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searching for the true peacock Lindsay Parkhowell

My eye tries to find a place to settle among the multitude of feathers each one exquisite enough to be a personal biography, and is drawn past lives trudging up the steps, lives drenched in sea-salt, the masked lives of the forest-dwellers, lives stuck in urban traffic, and the wide horizon of lives held under a hat’s brim, towards the imperious eye centered on us, unflinching, posing an imperative that we hear each by each rising out of our heart, mine: Be fierce and live your compassion. This perfect peacock whose swirling and hieroglyphic feathers make it the unconditioned light spread against the background of the terrible conditions of internment, migration and exile,

Conditions that can only be overcome by art’s true function, which

Art which is the unconditioned courageous enough to step outside

is the expression of sociality elevated beyond any one person,

of reason’s island and embrace the intuition that we are all one,

Conditions to which people might say that art is the last remedy,

Art which can imagine a Europe that lives up to its promise of

preferring instead to confer the same material standards of the

diversity, so that we do not have to re-image Guernica anew for

West upon a lucky few,

every new generation,

To which the container city of Skaramangas answers: Here people

Art which has transcended the constraints of objective sense and

are housed like goods transported across the sea, but they are not

succeeded to something higher than the fallible, which is a state

free to leave, not free to enter. Only art’s banner can truly lead us

of wonder,

out of this impasse between precarity and Brussels,

Art which can picture this peacock among the ruins of Aleppo, and, reducing neither truth to their particularity, draw them together, for only art is capable of surpassing conditions without effacing their unique origin, the brush of a peacock’s feather…

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ATHENS

futura

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Universitas

The School of Everything

Conceived by Katja Ehrhardt, Sotirios Bahtzetzis & Joulia Strauss

In collaboration with aneducation (Educational department) and the Public Programs of documenta 14

Organized by AthenSYN in collaboration with the Athens Biennale, Khora Athens and Avtonomi Akadimia

Organized by AthenSYN in collaboration with Allianz Cultural Foundation

Workshops curated by Katja Ehrhardt Exhibition curated by Sotirios Bahtsetzis

Concept: Joulia Strauss Curator of the Symposion: Sotirios Bahtsetzis

Workshops in collaboration with Allianz Cultural Foundation.

Partners Athens School of Fine Arts (GR), Kunsthochschule Kassel (D), LUCA School of Arts, Leuven, Brussels, Gent (B), HyperWerk Institute for Postindustrial Design, FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Basel (CH)

Co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union The exhibition UNIVERSITAS is supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Athens

Venues KMMN KulturBahnhof Kassel, Kunsthochschule Kassel / Athens School of Fine Arts, Parko Eleftherias, Athens Municipality Arts Center and Museum of Anti-dictatorial and Democratic Resistance

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IMPRINT

Krytyka Polityczna Athens Editorial: Joulia Strauss Copy-editing: Tania Hron, Georgia Kotretsos, Lindsay Parkhowell, Joulia Strauss, Eirini Vlavianou Interviews: Joulia Strauss in collaboration with Katja Ehrhardt, Tania Hron and Liwaa Yazji Proofreading: Alex Grant, Tania Hron, Mark Harley, Raúl Hott, Lindsay Parkhowell, Eirini Vlavianou, Evi Seferiadi, David Yellin Layout and design: Sebastian Bayse Schäfer Drawings: Joulia Strauss Photographic documentation of Universitas: Kalliopi Vagiannaki in collaboration with Léa Busnel, Ahmad Alkhatieb Thanks : Michael Thoss, Marta Madej, Daphne Büllesbach, Léa Busnel, Helen Zervou, Alexander Wahrlich, Julia Shirley-Quirk, Nuno Cassola, Lucie Jade, Vanessa Gravenor futura Publications – Michalis Paparounis, Athens futura@otenet.gr futurabooks.wordpress.com www.politicalcritique.org ISSN: 1644-0919

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CONTENT

Lindsay Parkhowell

â—†

Searching for the True Peacock . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Prooemion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joulia Strauss Universitas

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Universitas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Katja Ehrhardt, Sotirios Bahtsetzis, Joulia Strauss Interviews with

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Click Ngwere

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ariam Um al Wafa

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ismail Alsafo

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. . . . . . . . . . Junaid Baloch and Sameer Ahmed

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ahmad Alkhatieb

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Abed Nasralla

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Suhel Ahmad

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. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Autobiographical Storytelling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Rachel Clarke

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Recipe to Abandon the Shadow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Liwaa Yazji

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Exploring the Geometry of Possibility . . . . . . . . . Georgia Kotretsos & Mehul Sangham

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The State of Exception As Governmental Technique . . . Leopold Helbich

Mohammad Abu Hajar

Manaf Halbouni

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The School of Everything Joulia Strauss & Sotirios Bahtsetzis . . . . . . . . The School of Everything

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Luca Di Blasi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Education in Doxic Times

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Noah Fischer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Disruption Culturescape

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Pirate Cinema. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Re: Intellectual Property

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Brandon LaBelle . . . . . . . . . . . . . Scenes from the art of making do, tactic and tenderness

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Elad Lapidot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Machlokes. Public Academy for the Sake of Thinking

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Agnès Rammant-Peeters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Art Without Bars

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Jean-Pierre Rammant . . . . . . Art Practice and Art Research: high time to disrupt Science and Technology

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Sotirios Bahtsetzis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Academia: A story about troubadours, castratos, and singing mice

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Mriganka Madhukaillya . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Assembly of desire: Reassembling the collective

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Mathilde Ter Heijne & Jenny Marketou. . . . . . . . . . . . In Conversation

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Vasyl Cherepanyn . . . . . . . . Politics of Knowledge, or Why the Owl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . of Minerva Has to Spread Its Wings Only With the Falling of the Dusk

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Partners Tanja Schomaker and Mathilde ter Heijne . . . . . Kunsthochschule Kassel Perform Interdependency

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Paul B. Preciado . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Public Programs of the documenta 14 — Parliament of Bodies

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Arnisa Zeqo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ASFA — Athens School of Fine Arts

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LUCA School of Fine Arts

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HyperWerk — Institute for Postindustrial Design

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prooemion BY JOULIA STRAUSS

Dear Reader, In your hands is the Athenian issue of Krytyka Polityzcna. The Warsawbased journal unites polymorphous freedom struggles in geographic Europe. This book is an anarchist, anti-capitalist, anti-fascist artwork. A hypothesis, and yet one that continues to be written actively on the ground. It clashes migration and education of the status quo, the effect and the cause of current violence. The publication documents an initiative, Universitas, and accompanies the forthcoming Symposion, The School of Everything. Universitas (“community”, lat.) is a new form of art which emerged at the refugee camps around Athens. Groups of artists and cultural organizers offered workshops in these new Syrian cities. Within our European ghetto, “Frontexed” from the outside and bitten by patrol dogs from the inside, we paradoxically experience sparks of the only possible future: no nations, no borders. We, here in Athens, do our best to create time-spaces where the irrelevance of citizenship is cultivated. Don't call it micropolitics. Don't write PhDs about us. Please, join. Once you are involved, you will learn how to live with the difficulties of the projects related to “refugees”. The intensity experienced in the Universitas workshops should not be expressed with the traditional means of documentation for several reasons. The participating artists created works about their truly seismic insights in the camps. This book contains the contributions of people who have recently moved to Athens from the Middle East, of Athenians who have lived here a long time, as well as of those who are based in Berlin but frequently visit Athens; brought together, they form a de-elitized and de-colonized remix of knowledge.

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The chapters in this book are intertwined and in each part the reader will find contributions relevant to the whole. The authors are all united by their portrayal in anti-phrenological drawings. In Athens, despite the invention of the State, streams of interlapping cultural influences never stopped pulsating. Such an experience of fluid identity demonstrates that citizenship is an outdated concept of class separation and nationalism. The devastating contradiction: human rights are only valid in the economically privileged zones. The failure to collaborate with the revolution in Syria dispels the last illusions of an occidental civilization and unveils the truth: we all live in the absolute financial dictatorship. This publication includes several essays and statements on education. These are written by thinkers, philosophers, “activists”, and artists who are affiliated with the Avtonomi Akadimia, a disobedient grassroots university in Athens which claims education as a form of art. These texts, poems, manifestos and sketches of educational models are published in lieu of the abstracts for an upcoming Symposion entitled: The School of Everything. We build an educational system which consists of indignant initiatives for sharing knowledge, and of proposals by thinkers who see education as key. We shift from learning to sharing. We decriminalize sharing because we would like to enjoy the pleasure of giving. We liberate ourselves from the strictures of “Homo Sapiens”, a construct imposed upon life. We will transform the educational system of Europe. The clash of migration and education will release a Promethean fire.

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universitas BY KATJA EHRHARDT, SOTIRIOS BAHTSETZIS AND JOULIA STRAUSS

With the closure of the border in the north of Greece, refugees from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Iraq, and Sudan will have to live in Italy and Greece for an indefinite length of time while wanting to continue their traveling to Northern Europe. According to reports, out of one hundred thousand refugees for whom resettlement was planned by the EU Commission, only very few have actually been relocated in other EU countries. Meanwhile, the recorded asylum seekers in EU countries expand exponentially, reaching the largest number in the history of the European Union. When the migrants arrive in the Mediterranean border countries they enter – passively or actively – the binary terrain of GermanGreek relations. We are confronted with a severe shift in demographic structure which adds to the tremor caused in the interrelations of the member states of Europe by the financial crisis. A place – in the geographic, social and symbolic sense of the word – for the newly arrived is yet to be found. Changes in society are inevitable on structural levels. The dizzying levels of unemployment in Greece and the insufficient policies for the integration

of immigrants in the formal labour market do not promise positive developments. The current situation in a rising populist and xenophobic Europe calls forth the necessity of finding new forms of integrating people in society. The current situation challenges notions such as global citizenship, a democratic way of living and collective self-mastery. We accept this challenge. We see the need to adjust to the new situation and we even view it as an inspiration to change the current educational system. We believe that culture and education through shared knowledge are the best means of achieving this goal. With Universitas, we want to create a practice-based model of a community of teachers and learners; the literal meaning of the word universitas (universitas magistrorum et scolarium). Universitas comprises a series of workshops, a curated exhibition and a book. We want to create a common space in which migrants and practitioners from both artistic and activist backgrounds can learn from each other and collaborate on a horizontal plane. Learning by doing is what this experiment aims for, the means of which is a collective multimedia writing of history of the current situation. 11


“ Water as a Common” by Susanne Winterling (DE)

“Our Inventory Visualized” by Georgia Kotretsos (GR)

“What are we afraid of? Human connections” by Liwaa Yazji (SY)

This workshop deals with water as a resource and water as a ritual, water as an element of the commons and a common element of us. It wants to create awareness and attention to this element. Workshop participants will be collecting, writing down, and audio or video documenting stories – facts and fiction, old and new – around water, and create water sculptures. Participants envision their future and participate in a process of daydreaming, an open disclosure of dreams, needs and desires. How is identity and individualism compromised when we find ourselves in need? How can we learn to address matters that matter to each individual? How can we merge without forming and re-affirming stereotypes by homogenizing and diluting individualism within a group? We will take notes and understand the missing links and mechanisms that are holding those dreams, needs and desires from manifesting and explore ways that we can help each other fulfill them. Fear is the main motivation and reaction with which human beings define their relations to their surroundings and impressions, especially when it comes to dealing with new things they face in life. We will set off on our journey to dissect – to understand, and thus to establish a healthy approach in relation to the newcomers versus locals paradigm (refugees vs. hosting communities). Both sides are facing this Unknown with no tools. It is a situation forced on all, no one chose it; no one had the time to prepare for it, which by default means that ignorance and fear are controlling it; we are unfamiliar with language, culture, social codes and the needs of the other... We are tracing it in the form of stories of the Other – the Unknown – the Never Experienced. We will guide the stories of the newcomers and locals regarding their fear of one another to challenge them into transforming this into new experiences and – if possible – to benefit from it, using the tools of narration. Media (and mass culture) are creating stereotypes; let us see how those “stereotypes” can be defied. We all have fears; this is the first common ground to set off from. So fear now is the meeting point, while it has always been the opposite.

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THE WORKSHOPS

Through international media, we are familiar with a certain general image of the migration crisis. But what is the individual perspective? This workshop engages participants in a conversation. The tool: photos and videos from our personal picture books, our smartphones. What is it we keep as memories? Workshop participants are invited to share personal visual material (photos, videos) and talk about their experiences during the happenings. These images are are presented in a large-scale video installation – an eye-minded library, a visual stream of consciousness that keeps hold of individual memories.

