beron points out that especially the rural areas of Austria would benefit from employing refugees as there is a labour shortage for jobs with lower qualification requirements. Refugees can register for free on the platform and are provided with a range of services by Beron’s team such as a professional skills assessment or preparatory workshops for the labour market, while help with developing CVs or job interview training is offered. To this point, more than 6,000 refugee profiles are online, while over 300 companies are currently using the platform to hire employees—some of Austria’s economically most important companies such as Strabag or Swarovski are amongst them. Refugeeswork.at currently covers all of Austria, and plans to expand on a broader European scale. Beron admits working with refugees can sometimes be frustrating as Europeans concept of reliability might not always apply due to cultural differences. “It’s really bitter if you find something great and the person simply doesn’t show up for the second interview round or when someone, who was successfully employed doesn’t turn up for work one day because of some unforeseen family circumstances—without notifying anyone”, Beron elaborates. “But we are all just people—and people are always a bit … difficult”, the young entrepreneur states matter-of-factly, while laughing. b
Dominik Beron, a young Austrian lawyer, argues that one of the integral issues that needs to be addressed in order to find durable solutions for the economic, social and cultural challenges, both the refugees and the host countries face, is integration—which inevitably goes hand in hand with the successful inclusion of migrants and refugees in the labour market. Being employed not only allows them economic independence from their host country, but also prevents social isolation,while negative stereotypes are more likely to be broken down—on both sides. And this is the mission of Refugeeswork.at, an online employment agency “that pursues the goal of creating equal chances on the labour market for migrants”, as Beron, CEO and founder of the Vienna-based start-up, explains. After meeting Abdul, “a young, English-speaking guy”—who then turned out to be a refugee from Pakistan—at an educational panel talk in Vienna at the end of 2015, Beron realized that there was a void in regards to integrating refugees in the labour market. The 25-year old discovered
“The refugee crisis and its effects are the defining challenge of 21st-century Europe”
Books and of writing a to those w to suppress
all forms are terror who wish s the truth
The Truth and Terror special edition