“What I Saw

This workshop engages participants in discussions through the use of storytelling, performance, the stimulation of creativity using art as a conduit. It is divided into three parts: (1)Toxic Waiting seeks to show precarity and the toxic time of waiting. Workshop participants walk to a place in the camp and transform items (like plastic boxes of food, batteries, soaps, chairs, any metal, cards, mobiles, plastic or wooden material, toys, maps, keys, lipstick, etc.) into an object that symbolizes the space. (2) Workshop participants will also transform old clothes, fabrics and items from the camps (such as blankets, shoes, scarves, belts and any metal, plastic, or wooden material) into costumes. (3) In Storytelling migrants will draw their own stories. The workshop is a reflection of how they fled to Greece by creating their own path, their traces in space. Shape of thoughts explores the space created by other bodies with movements, with gravity – a body which falls; a body which rises. All members of the group will be involved in duets by creating a logogram flooring – a semiotic approach towards graphic notation, sketch notes and sign language.

“Shape of

Just how would it be if each one of us suddenly had the power to change the course of history so that everyone had the opportunity to create his or her own state? What would your new country look like, what would be your capital? Would you keep your country small and prefer colonializing? Or would you just populate other states with your products? What would be your goals as a king, president or dictator? The artist will interview participants individually on their positions on the topic “What if ”. On a world map, participants will discuss their own individual imaginary world so that a new world map is created. The meetings and the resulting discussion are documented through video recording. They accompany the world maps which have been created through this process.

“What if” by

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When You Saw Me” by Gudrun Barenbrock (DE)

Thoughts” by Vilelmini Vilma Andrioti (GR)

Manaf Halbouni (SY)


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click ngwere Krytyka talks to Click, the Zimbabwean born feminist and activist. Click is an Athens-based knitting designer. The cinematographic narrative of her early life tells us how she was subject to extreme racism and exploitation. She stood up. As a result, an uncompromising smile is engraved in her entire existence. Today, her meditative healing power and craft act as a safe haven for those in need of one.

Joulia Strauss: What exactly is knitting and embroidery for you? How did it all start?

Click Ngwere: I started when I was back home in Zimbabwe. I must have been around seven years old and it was the things I loved to do the most. I used to go and get grass from the bush because I did not have needles. I burned it a little bit to make it harder, but grass is broken easily. Then I tried my father’s bicycle. I removed some spikes which I made into needles. One day, my father came home from work and tried to use his bicycle. But to his surprise he discovered that some spikes were missing and then he said:

Father: Where did you get those needles? Click: They are mine. Father: Yes, I know they are yours but I want you to tell me where did you get them?

Then I started crying and he said: Father: Ah, I didn’t ask you to cry. I’m just asking you a simple question.

So then my father took some of the spare spikes he had and sharpened them for me. He sharpened them for me and then he said: Father: Okay you can use these. Never ever take some spikes from the bicycle. You should have asked me!

The thing is I didn’t have yarn. I used to take my fathers or my brother’s sweaters – cut them and undo them.

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Joulia

And you did it without asking again?

Click

I didn’t ask, so my father went and bought me some wool and then said: Father: You must use this, don’t cut anything.

I didn’t know what to do, I was just making stitches without knowing, what I could make out of it. Sometimes, I made a long chain, then undid it, and start again. Joulia

Click

Are you talking about the long chain that you taught us in the workshop?

Yes, yes! When I started school by the age of seven it was different back then. A kid was considered to be ready for school based on its height and not its age. If the kid could touch the tip of the opposite ear over his/her head with his right or left arm then it was ready for school.

Joulia

Oh! Is that because the hand is long enough?

Click

Yeah, exactly.

Joulia

That is a better method. It is physiological and not numerical.

Click

Yes. I started grade school in 1968. I was seven years old. In Zimbabwe we begin doing crafts at school in grade 3. The boys weave baskets and the girls would do needlework. I loved it. You were the best at school?

Joulia

Click

Yeah, I was… I loved it! I learned knitting and crochet by participating at the Girl Guides movement – it‘s like a Scout Movement. It is seen as an organization but there are boys and girls who are taking part in it doing the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. For us it was part of our curriculum. I used to see small girls and boys here wearing brown shirts, trousers, a green jacket and cap and a yellow whatever. I remember these things from when I was at school – the Greeks do it too. I started as a Brownie, a category name that comes from England. When I turned nine years old I became a Girl Guide and then a Ranger. Sometimes when I was in the classroom I was knitting too, under the desk, and the teacher would take it and throw it away. But the next day I’d do the same. Then the Headmaster decided to allow me to keep my knitting kit at his office. During break and after school, I went to collect my kit from there. That was our arrangeClick Ngwere

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ment and then many girls began doing the same. So every time we came to school we would leave our things in the Headmaster’s office. Break time or lunch time we would take our things and start knitting. You changed the educational system!

Yes. Even at home I would hide somewhere and knit. Yet, I passed seventh grade with a grade of four, which was a good mark. I was about to continue to secondary education. But around that time my father was killed by the British. My uncle became our guardian, but his wife was mean to us. We were born triplets – two brothers and I – and our mother died in childbirth. And later, your father was killed...

Yes, so we went to stay at the village with our uncle. His wife was treating us badly. My uncle of course was good, but he was always at work and he didn’t know what was taking place when he was away. His wife was very mean – a very bad lady. When I finished my examination I was in the same class with her daughter. Her daughter was not bright in class, she was very dull. But me – I was bright, so I passed but she didn’t. My aunt then took my certificate and went to the Headmaster and said, “You made a mistake.” My name is Krikri in my language. Her daughter’s name was Gnuognuwaywa. She supported it was a mistake and that it was Gnuognuwaywa who passed, so he switched the certificates. In Zimbabwe we have a very high education; if you pass you go to F1 or Senior Secondary School, if you pass a little bit, then you go to a Junior Secondary School which they call F2, so my cousin went for F1. I had to repeat grade 7 in order to proceed with my secondary education I cried and my eyes were swollen you know? For a whole week I was crying and crying... And she was at your home? You lived together?

Yes! One day... I will never forget that day, when I went to my parent’s grave. I took a very big long stick and I hit the graves, saying, “I hate you! How could you just leave us suffering like this, how could you just die?” I beat my parent’s grave and people caught me, thinking I was crazy. But I wasn’t, because I really meant it when I said, “I hate you! I wish you weren’t my parents, how can you leave us suffering like this.” Then I went to a Mission boarding school. When we had a school break the other students would go to their villages but I would always stay behind. I started working; cleaning, feeding the pigs, cultivating the fields, harvesting everything for the mission.

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Joulia

Click

Joulia

Click

Joulia

Click


Did you do all of this at the same time?

Joulia

Click

Joulia

Click

Yeah, I would wake up very early, I’d go to the pigs, feed the pigs; I’d go to the chicken I’d feed the chicken, I’d never go back home because there was no point in doing so. My cousin was not so good, either. School became your home and you started to change the school because you took care of its premises.

The whole school, yes. I was very good at it and I knew God was on my side. Then the war broke out and the missionaries sent us home. They said, “When the war is over, maybe we will not come back because it is very dangerous here; we cannot stay anymore.” I became homeless. I didn’t have anywhere to go, so my friend offered to take me home with her. Her parents approved my staying too. So, I stayed with them, I was like their daughter, they were very nice. I still send money to them, they were like my parents. When the Comrades were patrolling, a friend of mine suggested to go to Mozambique. She said that the missionaries won’t take care of me forever. I was convinced, it is hard saying no to her. We walked for four days and there we were. We were sleeping in the jungle where all these dangerous animals lived but we survived until we reached Mozambique. We were welcomed with suspicion because everyone was afraid of spies, so the following morning they questioned us, asking who might have send us there, pressuring us to tell the truth. I responded by saying that the Rhodesians had killed my father. Then they took us where the girls were, we underwent a year of training and political education. So only after I finished the training we started patrolling and fighting. We fought in so many battles and we won until we gained our independence in 1980. After we got our independence I joined the National Army. In the National Army I stayed for one year – I wasn’t interested in becoming a soldier again. I just decided to continue with my education because my father was always telling me that education is the key of life. He was an educated person, he was a geologist that had studied in England. With my father we were okay, we had our own standard of living, we never suffered because my father never remarried; it was hard enough taking care of three kids.

Joulia

Click

Such an educated person who had such deep insight into the very key of life was killed, in this brutal and horrible way.

Yes, because when we were in Zimbabwe those days, you know, the British were very segregating, they were discriminating races. We were not Click Ngwere

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allowed to go to the same school with white children, we were not allowed to just enter the compound with the white people. When you went to town to buy things the white people had their own stores, their own banks that you couldn’t go inside. And if you went to the supermarket the whites would go through a door, while the blacks would go through a small window, like when you buy tickets for the metro. That was the place we would get groceries, clothes, everything. When my father and I went to buy clothes for Christmas he bought everything through that window. And then he bought a bed and they said, “Okay, come and take your bed, through the door.” And my father replied, “I want it through here, bring it My father was always telling me through the window.” And they quarthat education is the key of life. reled and my father said, “I’m not allowed to go through the door, I’m allowed to take everything through this window.” He was arrested; and after some time they killed him. We became homeless, due to the war we got separated from my brothers. I had no idea where they were or if they were alive. When I was in Mozambique I trained and I finished school; so when I continued with my studies I was having a JC certificate for Form 2 which allowed me to teach at a primary school. I was teaching 3rd grade students, small children – the beginners. Please, tell me about your studies.

I studied at a mission college which was called Morgan Star Teacher’s College. I became a history teacher, and I graduated with an A . It was around that time when all the journalists from all over the country and even some from abroad came to see me as a Golina fighter. I had become a teacher, I was the best Golina and I continued with my education. Giving a lot of interviews, I met my husband. He was a journalist, he was first interested in me. But it takes time for me. You know African girls cannot accept immediately, it took almost a year until we fell in love and then he said he wanted to marry and meet my family. And when you want to marry you know you have to pay a bridal price. At the time he was studying journalism in Canada. He suggested to pay half of the bridal price to my uncle up front and half after he completed his studies. We agreed. But instead he paid all the money, and my uncle stated that he could not longer keep me there, as I had become somebody else’s property. We arranged for a traditional wedding with five ceremonies. In church, traditional... By that time, I was still in college. When I got pregnant it was very difficult at school. I had to hide the pregnancy so the missionaries wouldn’t see. Those missionaries were very strict. I knew that I was going to give birth in 19

Joulia

Click


August, which was a holiday. We would close in August and open in September, so I said, “Okay, what am I going to do?” So I told my husband about it, and he recommended I stop attending classes. I wanted to graduate, it was my last year. But, who would be taking care of the babies? Because I knew I was going to give birth to twins. So, I went to a nearby village and spoke with one lady. I said, “As you can see I’m pregnant but the missionaries they don’t know I’m pregnant – I’m hiding the pregnancy.” Imagine that these missionaries don’t even want to see you standing next to a boy. They were very very strict. I arranged to pay that woman to look after the twins while I was at school. I gave birth over the break. The following month I took the babies to the lady. I think I actually went one week earlier in order for the lady to get used to the babies at her home. So everyday before I went to school I’d wake up early in the morning, I’d go to the village, breastfeed the babies immediately, and then go back to the mission and during the break time, when students were going into the dining room to take breakfast, I’d run and breastfeed the babies again. What I went through with those boys! I was 21, very young. And then from that time I started taking the babies to the mission on the weekend. Because the missionaries weren’t there so nobody could see. And all the students loved my babies! After a while I graduated, I passed my teacher’s training and then I got a job so I began teaching and my husband came back. We were staying at a city near Harare. Yet, the only place where I could find a position was out of Harare, which was going to be very difficult because my husband was a journalist so by the time he would leave – I would come back. We decided that one of us had to stay home and take care of the children. We agreed that it was better for me to stay at home, so then I began knitting again. I had never I used to go and sit down in the street stopped really, even in the college to knit with the help of the street lights I was knitting for my children... In the area where we stayed, our house was small. So I used to go and sit down in the street to knit with the help of the street lights... Slowly more women joined me. And then we got into the habit to meet in the street to knit till 11 pm at night after cooking supper, and having put the kids to bed. Finally, the municipality gave us a building where we could knit. It became very popular. My routine was knitting in the morning, break for lunch and then some more knitting afterwards. We were also building our house with my husband while I was also training preschool teachers. My boys were about eight years old when I became pregnant for the second time. I must have been five or six months pregnant when my husband was killed in Mozambique by the resistance army. Right away life became very hard for me. Click Ngwere

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Why did he die? Why was he killed?

Actually he was killed because he found out about something happening with the government, that’s why. I was under surveillance, they were spying on me to see if I knew anything of what happened. I had to change my identity for my children’s sake. It was then when I decided I wanted to be a Muslim. I converted from being Christian to being a Muslim... Went to the mosque, learned Arabic, continued with my work, and I also gave birth to another set of twins. No, really? Two times twins?

Yes but this time with the girls, I didn’t know I was pregnant with twins because I cried too much when my husband died and it affected the pregnancy. So for the rest of the pregnancy I was sick and the doctors couldn’t make out if it was a boy or a girl... they saw an umbilical cord and I could not go for an ultrasound because it was quite expensive and I was a widow so I didn’t have much money; it was very difficult. So because of this I was very sick and stayed in the hospital for a month. I went to the hospital on my own. A friend accompanied me and my water broke right there and then. I gave birth to a girl to my surprise, I was expecting a boy. And then another one came out… I could not believe it. I prayed to the Lord, how was I going to take care of these kids by myself? I didn’t have a job. When my husband died the in-laws took everything. That is the tradition, they took everything, the house, the property, everything. And I remained with zero, I had to start all over again, and I said, “Oh my God what am I going to do?” So after that I got a job in a mine, decontamination and playing netball at the same time. And then I was doing my knitting as usual and I began selling it for a living. I would go to the shops offering the Greeks and the Italians my work, I was selling tablecloths, you know, ‘kentima’. I’m very good at it. Of course you are! They are fantastic!

One thing led to another. They came to me, a Greek family was marrying off their daughter in South Africa, and they wanted a ‘kentima’. I did them some and they loved them. Then they offered to send me to Greece to learn traditional ‘kentima’ and return to work for them. How could I refuse that fortune? And that’s how I came here. So when was this?

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In 1993, it was summer. I came on the 1st of August and we went to Kalimnos, they had a hotel. I was sick because of the weather and my breasts were swollen with milk. It was painful because the weather changed immediately for me since it was hot in Greece and it was winter in Zimbabwe. The doctor said it was because of the change of weather and it would pass. And it did, but it was very difficult for me at that time. And what about the two babies?

Joulia

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The two babies were still in Zimbabwe. It was impossible for me to bring them. The boys were also there and they were old enough to take care of themselves. They were ten years old. In Kalimnos in summer everything was closed including the schools, so they asked me to help at the hotel and get money for my kids. They said during the winter I could go to Athens and start doing my ‘kentima’. Winter came and I found myself staying in Marousi. They never let me out of the house, they were taking in me as a slave. They kept locking the door for me and making me do all the housework. People were asking them to send me to clean their house, and they would take the money. If people had parties, they would send me to do all those things. I was in bondage and felt like someone who is in prison. They were not paying me. If my children wrote letters, they would take the letters and throw them away. I never knew what was happening in Zimbabwe and my children knew nothing of me either. I became very slim, I started losing weight and had anemia. I could not eat, I kept thinking about how to communicate with my children, and the lady of the house would always reassure me that one day we would call them. Then a cousin of theirs from Thessaloniki was having a very big party. A wedding or maybe a graduation. I don’t know but it was a very big party. They sent me there to help in order to collect money to send to my kids. I went there for two days, it was a weekend and I was on my feet serving people, doing dishes, changing ash trays… At the end, they took the money and didn’t give it to me. One day the lady from Thessaloniki came to visit – three months had passed already. And she asked me whether I was happy with Vicky. I responded positively, I wasn't sure why she was asking in the first place. But she insisted, she pleaded to know whether I was happy. And then she asked me whether Vicky had given me the 100.000 drachmas for my services in Thessaloniki. I said no, and she began to cry. She could not stop crying but thankfully Vicky and the children were not there. Before she left she said, “OK, I’ll be going back to Thessaloniki tomorrow so I want to give you my telephone number. If you need anything give me a call.” I kept the telephone number. She gave me 50 000 drachmas and asked me to not tell Vicky. Click Ngwere

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One of the children, the son, lost his keys, he didn’t remember where he put the keys when he came from school. And then Vicky asked me to look for Giorgo’s keys. I started looking for the keys every day and one day I found them. So I said bingo! And then I proceeded testing the keys, I opened the door, I put a doormatt and then ran downstairs. I tried to open the outer door and saw it worked too. And I said again, bingo! These are the keys, so I hid them. Vicky kept asking for the keys, but I said I could not find them. I kept the keys with me and then I called Stella in Thessaloniki to announce that I was ready to leave now. I explained that I He knew of other cases like mine, of girls being had found Giorgo’s keys. exploited here. He helped them break free. She replied with no hesitation that she’d send her son right way the following day to pick me up from Athens. We agreed, and the next day half an hour before he arrived he called me from the Kiosk, ‘periptero’, to give me the heads up and that I should be getting ready. I saw him from the balcony pulling over with the car. I took my ID, my taftotita. And that was the end of it, I left and we went to Thessaloniki together. When we arrived his mother told me that she would have loved to have me stay with her but she was worried her cousin might go to the police. She booked a hotel room for me, and she committed in covering the cost until I got back on my own feet again. From my balcony I saw two black boys and I went to ask them whether they knew any Zimbabweans in Thessaloniki. They didn’t but they kept my contact in case they’d come across one. A day later they called and gave me a contact of a person in Athens. I called that man and he knew of other cases like mine, of girls being exploited here. He helped them break free. Then I called Stella to let her know I found my way, to attempt to thank her, but only God can do so. We met, we cried and before we parted she gave me 150 000 drachmas. She reassured me that she’d stand by me if I needed her again. In Athens again, I got my first job living in Filothey. I was working for this guy who worked in television. They had their own television channel, it was channel 5 with Kostas Mylonnas. So I worked for that guy for quite long, he was a very nice guy. I still had the passion for knitting so when I was off I would go around Omonia to buy yarn to do things by hand. Soon my employers left for the States so I had to look for a job again. Next stop: a job in Pendeli. That was the time I wanted to buy a sewing machine. I bought my first sewing machine, not the embroidery one, the other one. I am not good at sewing but I was making some things like curtains, bed sheets, and people were buying. They were making a lot of orders. When I started knitting for myself, people started saying that they wanted a sweater. But because I was working and time was not on my side, I couldn't sit down and knit. 23


I began looking for a knitting machine, it was very hard to find one. A store owner offered to order one for me from Germany for 2 000 Euros. I paid it off slowly, in two years to be exact. I had an one room apartment in Alexandras at the time but I was so happy with the knitting and sewing machine in place. Soon, I moved to a two-bedroom apartment and by that time I was working in Kifissia, cleaning houses. Those people were very rich, they were the owners of Lapin House, they made very expensive clothes for babies and children. They had one lady who was a designer for Lapin. And she would come every three months to do design, she was an Italian. So at one point she came to my room to talk to me. I told her that we do have one thing in common, and asked here to teach me. She was also making some dresses and put some embroidery on there. She wondered why I was doing all this work by hand and not on the machine. And I said, “What automatic machine?” She showed me the machine which can do embroidery on the computer. I then went by the store to inquire about such a machine and they said it costs 5 000 Euros. But if I want something I will go for it. So then I said okay five thousand, but I don’t have five thousand, could I pay slowly and then take the machine. They ordered it from America and it took me three and half years to pay it off. It has about five hundred thousand designs built in it, plus I could design anything I wanted. I can take a photograph of you and I can embroider it in. I said, this is my future. I cannot keep on working with this and that. At that time, I also started having a health issue, I have a heart problem. I have to take medication every day. Finally, the machine arrived and they would deliver it along with an instructor for a free lesson. I also needed a computer, so I bought a laptop. But I didn’t know how to use a laptop, I didn’t know anything about computers. My son was visiting and I asked him to show me. When I called him I told him I bought a computer and then he said, “Comrade, you bought a computer but do you know how to use it?” And I said, “I’m waiting for you to come and show me!” So, when he was in Athens he took out the computer from the box and he started showing me some pesky things like how to send an email. But you know children, he started saying do this and this, and this and I told him “I don’t see anything! Show it to me well!” You know it is very difficult to teach someone who doesn’t know, so we struggled. And by the time he left I knew nothing because we were very busy. When he came we went to Patra, to Kalimnos and Patmos; I wanted him to see Greece. So we didn’t get a chance to sit down. I have a friend, who lives in Thessaloniki but he was studying here. He is just a boy who is about 25 years old, he is like a son to me. So I said, “Kosta, can you teach me how to use a computer.” And he said of course I’ll teach you Click.” Click Ngwere

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He came and started teaching me how to do this and that, he was so passionate, not like my son! My son was always fighting. And he taught me how to make an email and write letters and then he said, “Okay, give me your son’s email.” So I called and said, “Can you give me your email?” In the email I asked him, “How are you son?” And he replied, “Congratulations!” Then I called the store with the machine to tell them I was ready to learn. After a two-hour tutorial I began making things. That was then, now I’m an expert. Great! And where can one see your work?

On Facebook. Look for Click’s Collection. This friend of mine is the one who said, “Why don’t you make a page for your things?” And I said, “How do I do it? I don’t know how to do a page.” And he said, “I’ll do it for you.” He is the one who made the page for me, and he designed the logo. He did a lot for this, it was fantastic – he did everything. Sometimes if I want do some things, I’ll take the pictures and I’ll send it to him. He’s the one who arranges the album for the things that I’m doing. But now I know when I take pictures how to post them. I don’t know much about computers, I only know about the machine and Facebook, nothing else. And you can do emails too, right?

And the emails of course. But the complicated things I don’t know, I only know how to connect the machine and that’s it, and email and Facebook, that’s it. What else do I want? It’s amazing. Your story broke my heart that evening and I was thinking and thinking... I’m preparing a book about refugee stories, for people to understand that there are no refugees. Your story is about extreme struggles.

Yes, extreme struggles, until now that I know where I am and I am happy. I cannot work in the houses again due to my health condition, but I am okay with what I’m doing with my embroidery. But I don’t have a place where I can do my work. I used to sell in the stations but the police are disturbing me because I don’t have a license. So I’m just selling everything on Facebook and I also have some customers from the US, Canada, Australia, from everywhere people are buying from me! Sooner or later I’ll do a website but I’ll keep going with Facebook for a while until things get better, then I’ll start a website. For now my business is becoming very popular! I design everything by myself. I never went to school for it not even for this ‘kentima’, I did it myself. Even though they said, “Oh you need to learn Greek embroidery.” And I said, “No”. I have to do it myself. I used to 25

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do embroidery by hands, why not with the machine. But when I bought the embroidery machine my previous house became smaller, so that’s when I moved here. One room turned into my workshop. Yes, it’s a perfect combination of home and working place!

Joulia

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I have a part time job where I go and pick up kids somewhere in Kallithea for two hours. I’ll just go to the school, pick up the kids around 4 o’clock, and then I’ll play with them. When their parents finish work they come to pick up the kids at the park. Education. For them you are the education not the school.

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Yes, so I’m okay. I’m happy with what I’m doing and I’m really glad people like my work!

Joulia

And you are giving a workshop on Viktoria somewhere.

Click

Yes I am teaching the workshop on Viktoria for the refuge women.

Joulia

So it’s not only about knitting of course, it’s very therapeutic.

Click

Exactly, no stress, nothing. You know sometimes when I’m not knitting I feel that something is missing in me, I’m addicted to it. No it is not addiction, it’s just art. It’s just a way of life.

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You know some of the women I’m teaching don’t even know how to hold a needle, you can see their hands are numb, they cannot do anything. But when I start teaching them, they like it. We don’t speak the same language, they don’t speak English and I don’t speak their language but they understand, I don’t know how it happens, it just happens automatically. I’m teaching them. They ask, I don’t understand, but I explain to them. And they come out from their first lesson, bringing out something that you cannot believe. And how is it for you now when you teach them? You feel that you are helping them in the emancipation somehow? Is it also a political act for you?

Yeah, I’m just helping them to forget about the struggle. It helps them cope with the struggle which they have been facing, coming from Syria and from Afghanistan. In order for them not to be sad, they have to do something. And you can see that they are happy! They are very happy! And they are Click Ngwere

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coming for more. Now they know all the stitches. They don’t understand English but they know the difference, they know how to do things. That’s the mediating thing; they can see how to do it.

Yeah so I’m glad they are happy with my work and everybody is also happy with me. You made history. You said before that you are very good in history, now you are the living history!

Yes, I am the history, you are right. And the best way to get involved with history is to write your own story the way you did.

Yeah, they made a movie about me after my husband died, but it was not all that clear. It was called Flame. They showed the way I suffered with my in-laws because I refused to remarry. Because the tradition says that when your husband dies you have to choose one of the cousins or one of the brothers to be your new husband, it doesn’t matter whether he is married or not. So I said no, the man I love is laying in that grave, I don’t want to remarry. Then they said, “Okay then you can’t be here, we don’t want to see you here again, take your things.” My husband had bought me a knitting machine and a sewing machine and they took it. But in my language we have a saying, “The hands are slaves, they can work for me and I can produce everything.” Thus, I managed to educate my children. And I’m happy because all my children are university graduates. And they are doing well and there is nothing for me to be stressed about, I’m happy because they are happy, wherever they are. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us.

You are welcome. ◆

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mohammad abu hajar Krytyka Polytyczna and Rachel Clarke, a Berlin activist and dramaturg, talk to the Syrian rapper Mohammad. Both intellectually and emotionally committed his testimony is an account of how one political crisis is linked to the rest of the world. In the spirit of the Butterfly Effect and chaos theory, he connects us all for better or for worse. And by doing so, we are bound to follow his journey, struggle and evolution of a revolution, which is still very much in the making.

Joulia Strauss: It would be really nice to find out how you started to participate in the revolution. Were you part of revolutionary gangs, how does it all begin?

Mohammad Abu Hajar: In 2005, something changed in my life, I was going out with a girl from another sect in Syria, in Tartus in my city. Her father kidnapped us and tortured us both for four hours, she was almost going to die. When we went to the police station to charge him for what he did, the police officer said, “Oh you should be thankful that he didn’t kill you because he could kill you and say that it’s an honor crime!” So, I was thinking, “What is an honor crime, what exactly is an honor crime?” So when I was searching for it I noted that in the Syrian Penalty Code there is a low article, article 508, which is the honor crime, famous in the Middle East. The article states that a father

can kill the daughter or the wife for committing something that might touch the honor of the family. Then I decided that this is something in Syria that should be changed. After that I directly became a member of a communist party in Syria. It was the 14th of April and by May or June I joined the party. But before that I was more concerned about the American invasion and how we can react to it because the US had planned to invade the Middle East in order to change something that started in Afghanistan and in Iraq back then. So my first song as a musician was against the American invasion in Iraq. It was in 2004, it was called The Neighborhood Storyteller. You know storytelling in Syria is very traditional. I did this first song against the American invasion. After that my second song was about honor crimes, directly after what had happened to me.

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Rachel

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Can I go back and ask something I didn’t quite understand. You said it was an honor crime yet he was torturing you and your girlfriend at the time – his daughter! What was the honor there?

It’s mixed, it’s a very weird mixture of everything including sectarian issues, such us, belonging to a different sectarian background. He thought I was religious even though he knew I’m not. He started insulting various religious figures, that did nothing to me. I don’t practice any sort of religion in my life, I’m not religious. It’s a masculine society, so he felt that his daughter or his wife belonged to him and was someone he could control. I can think that there is a place that is totally free of that, some places are more emancipated than others. But those ideas are still there, they do exist, you know? But it wasn’t because he knew you and your political views?

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No it was because of the masculinity of the society, and sectarian issues. It wasn’t about my political stance, I don’t think he even knew it because it was so underground. Any kind of politics were underground, I wouldn’t dare say to anyone what I was doing. Our political party was illegal and that could cause you three years in jail if they knew that you were a member of any illegal political party. So all our activism was in secret. When you want to distribute something you would do it with your face covered. So it definitely wasn’t about my political standing. So how can you be politically active when it has to be in absolute secrecy? Do you mean you were doing things like graffiti? What kind of action could you take with the fear for your surrounding you?

Well, mainly it was distributing leaflets, not criticizing the regime because if we did that we would be killed. It was mainly criticizing the economic reformation because Syria back then was trying to go to the European partnership agreement, which means that we needed to change the whole economic structure of Syria. That’s what pushed me to study economics later. I did a Master’s in political economics because of what happened in Syria, on how they did the reformation. But that reformation meant that 24% of the Syrian population would be unemployed in three or four years. And 24% is a lot and you can see it, you could see everything in the street. I’m not talking about a light depression in the economy, I’m talking about something that changed everything. We started seeing people who we used to call feudalists because they had a lot of land. After the reformation land had no more value. Agriculture too. You’d see the farmers working with Mohammad Abu Hajar

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whatever in the streets, carrying stuff, trying to get by day-by-day. That was part of our political activism: to say that we shouldn’t go so quickly in that direction or that we shouldn’t go to that direction at all, because it’s going to bring destruction to the Syrian economy. And what did they call the economic direction? Was it neoliberalism?

Well, they called it Social Market Economy. That is the official name, that’s what they called it, but in reality they were practicing neoliberalism even if they called it something else. There was no real clear taxation system, economic plans were just a paper not applied or respected; investors became the main goal, not people. Everything was pushing to indicate that the state did not exist in the economy anymore. So, criticizing that and spreading information and experiences of other countries which had changed their economy structurally in similar ways, that was our main goal. Even graffiti, we thought they might consider it something illegal, that they are going to say that we destroy public property, so we wouldn’t do it. We’d just pass leaflets from hand to hand, put it on cars or even go into the bus and leave it. When you started to write rap songs, did you also perform secret rap concerts?

We had no official rap concerts until 2008. Rap in general was illegal in Syria, they never accepted rap as an art until 2008; then we were invited to the first concert. We did all the other concerts at home, without amplification or anything. We sang to each other. In 2008 I think they did the first open public concert. We were distributing our songs, online or through Bluetooth or CDs that we were giving to people. And so you were rapping some new anti-liberal economy texts?

Everything! I did a song that we were investigated for by the secret services. It was called In Two Days and I did it in collaboration with another guy but we were called in for it. In this song, we were criticizing the economic reformation, especially when they decided to cut the subsidies on oil prices. Oil is used a lot for agriculture in Syria because of the power needed to drill wells. So the prices became four to five times higher than before, which meant that many people lost their jobs in the agricultural sector. And we did a song about the honor crimes; about freedom of expression. Back then I never dared to say that it was my own song, I just put it online and used a fake name.

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Joulia

So was it never been published under your name?

Mohammad

No, until the Revolution. Now, I say it’s my own.

Joulia

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And then you decided to leave Syria because of the danger after the Revolution, didn't you?

No. Before the Revolution started in 2007 I was doing my third year of Physics in Latakia in a Syrian university. They caught me distributing leaflets so they kicked me out of University, and they made sure I was banned from all the Syrian Universities so I could no longer study. But I didn’t mind it so much. I wanted to change anyways. I didn’t want to study Physics anymore, I wanted to study Economics. And how was the educational system in general?

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You do everything including universities for free. Schools are all for free. But they teach us the social national education. Were they authoritarian? Did you have to wear a uniform?

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We had to wear a military uniform at school. And every week we had one lesson on military education, one class of military education. We had to learn to assemble and disassemble a Kalashnikov, and other weapons.

Joulia

Girls also or only men?

Mohammad

Everyone!

Joulia

And did you also have preparations for the atomic war?

Mohammad

No, not at school. They didn’t mention anything of that at all.

Joulia

Ah! Do you still know how to assemble and disassemble a Kalashnikov?

Mohammad

Ah, now I forgot. I learned even how to shoot. Generally they showed us how to fight. They were preparing us for war rather than educating us. At the end it’s a good thing to know…

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Mohammad

Only if you want to know, not when you are forced. It is a militarized country, so the military controls everything. In 2007, I left Syria and I went to Jordan Mohammad Abu Hajar

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because I wanted to study Political Economics. In Syria we don’t have something like this. We have four years of everything together, Accounting, Business Administration, they put everything together in one course. And while I was doing that I was still with the Party, so I was going back and forth to Syria, every two month or so. I was going back to Damascus and I would go to Tartus once a year because it was so far. I was doing the vacation between two semesters, when the revolution in Egypt and Tunisia was escalating. We were trying to see if it was possible to bring the revolution to Syria. Activists called for the first day of rage to be the 6th of February. But the 6th of February came and nothing happened, nobody was on the street. I was in Tartus and went to the place where it was supposed to happen. I saw guys from the secret services controlling everything. So nobody dared to go, no civilians in sight. We were five or six people trying to see and we wanted to leave directly before they would arrest us. They started asking us if there was anything happening in other cities, but nothing. So the same day I went to Jordan to finish my University. I went back. And then the revolution started on the 15th of March. When it happened I went back to Syria and started getting involved in politics. I did one or two songs. But most of the time I was travelling around, joining protests, trying to mobilize I was working with the LCC, one of the highest levels of coordination among the Syrian activists. It was called LCC for Local Coordination Committees. It was a group of activists who decided to arrange how we were going to organize the activism in each city or sometimes in each neighborhood. I was the representative They were preparing us for of the local committee of Tartus war rather than educating us. in the LCC. Later, I became a member of the revolutionary office of the LCC. We were writing statements and we were saying, “We shall go there, and do that advocacy campaign now.” Local Committees supported the idea of the local councils. So they were the people who were managing the means of life. Managing how to get electricity to people, food, internet, everything. I’m a part of that movement you said you knew, the agricultural project 15th Garden? Concerned about food sovereignty and how people in besieged areas can produce their own food. Until the 14th of March 2012, one year after the Revolution, we were preparing for the first anniversary... Me and Ahmad, a member of Mazzaj Band, and another friend of ours were walking in the city and three armed men came and arrested us. They took us to the secret political services in Tartus. They said to me, “You are wanted for another branch in Damascus. They want to investigate another thing.” I stayed there for almost one 33


month. After they released me, I went back and I said, “I’m going to be active again.” So I started doing the same. It actually didn’t affect me a lot because we knew how to react to it. Even with a lot of torture. But we were together, me and my friends. So somehow I felt secure. Was Ahmad with you all the time?

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Yeah, Ahmad was with me, but not all the time. When I was in Damascus he wasn’t with me but I made some friends, so I was fine. They released me around the first or the second week of May. How did you manage to get out?

Joulia

Mohammad

The point is they didn’t want to put me in jail for a long time, because Tartus, where we were supposed to be, is a city under the regime. The majority of the people who are serving in the army are coming from there. Tartus is a calm city, it has a special privilege because the people have the same ethnic background than the people of Assad’s regime. The majority of the people are from the same ethnic background. So it’s a safe area, almost like Latakia?

Joulia

Mohammad

Actually more than Latakia. In Latakia almost half of the population went into protest or supported the revolution apart from the existence of the Syrian Free Army in the countryside. In Tartus, half of the people went to serve in the army after the Revolution. They came to arrest me again, two months after they released me. And then I felt so scared. I was yellow, I was collapsing, I felt a headache. It was 9:00 o’clock in the morning I didn’t have time to think. I jumped over the fence of our garden and started running to get a taxi to a safe place. It was serious. They wanted me to be in jail now. They shot a friend of mine. He got two bullets in his body in Tartus, which was the first and last time this happened there. So, I went to Damascus but I didn’t fit me, it was not the place where I grew up. I couldn’t do political activism, especially when they pushed political activism and besieged it in the small neighborhoods. The people there have trust only in the people from their neighborhood. They localized the movement instead of having a nationwide movement. It became more or less something connected to the neighborhood instead of something big. They were so scared of having something like the Egyptians, where people were gathering from all over the country in one place. So they said okay, we pushed them to be in their own neighborhoods, they can protest, but what will come out of a protest in a neighborhood? Mohammad Abu Hajar

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Almost like a ghetto…

Yeah, it’s gonna be like a ghetto. If you organize protests inside, you’re not going to get more than 2 000, 3000 people because it’s only people from the neighborhood. And that’s what happened; that was the beginning of the escalation for me, because then they started not killing activists but people who had connections with them, like family. That’s what pushed people to have weapons later, they reacted to the violence. The movement became something personal, rather than political; by killing someone who means a lot to me, the reaction was personal and emotional. Anyway, slowly I worked my way out, I fled to Jordan. I thought I’d stay in Jordan, but the discrimination against Syrians was so high that I knew I wasn’t going to find opportunities. Things in Syria were getting worse and worse, returning there was not an option, I had to find another place. I knew Berlin from before. I thought as a musician I can go to Berlin and I can do some concerts. So that’s what happened. I moved to Berlin and I needed to apply for asylum. So, I did and I was backed by many good sources. They backed my application with a lengthy letter of support. Therefore, the state gave me asylum in like two months. And here I am, I ended up as a refugee in Berlin. How long have you been here now?

Uh... September 2014... two years and three months. So, what does the organization Adopt A Revolution mean for you? Why did you decide to work with them?

For me, they are doing a particular job, not a humanitarian one. Adopt is different and special because they do real political solidarity. Still, they are an NGO but an NGO in brackets because what they believe is that they are a network of solidarity, not an NGO. The NGO part is just there to satisfy the German bureaucracy. A lot of corruption is happening, many NGO’s only do humanitarian work, which for me is also a problem. It’s a colonial approach because they de-politicize “poor” countries and the “developing” countries. They really de-politicize our problems. They think that they are occurring because we don’t know how to live together and that we are waiting for someone to come and give us a workshop in peaceful co-existence. We are political creatures. There are reasons why we are fighting. Also, there are political factors on why are people not living together. It’s not because they hate each other and they don’t want to co-exist. Actually I even

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hate the word co-existence, it’s too cheesy for me. It doesn’t belong to our culture. We did not co-exist, we always lived and existed together in the Middle East, until the Nationalist State came. We never had the concept of a Nationalist State. Suddenly Europeans came, colonized our country, and said, OK, now to be developed you have to have a Nationalist State. So they Nationalized the Middle East. They said okay, here are the borders of Syria. If you think about the borders, they were designed by people; by the French and by British. We had nothing to do with it. For like hundreds of years no clashes of ethnic backgrounds were documented in the Middle East, until Napoleon came. With the first campaign of Napoleon in the Middle East around the 18th something, Christians, Muslims and Jews were fighting each other for the first time. Napoleon came and occupied half of historical Syria which comprised of Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. And when he reached the North of Akko, the people there started to fight because he started playing on like, “Yeah!!! We are coming to emancipate Christians from the Islam.” But the churches were always there, no one had committed any acts of violence towards the Christians until then. People were like, “Oh! the Christians of Europe are coming to emancipate us.” On the other hand, others would say, “Look, the Christians of the Middle East are in support of the French.” I believe it reflects a kind of ignorance of the people, but they weren’t used to the French flag coming in, it was something so weird to them. The crusaders were coming with clear religious ideas. They were coming with the cross, it was something that still belonged to that region. They knew Christianity before they knew Islam. Rachel

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So did Assad somehow still profit from the idea of creating a nation? I mean, did he take advantage of that? Was he pushing the national agenda in order to create a faction? Did he play a role in that?

No, that’s what the Nationalist state inherited from the colonization, I think. They learned exactly how to play on ethnic diversities. All the states that came after had to utilize an ideological dogma in order to manipulate and control. This state aimed to be the representative of all the Arab minorities, the Christians, Alawis. Not Arab Sunis and not Kurds for example, that’s why you hear about a lot of violence that happened to Kurds. Half of them were prevented from having citizenship, they were living as an extra community, and so they were stateless in Syria. And because the state was playing on the ethnic diversity between Arabs and Kurds they said, “Now, Kurds we take your lands and we give it to the Arabs,” while at the Mohammad Abu Hajar

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same time they were playing the same game on the Sunni and Alawi. They have no other way to control the people. They need to play on conflicts and spread them amongst the people. We grew up knowing nothing about the Kurds in Tartus as we do in the West, so far away from the Kurds. We knew nothing about them, but from rumors spread by people who are close to the state we knew that if Kurds come to the city they are going to kidnap people; they spread rumors that resembled tales of monsters. And that is exactly the policy of the state. I should feel scared of Sunnis because at any given time they might come and they would want to kill the Alawis! That’s what I knew from the community, from everywhere actually. And the same applies for the Sunni Arabs in the Northeast, they tell them that the Kurds are the enemies. In 2004 for example the Kurds tried to revolt. They were in a stadium. Some people cheered for Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq who committed a massive massacre against Kurds and used chemical weapons against them. So the Kurdish people simply couldn’t take it and they started protesting, calling for emancipation codes and for their rights and citizenship in Syria. And what the Assad regime did was to send the secret services to tell the Arabs there, “Okay here’s a weapon, all these people have them, they are yours.” So they invaded the Kurdish cities and started stealing everything. A friend of mine had a cell phone shop, they invaded the place, put him on the floor, took everything and left. This situation created tensions between people. Those tensions are what we are seeing now. Tensions that have been provoked over the last 40 or 50 years and even before, but in the last 40 years they took a legal form; Kurds aren’t allowed to get citizenship. So in Syria the state legalized the injustice that was happening to many Syrians based on ethnic background. How did Assad’s divide create strife and how did it affect the situation when it came to the revolution and the war?

I’d say the revolution had three different phases: The first was the peaceful movement, you basically saw all the factions of the society under the umbrella of the revolution. Kurds were protesting under the same flag, the flag of the revolution, Alawis were the only minority that was a bit aside. But still many people in Tartus organized protests; we were still about 4000 to 5 000 people. So, it was a moment of gathering the people, I’m not going to say nation because we are not a nation but the whole country in a protest simultaneously. We used to call Friday, our main day of protest and this was the case for the entire country. For example, if I was 37

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protesting for the detainees in Tartus then people in Qamishli, which is a Kurdish city, would be protesting for the same thing. Everyone was represented in the Revolution, but the policy the Assad regime was putting into action was to localize the movement, to put checkpoints between every two neighborhoods so people could not move freely and easily and if some did, then they would be checked for revolutionary content on their phones or something. It became dangerous to leave one’s own neighborhood. Kurds would live by themselves you know? It’s like here – ghettos. And that was the fear they put in the minds of the people – that if you leave you’ll be greeted with a lot of checkpoints. Those kinds of fears escalated and fuelled the sub community mentality. Thus most Sunnis said, “Okay I am surrounded by Muslim Sunnis, I belong with them and I feel safe with them so the others are a threat.” Kurds evolved in the same way, and still many activists were trans-sectarian like in the East. But we weren’t strong enough because people who carried the weapons or took decisions to carry them were from different backgrounds. People who were educated enough or who were in multi-ethnic communities weren’t strong enough to carry a weapon. To kill someone you have to have the feeling that you have the absolute truth. Otherwise you have taken the right of someone else's life away from them. So you have to be very strong in your ideas. Around the summer of 2012, we started leaving the country. Many of the secular people – I’m not going to say modern because I hate this word –but many of the secular activists who were living a certain way of life… They lived as trans-nationals, trans-sectarians in a similar atmosphere so they started leaving Syria. Therefore the people who carried weapons were from a different background. They were so full of their will to emancipate themselves but they were radicalized by the conditions of the fight. When you are in a fight and you might face or encounter death every day, like 24 hours a day, your faith needs to increase somehow in what you believe because you are taking somebody’s life. You need to radicalize your beliefs in order to take somebody else’s life. The radicalization of the movement started to increase after the summer of 2012 and after that moment more tensions between different factions began. So Druze formed their own faction and fought under the name of Druze, Kurds started fighting under the name of Kurds, and the same happened with Arab Sunnis. They were even fighting under the names of the local neighborhoods. That’s how they localized the movement until everyone had their own political representative, even military representative.

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This is what Assad had been trying to do. So they played along with his strategy?

The only motivation they had was the psychological reaction to the actions, and those psychological reactions were localized. That’s how the movement got localized and instead of being a liberation movement, it stayed within the neighborhood. Which is why some neighborhoods said, “Okay we’ll go for a compromise with the regime.” And they had little regard for other’s suffering which became the big problem of Syria. That radicalization went to the edge with the appearance of Al-Nusra. They came as the most powerful and most well founded group representing the Arab Sunnis. Was that the end of the first phase of the revolution now?

The end of the second phase. Al-Nusra came as the most powerful group representing the Sunnis, and the most radical ground at the same time. They said they were part of Al-Qaida and a radical, fanatic right-wing group representing the Sunnis. What is the difference between Al-Nusra and ISIS ?

I’ll come to that. Ah, so they are not one and the same…

No, it’s not the same, they are fighting each other. So after Al-Nusra, the EPK came and even if they said they were leftwing they were strongly nationalist Kurds. And they came with that authoritarian power, with the typical, traditional image of the Kurd. With the moustache, the BIG moustache and the traditional costume. They were the radical version of the representation of the Kurds for the Kurds. So were they connected to the PKK?

That’s the PKK yeah. And they counted a lot on that national pride among Kurds. And they still count on it a lot, even in Turkey, but in Syria they were big, they had the power. In Turkey, the PKK is discriminated. They are weak and are always detained and oppressed by the state. So they count more on emancipation, they have to. Every oppressed group has more emancipator visions than people who have power. The EPK, or the PKK, in Syria were backed by the whole Kurdish region and thus they got the power, they were the authority so they played authoritarian. And the same with Al-Nusra: they 39

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controlled a piece of the land so they played in an authoritarian. At the same time we had the Shia groups coming from Iraq and Iran to support Assad. Consequently, the army that was representing the whole county started disappearing. We started seeing more Russian and Iranian militia fighting for Assad, for example, or Hezbolla fighting for the state. They were based on ethnic background, and that wasn’t the case for the Syrian army. They were Arab but they were representing everyone more or less. Even the Syrian army started to withdraw in front of the militias that were based on an ideological fanatic vision of Islam for Shias and Alawis but not Sunnis. That was the peak of the escalation in that ethnic tension, and then ISIS appeared. ISIS was the branch of Al-Qaida in Iraq and Al-Nusra was the branch of Al Qaida in Syria. But they went so radical... even more radical than AlQaida. They said, “Now we destroy borders between Syria and Iraq and we establish the Islamic Caliphate.” Which was not the approach of Al-Qaida. They were intervening but they didn’t want to control or establish a state. ISIS were the people who had the power to establish a state so they were even more rightwing than Al Qaida and therefore they started fighting brutally with Al-Nusra over who was representing the Arab Sunnis. Then both said that they were representing the Arab Sunnis, and so they started fighting among each other. With the appearance of ISIS, the declaration of the third phase came. The opening of the third phase in the Syrian Revolution helped a bit to radicalize the movement because the Arab Sunnis saw that Al-Nusra is strong and powerful, and was beating Assad. They were really harming Assad, getting many territories from him so people felt empathy with Al-Nusra because they saw hat they were strong. But when ISIS appeared people started to re-think their ideas, they said, “We want Islam, but not so much of it.” And it was at that moment that many people started becoming atheists. I grew up as an atheist and I never heard more mainstream discussions about atheism till the moment ISIS became a reality in the Middle East. They helped in pushing people towards radicalization, I think. The other characteristic of this phase was the over flowing of international NGOs and the destruction of the European or Western front. They started changing everything so people who used to be political activists were convinced that they would now work in development. For me, that was the real failure of the revolution. Even with Al-Nusra people were still demanding political changes, but with the European front, with the Western front people started satisfying the donor. How to satisfy the donor? The donor doesn’t want you to do something political, they want you to do development because when you work in development, you get more funds.

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So instead of doing something political now you work for female empowerment and clichés that the West loves. Female empowerment, peaceful coexistence, non-violent resistance. Funds, just funds for the development. People I knew who were so active politically now teach workshops about female empowerment and teach women how to have hairdressing workshops. That was the failure of the revolution: we put all our efforts into development. That is how the West sees us: as people who need development. We do not need freedom, we do not need emancipation, we don’t have any political demands, we just need development and this development can be achieved through female empowerment and peaceful coexistence. So all the funds started going there: to people who are suddenly teaching women how to be hairdressers. So all the others who were financially broken started doing the same to satisfy the donor. People who were engaged in protests and manifestations became active in how to establish a school for disabled kids, which is necessary but not the job of political activists. Political actiThey think that our problems are hapvists shouldn’t be doing female pening because we don’t know how to empowerment or development. live together and we are waiting for There are people who are experts someone to come and give us a workwho study development. But shop in peaceful co-existence. what about the not political activists? The Western front targeted the activists. You hear someone who did very big protests in Aleppo, protests that damaged the regime because it was in the cradle of the financial capital of Syria. And now they’re so proud because they established a new school in the countryside where they give lessons to different kids and the poor. That, as I said, discharged the political demands. Through this, we had no more political activism and, at the same time, that started to disconnect activists from the locals. So activists saw themselves as the white guy going to Africa with a lot of knowledge and now they were going to spread that knowledge. That was the first separation between the activists and the locals. I mean, we used to be integrated together, we used to work together! Activists came from the community of locals, they were part of the whole movement. And now they’re becoming part of a higher status. They sit in their luxurious offices in Turkey, they establish something and when they go there with a formal suit it’s with exactly the same feeling as that of the white guy going to Africa. You know that image of the white guy going with all the knowledge to liberate savages. That’s exactly what was happening. That was the third phase of the revolution. That killed everything. That’s how activists became disconnected from the mass movement.

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Can you please tell us about the emergence of the Free Syrian Army?

The Free Syrian Army came as a reaction to the state violence. The best thing that ever existed in Syria were the peaceful activists in the beginning of the revolution – those who faced the regime without any kind of weapon, but with a belief in freedom. The Free Syrian Army were authoritarian, they are authoritarian soldiers. You cannot expect a lot from a soldier. They can fight and fighting was a need for the people back then. But they aren’t my real allies in the fight. My real allies are the people who did the revolution peacefully. The peaceful revolution is where I see myself. These people are still doing things. For example, activists who, as we say, converted into development, are doing agriculture in the besieged areas in the South. They need to satisfy people’s basic needs. So, I don’t blame the people in the field who are doing that. I blame the activists who left and started another “development”, because the connection between the locals who are doing the job and the European NGOs doesn’t run through people in the field. It runs through the rich kids who speak good English and can write proposals. But, activists in the fields are left alone. They want to help people, that’s the only way they think they can do it. So they get my solidarity. So help me imagine Syria up to the point when Assad took Aleppo. How did things shape out? I can imagine bombs were falling and you’d have to go to another area to be safe. Is it like a constant migration? Were people constantly on the move once it got really bad with the bombing? Finding new homes and setting up from scratch again? How did people live?

Basically that’s what’s happening. If they don’t leave, the regime will do exactly what they did in Aleppo. Besiege the whole area so not even a single grain can enter before people starve so they would accept anything. And then the regime would say, “OK, if you don’t want to give it up.” Because people would usually refuse and say they’d die before giving up. But the regime would respond, “If you don’t want to give it up then you can go to Edlep.” All the opposition is in Edlep and I’m so scared of what they are preparing to do to Edlep because of what they did in Damascus' suburbs: they pushed them to go to the North. And I don’t know what plan they have for the North. We heard that in the days before the 18th of December, they had taken Aleppo, surrounded it and there were even executions. Now, what was happening there, did you find out?

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What happened was that the opposition was controlling almost half of Aleppo. And then, in three or four days, because of something we don’t know, things suddenly collapsed... I think it was a big international game because it was very weird how things escalated. We saw the Free Syrian Army losing control over more than two thirds of the territory that they used to control, in two or three days. The absolute majority of the fighters withdrew to the South without saying anything to the people. They left the people alone. Some heard what was going on hence so they were quick to go. But the rest of the people slept, and when they woke up everything was controlled by the regime. And for sure the regime knew who was active and who wasn’t active. The regime had a list of thousands of people who were doing political activism. Not only a list of fighters but also of politically active people. So that’s what they did, they assassinated and massacred those people who were wanted. They didn’t have the chance to move. And when you say political activists, you’re talking about spreading leaflets or giving people food, correct?

Yeah, even planting food to break the siege from the inside. Those were the kind of people hunted by the regime. Especially those people who worked on organizing political statements from inside or people who used to film and document everything. Those were the first to go. It’s a war crime.

It is. When you push people in such a way they can’t do anything but be radicalized, they feel so hurt. I mean, talking about myself – I’m more radical than before. I wasn’t that radical in my ideas but now I am. I am radically against any kind of Western intervention, I’m radical up to the point where I say, “Those are your borders, stay there and we stay here.” Sometimes, I just say that as a reaction to what I see. You guys in Europe stay there and let us do whatever we want here, don’t have anything to do with us. And it’s a radical idea, it’s not what I wished for the world. So you’re not in Syria and you can’t go back any time soon but apart from Adopt a Revolution you also have your music.

We are organizing other protests as well, not just with Adopt a Revolution, we do it with the Syrian activists in Berlin.

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Okay, so what can you do as a Syrian activist in Berlin?

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First, I only thought of solidarity with the Syrian Revolution: to spread awareness about the Syrian Revolution to get people to stand with them and see how we could support Syrians inside Syria. The first step I took was to connect German farmers to people in Syria who are doing urban gardening to help break the siege from the inside. But then I noticed that besides the agriculture we need to tell people here in Berlin about how our countries are manipulated by the media and by colonial privileges. So many of the activists here need to know that something wrong here. Not only because you are not showing Solidarity to the Syrian Revolution but because your entire approach to the Middle East, and I’m sure to Africa and Latin America too, contains a colonial approach. There is that supremacy against the minority in all white activists. I know it and not because of what is happening in Syria, but because it’s happening everywhere. You have millions of Syrians in Europe, or at least a hundred thousand. And yet the majority of information is about the refugee-situation. When I conduct lectures on Syria the majority of the questions I get are about how I feel as a refugee. They only see me as a refugee, which is somehow offensive, it’s like, come on! You have hundreds of thousands of resources of people who lived there and thousands of them are politically active, and aware, and educated. Some of them are so intellectual, and you still ask this question. This question gives them the satisfaction of doing good things for poor people – refugees are poor and need help. You get that feeling of being a good guy doing the right thing. But when you talk about politics or to political activists you need to be able to learn and feel solidarity, so it doesn’t provide the same satisfaction. I need to show my friends in Europe that they are privileged. And sometimes, as in the case with the Peace March, people are saying, “You’re connected to the Syrian flag, while I’m a citizen of the world and I don’t need a flag.” Yeah you’re a citizen of the world because you have the privilege to be a citizen of the world, a passport that lets you travel all over the world. That’s a position of power. You are from the block of countries of the West where the people benefit from the wars that are happening now. You are strong, you have power, you have privilege. Address it. If you don’t, it can lead people to say, “We don’t know and we don’t want to know who’s killing whom in Syria. I’m just going there to save people,” as happened at the assembly of the Peace March. I can’t imagine a more white group than that. Going to Africa to liberate the Mohammad Abu Hajar

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savages that are fighting and they don’t know why. That’s how they see us and that’s colonial, it is so colonial to think of people like this and to think that the revolution didn’t have any political conscience. They are not aware of things, they’re just killing each other because they grew up that way, they are savages, they are blood lovers and they don’t want to discuss. And, right now, it is so dangerous because what’s been said is, “All we want is peace.” Peace on whose terms? Assad gets to stay in power after all he has done? He has genocide on his hands.

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Then you are privileged to separate peace from justice because you have not Mohammad taken the concept of the injustice into consideration. It’s easy for someone who has not taken the consequences of the bad treatment and torture into consideration to say: stop the war. Because if Assad remains it might be safe to go to Damascus. It will be fine. It will fulfill the image of the Orient that is the old and beautiful, populated with the simple people who You are from the block of countries of will give you everything if you ask the west where the people benefit from them. Those are the images peopthe wars that are happening now. le seek from the Middle East and the Orient, that’s the only thing they know. But they don’t care about how the people live. So it doesn’t matter for them if there is justice or if there is not. All that they care for is that their conscience is fine having done something so cool like feeding the poor and they say, “Ah, I’m good.” It’s like church values, I do something good and I’m fine. I’m emancipated, God will be giving me the emancipation. It’s that kind of church, that hasn’t left the mind of the people yet. They don’t have a physical flag but they are even more nationalistic, because they occupy the identity of a philanthropic person and that’s why they have the authority to exclude the flag of the Syrian Revolution. They celebrate themselves as politically advanced, which is codified among themselves as flagless. They are not curious to understand the story.

In Europe 60-70 years ago they had Fascism and Nazism. And what did it mean to have peace between the people who were fighting Fascism and Fascists? Imagine everything went back to normal. Imagine we had stopped the civil war in Italy and Mussolini was the leader again, or: we stopped the civil war in Germany, Hitler could continue massacring Jews and other minorities. It’s not a war, as long as he’s massacring individuals, it’s fine.

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You give us hope actually when you say that you are into the educational system. How much more of a reasonable contribution would it be if the march was aware of what you are telling us now?

If they were aware then it would be the biggest solidarity movement of Europe for the Syrian Revolution. It would have put pressure on the European states too. I don’t think the Syrian state would be affected by a group of Europeans marching. But it would put pressure on the Western governments because they can do something. Every time I’ve visited the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs they’ve said, “Oh it’s too confusing and we don’t want to invest in it anymore, in anything besides the humanitarian help.” But if they see a movement that is growing we can achieve something. And the movements in Syria, they have papers that detail exactly what needs to be done. The paper says, “We shall take power from Assad.” His power should be given to a committee which is to be composed of a third of the rebels and factions, a third of the civil society and the political opposition, and a third of the regime. Assad has gangsters that are fighting, supporting the regime financially, and following his ideas. There are already many things that have collapsed, but we need a smooth transition of power. Accordingly, this committee which is composed of a third of each faction shall manage the first parliament, and then the presidential elections in such a way that would guarantee a smooth transition of power. This has been our proposal for three years now. A proposal that we can discuss when we are meeting with politicians. We can discuss its details with figures of the Assad regime. Figures that we documented who weren’t so violent, who exhibited hints of innovation in their ideas – I’m not going to say they are all devils. We can choose together who will form the community, in a way that everyone feels represented. Then we can start a political process that would lead to a democratic Syria. There are a lot of plans developed by different organizations in Syria. For example this one: http://thedayafter-sy.org Thank you, this was such an essential conversation.

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ariam um al wafa Krytyka talks to Ariam, the 26-year-old Syrian woman whose prominent and effective presence at Khora1 earned her the respect of her peers. Her proud and gentle demeanor draws a clear line between what constitutes a mass journey unfolding in the public-eye and a personal story charged with everlasting uncertainty. Joulia Strauss: How long have you been in Greece?

Ariam um al Wafa: About eight months. Joulia: You look like a superstar of Khora. How did you find this place?

Ariam: I was living in the 5th school 2 when some volunteers from Khora came to tell us about the centre. Soon after, I decided to come see the space and meet more volunteers in person. Joulia: And, after you acquainted yourself with the space, how often did you come initially?

Ariam: I volunteered, so I was coming every day to help. Khora is an initiative from a network of activists who opened a social centre and film school in Exarcheia. It stands in opposition to the current EU border system by creating a space where we come together.

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Joulia: How was the invitation extended to you? What was their first impression of you, it seems to me that you left a very positive one.

Ariam: Some of the volunteers in Khora told me that I am a nice person, some of them said nothing but from their behavior I understood that they liked me. Joulia: It took me three months to finally sit down with you in order to find out what kind of person you are.

Ariam: I apologize, you see, I can’t speak good English and it was impossible. The language has many barriers, many things that stop me from communicating with other people. Maybe some think I’m not talking to them out of pride but it’s the other way around. Joulia: No, what I was thinking most of all is that you do not wish to talk about your past.

2 The 5th school is a refugee home not far from Khora.

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Ariam

As a person, I bury my secrets inside me and can’t say them. My own family tells me – I am hard to read. So it’s not because of some traumatic journey from Syria.

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I was like that before, but now after the journey even more, I don’t want to talk with anybody. Some people are open books; some are closed. I am the latter. In an age where everybody posts photos of themselves on social media, and writes down everything about themselves, it’s the first time that I meet a person who is so closed. But you showed me a picture of you back in Syria with beautiful makeup on. Was it a special occasion when you had this photo taken?

The wedding of my sister. This photo doesn’t seem like me now, it’s totally different. It was five years ago. So you’re not different, it’s just the makeup. But it’s very expressive and free.

I was in a good situation then. I used to be always with my family, and now everybody is separated, so it’s very hard for me. Everybody had to flee to different countries?

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In Syria, I have only my mother, in Damascus. I have a sister in Turkey, my big brother and my father have passed away. My big brother was 27 years old. Both the death of my father and brother caused me huge harm. One month after the death of my father I could no longer stay in the house so I decided to go to Turkey. In the culture of our country, the girl can’t go alone when she leaves the house. I was in a very bad situation, taking medicine, when my sister and her husband decided to go to Turkey with their son. So I decided to go with them. My mother refused to let me go with them, so I pushed her a lot and they told them that Ariam will become worse if she stays in the house. So I left for Turkey and stayed for eight months. I thought that leaving the house where my dead brother and father had lived would change things, but unfortunately nothing changed. With the passing of time, everyday things became more difficult for me. After eight months my brother Fahed, my mother and me decided to emigrate. My mother was in Turkey, but because she was old and a bit sick, she couldn’t complete the journey to come here, so she went back to Syria. She was stuck between the borders of Syria and Turkey for two months. So she went back to our house in Syria and my brother Fahed continued and she told him that it’s very difficult for him to go back to Syria because he’s a man. She said Ariam Um Al Wafa

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to him that she could come by plane to Turkey, but later Turkey stopped accepting Syrians by plane so my mother couldn’t come. So going outside Syria is impossible and Fahed decided to go to Germany; we decided to get out of Turkey and we came to Greece. And at this moment the borders closed? So, you could not go to Germany?

We knew that the borders were closed, but there were some smugglers who could help us to go by illegal means. I stayed at the Greek island for a week and I couldn’t take it anymore. Every day I was crying and so my brother Fahed decided to send me illegally to Athens. For my further journey, my brother gave money to a smuggler. Then the smuggler disappeared so I was obliged to stay at the 5th school, and it was the hardest situation I was ever in. In one room we were about 25 people, living there, women, children, we couldn’t sleep, it was very difficult, I couldn’t eat, for days I didn’t put anything in my mouth, not because we had no food, but because I had no appetite to eat, because of the situation. There was trouble between me and a woman there who was working with the administration of the school and the kitchen. So the director of the school kicked me out because of her. A Canadian girl took me and my brother in with her to her house and we are still living with her.

Joulia

Ariam

And this 5th school, where is it?

Joulia

It’s about a 100 meters from here.

Ariam

And what were you doing in Syria before the situation became complicated?

Joulia

I was studying, I was teaching. I didn’t have the certification for being a nurse, but I was working, helping a doctor as a nurse. And this is what you liked doing the most?

I loved being a nurse. If I had a nurse certification or a degree, I could be a great nurse, because I love what I do. So we should fight for this now. Or do you still want to go to Germany?

The situation in Germany is very difficult, the majority of the people are sitting in the camps and they need more than a year to get some papers. Now I’m confused, I don’t know what to do, where to go. I decided to go, but I can’t because I have no papers. Here I’m disabled, I can’t decide to do anything, nothing is in my hands. Other questions? 49

Ariam

Joulia

Ariam

Joulia

Ariam


I don’t want to terrorize you.

Joulia

No problem, she is a lion, no fear, a Syrian. She’s not afraid, you can ask anything.

Translator

No heart, as you were joking before?

Joulia

Ariam

Anybody who has a heart has to feel life, right? I don’t want to philosophize but this is my nature. When I was in Syria I wasn’t writing poetry exactly but I was writing some pieces, philosophic pieces. I don’t feel anything now. Anything I’m going towards, there’s always something coming against me.

Joulia

As if life turned against you?

Ariam

Exactly.

Joulia

Ariam

Joulia

This is what happens with the world right now. It’s finished. The system. But what were you writing about?

Whatever I felt i wanted to write about. But for the last four years, I haven’t written anything. My life has stopped. I’m breathing but I’m not living. This is what I’m feeling now. To make this happen again, you have to be in a better situation right? And do you have your poems or writing?

Ariam

I left everything in Syria. I had a lot of notes, but I left everything behind.

Joulia

And how is your mother, you speak with her?

Ariam

I haven’t talked to my mother for four months, because they have no internet. We have internet cafes but for the women it’s very difficult to visit these internet cafes, and she is old. It’s very difficult in our area for the women to go out alone, by themselves, to internet cafes. It’s a shame! It’s forbidden to have internet and to go out alone, it’s full of ISIS, the area where my mother is living. She’s on her own, my brothers and sisters are not with her. In Syria, nobody understands you either?

Joulia

Ariam

It is my character when I feel pain not to show it; I bury the pain inside of me. I feel that it’s better than to let it out. It’s like I am holding a burning coal

Ariam Um Al Wafa

50


in my hand and nobody can feel my pain. You can feel from afar that I’m in pain but you can’t feel the same pain as I do. What do you think of all these initiatives in Khora?

I think that Khora is going in the right direction, I like them because they are supportive personally. They are faithfully trying to support. I like them. Even the people inside, they are really good with their behavior towards the Syrians. Khora is a place where they can rest, they can be comfortable. People here are responsible. They are like a gang. Do you actually see a difference for a woman to live here than how it is to live in Syria? Here for instance you can go to the internet cafe without any problem.

Joulia

Ariam

Joulia

Of course it’s very different, but I don’t feel that I’m living here.

Ariam

You are separated from the place?

Joulia

Here, I don’t have any purpose. I feel useless, I’m living in this house, taking advantage of my host. I feel that my life is frozen. I eat, I drink, I sleep, it’s a frozen life and I don’t like it. How do you think we could help to unfreeze it?

I don’t want to go to Germany, I want a place where I can have a new start, to feel like a human. Some place where I can feel like myself, not a frozen person. People will read this interview and then they will come to Khora and ask, where is Ariam? We want to talk to Ariam. I’m thinking, we have to inform them, and open an illegal Ariam hospital. And the Ariam school, and what else? A special room for writing. Teaching to write. Ariam will be teaching writing.

To help her we need to find her a solution. Do you have any solutions for her? No, because you cannot break the law, you cannot take her far from Greece. She needs papers to be able to leave this place. It’s a depressing place here. For us, it’s OK, we don’t feel it, because we can leave anytime we want, but for her she feels that she is in a big jail, sitting here, she can’t go anywhere, she left the island illegally coming here and she can’t continue with her papers, because they told her she needs to go back to the island and continue there. She can’t live on this island so she is in a black hole, you know it’s eating her.

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Ariam

Joulia

Ariam

Joulia

Translator


So it’s burning all the time?

Joulia

Ariam

Translator

Joulia

Yes. When I’m sleeping, when I’m walking, when I’m talking to you now. It’s burning. I’m talking to you and my thoughts are flying away. My thoughts are all over the world, in my future, in Syria, Turkey, in the past, everything. I asked her to talk about her past. She said she would prefer not to say anything now. And about the future, so the thoughts are flying into the future. And you, everybody likes you, you will cross all the borders. This prison without walls will end.

What you say makes me happy, that everybody likes me.

Ariam

Joulia

Ariam

Joulia

Ariam

Please, don’t think that you are taking advantage of everybody’s help. Because for everybody trying to help you it’s a big gift when you accept their kind gestures. People are fighting for you to accept their help. I asked one friend, “Did you bring Ariam the coat?” And she said, “Yes, I brought the coat to Ariam but people were laughing at me, saying, ‘Many have tried to give a coat to Ariam.’”

I don’t like to take anything from anybody. My late father, he taught me not to accept anything from other people. Anything I need, I need to ask from my father and from my brothers. He taught us not to take advantage of the people that are trying to help us. This is why I don’t accept, it’s the way we were raised. I don’t accept easily. No, of course not easily. You can always see what kind of help is from the heart and what is not. But what you are doing for Khora is priceless.

When I’m helping in Khora, I help them because they are trying to help us. So we try to be one hand, one fist, together. We help them, they help us. Is this something that you imagine, living like this in your future also?

Joulia

Ariam

In this situation I’m living in now, my future seems more dark than it ever was. I decided to go out of Syria one and a half years ago. I used a smuggler from my city, Deir ez-Zor, which is beside the border with Iraq. He took us in the afternoon, he took us in a group of cars and at the border of Turkey another smuggler took us. It was very far, it took about a few days, about two days in the bus. He took us from a road, with big tents on the road, so all the people passing this place, they slept in the tents. When we arrived

Ariam Um Al Wafa

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at the Turkish border we were captured by the Turks, it was night so they attacked us with lights and they had guns. They were shooting in the air. I had my nephew with me, the Turkish soldier put a knife to his neck, he was a baby eight months old and he was in the arms of his father, the husband of my sister, they hit him with the back of the gun in his back and he got hurt, he couldn’t stand up. A soldier tried to shoot my brother in law but the gun was stuck, so he threw the gun and he took his dagger and put it in the neck of the small child and after in his father’s neck, so we started begging them not to hurt us. My sister was talking with them, but we couldn’t speak Turkish, we were begging them, “Please don’t hurt us, don’t kill us.” Then we went back to Syria, to our city, Deir ez-Zor. After a week, we tried again to go to Turkey. We tried with another smuggler and finally we entered Turkey, we entered a city called Kilis and from Kilis we took a car with the help of the smuggler and we went to Urfa, we have some relatives there, we stayed with them. We stayed for ten days, and then we rented a house so we stayed there for about five months. After that we went to Alazin, another city. My mother wasn’t with me, she went back from the borders, she didn’t pass to Turkey, it was me, my sister, my brother in law and my nephew. It was impossible but we managed to go. And my brother Fahed said to me, “Anything that you decide I will agree too because you are the most important person for us, not our customs and habits, I will support you anywhere you want to go, because I trust you. I will support you, I know that you are strong, and I’m not afraid for you.” And until now, he’s supporting me in any decision I take, no other brother can support his sister like my brother has supported me. It’s very important for me, that he is supporting me so much. It’s the only sweet thing that has happened to me, he has given me a reason to live. I’m struggling with life; because I want to be beside my brother. ◆

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54


ismail alsafo Krytyka talks to Ismail from Iraq, who is part of the Yazidi minority. He zooms in and singles out one location, one incident, and one memory. Its haunting quality holds truth – the kind of truth that is numbing, as it challenges our perceptual faculties. With a contribution by Samer Al-Ali

Joulia Strauss: What is your name?

Ismail Alsafo: My name is Ismail from Iraq. I’m from a Muslim city called Shinjar. We are honored to have you here today and to have your help. This photo shows little kids from my area and the right part shows photos from ISIS. People had to flee. There were hundreds of kids just one month old and above who were being killed. And some people of older ages couldn’t even escape because climbing the mountain was very difficult for them. And in an attempt to escape they died from thirst. This other photo, again, shows people from my area in trucks. They are trying to climb up as the truck is moving. They were going to Syria, which was safer at that time. There were seventy five thousand people from my

place who were stuck in Shinjar in the mountain. They had no food to eat or water to drink. In order to get water for their families and for the kids they had to go to the front line to a very risky place, get a liter of water and dodge the bullets that were being shot all around. Luckily, I managed to survive and I would come back and feed every one of my children. People had to eat the leaves of the trees because they had no food... Once I was running away to climb the mountain and there were many people who were running towards the top of the mountain. It was a very long distance, almost five kilometers to get to the top of the mountain, it was considered a safer place. Next to me there was a family who was trying to escape. The father of the family was shot dead. The mother was carrying a baby and

55


she kept climbing, and from panicking and the shock, I’m not sure for what reason, but unintentionally the woman threw away the child into the valley. Few meters ahead she turned back and said, “Where is the baby?” I was next to her, so I told her, “You threw the baby in the valley down there.” So she went back and threw herself as well. Every few meters you would encounter a dead body killed either by a shooting, thirst or falling as they were running away. At this spot they would have walked almost six or seven kilometers from that place and they would be heading to Syria, they would enter Syria and when they’d cross they’d move north to Kurdistan and then to Turkey. So on this photo they are heading to Syria. We saw many babies and kids dead in the mountain as we were climbing. The leaves are very bitter and when you eat them you need to drink water and there was no water. This one was in August 2014 when they fled. These kids died of thirst. – referring to further photos – They encountered some of them that were still alive but there was no water so they didn’t have any chance. This is a van that got turned over and they got killed because of the accident. And this one is in a village close to Shinjar. The locals of that village were all arrested and beheaded. In this place people where stuck inside a cave and they couldn’t get out of it, otherwise they’d be killed. Here, there were sixteen people and only one of them survived and that was my cousin. He was the sole survivor. 43 of my relatives and family members are still considered lost. This place, Shinjar, after being raided from ISIS, holds at least twenty-one mass graves and this is one of them. This photo is not from my area, it’s from Ramadi, and the ones being executed are Iraqi soldiers. They were executed and buried in one single mass graveyard and they say that there are about 1 700 bodies in there. Samer Al-Ali

Gudrun Barenbrock

Ismail

These people are fighting in the name of Islam in the name of religion and in the name of Sharia but the only people harmed are the followers of Islam. The people are fleeing because of them and Ismail says they aren’t representing our religion in a right way. One of their actions that has no root in Islam is that if they found a smoker they would cut off his fingers, this has no root in Islam. Islam is the religion of love, not killing. These kinds of massacres were done by all religions. Christians were quite good at doing this. Let’s come backtothe German Nazis, they were Christians... religion is not something that holds you back from killing other people. We are harmed from both sides. Firstly, from the people who claim to represent Islam which caused us to flee our homes and secondly, from the people who view Islam in this way and treat us on this basis and think that Ismail Alsafo

56


we are terrorists. But we are the victims of terrorists. We want to live with all different types of minorities regardless of their background and were they’re from. We live with Kurds and all different types of minorities from all sort of religions. And apart from ISIS, Assad has done his fair share of damage as well. From Assad you would find a barrel full of explosives killing your family instantly, this is what they would find from Assad every day. When I hear the humming of an airplane I get scared: in my workplace just two meters away from me a bomb fell. I knew a person that was carrying a child, his name is Barakat, and I saw the child crying because it was thirsty half an hour before it died. These are the kids – referring to further images – that were killed in the vehicle accident, all of them were killed. Another child that died because of thirst... many, many people died. There are 307 000 women who are still under ISIS, they’re still captives. Some of them are young girls of the age nine to twelve and they get married four times a month. Every week there is one ISIS member who marries her for one week, abuses her for one week and sells her as a slave to one of his colleagues. Thank you for being so kind as to bring it up in your mind again and tell it to us.

Joulia

This is only what I saw and everyone else has their own story.

Ismail

How did this change the way you see the world and how do you see your life?

I understand that one’s fingers are not alike. So are people, not all people are the same so I believe in good people still, and the only thing I hope for is that I and my kids will live in a good place where it is safe and where we can have good education, that is all I hope for.

Katja Ehrhardt

Ismail

And how long have you been here?

Katja

I have been here for one year and two days exactly.

Ismail

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58


junaid baloch & sameer ahmed Krytyka talks to two Balochi cousins whose path was joined at the IranianTurkish border. Their departure point was Balochistan, an arid mountainous area in Asia. The Land of Balochi is administratively divided among Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, right where the two men were raised and where they had to flee from. Joulia Strauss: Were you here in Khora from the beginning?

Sameer Ahmed: No, we are only here for about three weeks. Joulia: And you met here in Khora? Or Mytilini?

Sameer: In Turkey, when he was at the agent’s house. Joulia: What agent?

Sameer: He was taking us from Turkey to Greece. We gave him money, because we needed to come to Europe for the asylum, so that’s why we gave him money, and Junaid was there. At this point, the story is taking two different directions. How you and Junaid came to Turkey, it’s two separate paths.

Sameer: But before we met, first we were cousins. From the Balochistan, but we came from different areas, so we didn’t know each other. We met at the Turkish border. Joulia: Junaid, you were born in Balochistan. Which city?

Junaid: I was born in Karan. I have two brothers and four sisters.

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Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

So your brothers and sisters also automatically became freedom fighters? Or is it not necessary that one becomes politically active in Balochistan?

My little brother was killed by falling rubble. He used to be involved in this struggle for freedom of the Balochistan. My second brother is not involved, but he has been underground, because of a friend he had who is political. What I’m getting at, is everybody politicized right from the very beginning? When you grow up, you are politicized, and you become participants of the freedom struggle?

Junaid

Every Baloch wants freedom.

Joulia

Are your sisters supporters? Or do they have some other profession also?

Junaid

Of course, my sisters and other Baloch sisters are supporters.

Joulia

Junaid

Everybody is involved. When did you come in touch with the organized political groups? Were you going to school when you started to participate in the movement, or were you in the university?

In 2006 I was learning in the sixth class. The Baloch have been struggling for a long time. First 1839 and then the second time in 1947. The BSO, the Baloch Students Organisation, was active. So they were giving speeches about Balochistan. I wasn’t involved with them but I liked them, I watched their talks and what they wanted. I liked them from that time. And you made friends with them?

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

My uncles were with the BSO, so I got there through them and attended some functions. There are some matters they give speeches about. BSO is a student organization, it’s about what are the rights of the students, about what the students want. And it’s organized by the students or organized by the grown ups, for the students?

By the grown ups. They want rights for the students, they want education, and many things, like what are the proper things for the students. Pakistan is not giving any education facilities for the Baloch people. Of course not, the lack of education is one of the many important parts of the freedom struggle. Junaid Baloch & Sameer Ahmed

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From 1967 on, when the BSO grew, we wanted freedom, we wanted our rights. Does BSO come up with its own specific educational ideas, or is it fighting for education in general? Philosophy? Culture? Balochi language? Balochi literature, history, art? What exactly is the program?

Those who are occupied are first of all deprived from education. Without education you don’t know anything. Yes, and so Pakistan is making sure that in Pakistan people don’t know anything. And is it possible to speak Balochi language with no problem, in the country, or is it also another language that they are trying to impose?

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

They are trying to impose Urdu. Now China wants to impose Chinese.

Junaid

So for you it is complicated to keep the language?

Joulia

Yeah, some Baloch guys refuse to talk in Urdu, they just speak Balochi, they say “Urdu is not our language.” And what happens with them? Do get punished for this?

Yes. There are regions in Balochistan where they don’t have any education and they only speak Balochi, they don’t have another language. So they are isolated. And what about their religion?

It’s Muslim. The world is destroying our religion, religion is not our problem. We are democratic, secular, we don’t believe that other people who are from another religion are bad. And Pakistan made ISIS. It was involved in the Baloch killings. And they do Shia, Shia is also a part of Muslim, but they just brainwashed the Shia, and in Querta, they bombed on the Shia and said that the Baloch were responsible. They want to fight each other. There are too many different religions living there, Hindu, Muslim, Christian. Some Hindus like the festivals, so they will go there. Most Balochi go to them, too. We see them as human beings, we don’t see their religion. Nobody will enforce you to be Muslim, Hindu or Christian. It will destroy the unity. Yes but for example, you’ve shown a video, where the girls were dancing with exposed hair, and it was not a problem in Balochistan. Now, I understand that Balochistan is a very very politicized place. We were trying to talk about your story, but we are still in the sixth grade. What happened afterwards? 61

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia


Junaid

I got more education after that. When I went to the ninth grade, I got involved in demonstrations and distributing pamphlets. In 2003 I was in college, in the first year, I was involved in the BSO and became a member of the BSO. I was a secretary of a unit, in 2003.

Joulia

And was it already repressed, the BSO organization? Was it dangerous?

Junaid

Yeah it was dangerous, killing had started, but not openly.

Joulia

And they didn’t shut it down? The organization was tolerated?

Junaid

Yeah, and after 2006 I became the counsellor in BSO. I was in the central committee. After the killing of Akbar Bugti who was the leader of the Balochi. He was leader of the BRP party, that time he was very famous, he was a big name and he was from the royal family. He was demanding freedom in 2006. That time, Akbar Bugti was in the Jamhoori Wattan Party. This was another party member, demanding the freedom of Balochistan, but he was killed on August 27, 2006. Killed by bombing, and 70 other people were killed at that moment. After the killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, the situation totally changed. After 2006, Pakistan started the killings of innocent Baloch. And a lot of people, lawyers, teachers, poets of the Baloch, who were talking about the Baloch freedom, disappeared. Did the student organization experience problems too?

Joulia

Junaid

Yes, many problems doing these speeches. You don’t do speeches openly. After that BSO started the demonstrations in other areas, we started the big party.

Joulia

Coming from the student movement?

Junaid

Yeah. And it is still the biggest party.

Joulia

Junaid

And so your organization was exposed. Did you have to go underground to protect yourself?

We organized the people to struggle for the Balochistan freedom and they said what Pakistan was doing with them. They told the people to go to another area, into the mountains. So they went there and told the people what the Pakistan is doing with them, what actually is the Pakistan and who they are. We were informing them about their rights. In 2006, you couldn't openly do anything, but I had to go underground. After 2006, they

Junaid Baloch & Sameer Ahmed

62


just started abducting people and put them in jail, torture them and give them some drug injections. In 2009, when Sher Mamman, Ghulam Mamman (president of BNM at that time) and Lala Munir, who are famous and were still demanding the freedom of the Balochistan, were killed, the party went underground, because now Pakistan had openly started the killings. And what was your part then?

I was caught by Pakistani forces in 2006 and was in jail for nine months. I was the president in BSO in 2007 when I left jail. They didn’t leave me to sleep in the jail, they tortured me, they beat me. They put a chair here and a chair there, and there’s a long stick of wood, and my hands were tied with the ropes. So they hung you between two chairs.

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

There is a tire; if it touches your skin, it takes your skin down. They beat us with a stick, but they didn’t use the tire. But there is another thing that just hurts the skin. You can boil it and it will burn. I was scared that when they leave me, the police would catch me again, because I was a political worker and I was involved in illegal activities. They knew about me but they didn’t have any proof. Because of this, I had to leave the BSO. If somebody wants his rights, it is not terrorism I think. Pakistan criminalized you, right? Are you officially a terrorist?

They say that I am a terrorist. They told me to stop these kinds of activities. But after they set me free, I didn’t stop. Again, I was doing the same struggling. In 2009, again the council session came to Balochistan university and there was a voting. That time I was a member in the central committee. I was a part of the election and got success. Central Committee’s work to make policy for the people, for the committees, how we do things and how we are mobilized. Again the police caught me in 2009. Before the killings of Sher Mamman, Ghulam Mamman and Lala Munir. For three months I was jailed in 2009. I was again released because they didn’t have proof. After the killings of them, there was a huge protest we did in the Balochistan, in the whole area. After I was released from the jail, I went underground. Because the Balochistan is very big, we have mountains and small ledges, so you can not go with the bus on those ledges. I stayed there: sometimes also in the forest or the mountains. I didn’t head home. Pakistani army and police forces were around there. We call them FC. And you had to travel around from village to village? 63

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia


Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Yes, with a bike. While I was underground, the whole community was killed. We changed places because sometimes the jets came and they would throw bombs in that area, so that’s why we would have to change from place to place. This happened 2012 or 2013. When I left that area forces came and destroyed all the houses there. And how did you decide that it was time to go? Was it one particular event or a long process during which many of your comrades or friends were killed? How did you make the decision?

If you are BSO you have the knowledge how to do things, how to prepare the people for the struggle, how to give the speeches to the people and what they should do. BSO is like training and they give you education, so it’s up to you to choose your way, where do you want to go: BIP, BNM, freedom movement. And what’s the big difference between BNM and other parties?

There’s no difference between them, all of them want freedom. And they are so many because if some party is destroyed, another party will remain. So you don’t unite into one big party, because if you consist of different small parties, then they cannot kill all.

Sher Mamman, the president of the BNM, tried to unite all the parties together. I was in BNM, so I talked to the leaders of every party and said we need to make a front – BNF, Baloch National Front. They said OK, but after the killing of Ghulam Mamman, they were against it, it broke.

Joulia

Why was it broken?

Junaid

Like BNF, after the killing of Sher and Ghulam Mamman...

Joulia

Junaid

After the killing of Mamman, the general secretary of the BNM, the BNF would also fall apart. Is that still the current situation now or what happened in 2012?

No, this was in 2009, when they killed Ghulam Mamman. Now they are working to make unity but it’s very hard to do work in the Balochistan, because the situation totally changed after 2015. I was there and they all said, “we have to go to the other countries because they will listen and they have human rights conditions, like the UN and MSD international, they will listen to us”, so that’s why I came here. This man – shows the photo – he is coming out from Goda, there are some EPSI – the Pakistani forces, Pakistani army. The Junaid Baloch & Sameer Ahmed

64


freedom fighters fight them. But then they are gone and EPSI also kills civilians. This man was coming with his family, he was my cousin. They saw him and they just fired at the motor with a rocket launcher. They fired whenthere was a car and the car was destroyed. The motor was gone, the backside was fully gone and Sameer was sitting in the front, he took out his mother, and said, “Don’t kill us” but they fired. Without any reason. He wasn’t involved. Horrible, and where is he now?

He is dead. They just fired the RPG, they knew they were civilians and that they didn’t do anything, but they killed them, without any reason. And they kill many people like this, it’s not just Shameer, there are many of them, without any reason; 5 000 people were killed without any reason in the Balochistan, and about 20 000 were abducted. 384 of them disappeared. They are missing and one in ten is killed. They did 119 operations in the Balochistan, only just in the last month. It becomes harder year by year.

Yes. Before only some people knew about the Balochistan situation, now all of the Balochi know about it. So many people are struggling for their freedom and if they get caught, the Pakistani forces or ISIS will kill them. The Pakistan made ISIS in the Balochistan. They gave training. When I was still in school, they told a friend of mine to meet with a person in Karachi. He went to ISIS and later told me what happened. They went for the education, brainwashed and mobilised them, like, what they should do for the Islamic state, what the Islamic state should become. I said, “How do you do these kinds of things?” He said, “First, don’t tell your family, because they will not allow you to do them.” He said they went to the Quetta, and the Pakistan army was there. They had guns in front of the check post where the army was standing, nobody was asking why they had a gun. They went to a training place in Quetta; they make militants there, the ISIS training. They was trained for 14 days. After the 14 days their trainer was gone. He had told them to stay, and said that he would leave. He had said, “If any check post gets you, you should tell them my name.” My friend told me that whenever he was at a checkpoint, he just mentioned that person's name, and they let him go. He became one of them.

One of them. And I asked, “What is your job? What do you do? He said, “We fight against the Shia.” I asked, “Why?” He said, “They are not Muslims, 65

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid


that’s why.” The Pakistan army made these militants. His uncle was killed in front of him. The Pakistani forces bombed a house and his uncle was there. Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Hard stories all these situations, a cousin was killed in a car, uncle was killed in a house and you are sitting here, in the middle of Athens and everybody talks about refugees. It could happen with our houses and with our cousins...

In 2014, when my uncle was killed they also killed six children, and two or three who were homeless. There was a child, the bomb went off on his head. These stories becomes a story of everybody. All these stories come together somehow. But we still have to follow each.

Junaid

I was sitting in the fire of the rocket launcher. The gunship in the helicopter.

Joulia

When did you decide to come here?

Junaid

We said we need to get out of the Balochistan, because we can’t do anything in Balochistan now, the situation has become very bad. And we went to Europe because of the struggle in Balochistan, we went for the Baloch people. We didn’t come here for jobs or these kinds of things, we came here for the freedom struggle. The world doesn’t know about the Balochistan. In Khora, many people asked, “Where are you from?” We said, “Balochistan”. They said, “Where is Balochistan?” Because our ramifications were to hide from the people, from the world, because of Pakistan.

Joulia

And when did you come?

Junaid

In March, I came to Mytilini.

Joulia

Before Mytilini you were in Turkey. How did you come to Turkey?

Junaid

I came with motorcycles to Sarawan. And from there into Iran.

Joulia

How did you cross the border from Balochistan?

Junaid

Joulia

There’s a huge population of the Balochistan in Iran. We had connections with them, we could travel easily into Iran. How complicated is it? What do you have to do to cross the border?

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There are some smugglers, like diesel smugglers. Petrol, these kinds of smugglers. I went through them to Iran. From Sarawan to Zahedan. Some relatives were in Sarawan. I didn’t have any card, any Iran identification, so they took me home and after that I went to Chabahar. So you traveled without documents? Did this happen all the time?

Yeah, I was in the trailer, the big container. I was in the big container, because after Chabahar in Balochistan it’s more difficult to cross the border.

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

How long were you sitting inside the container?

Joulia

48 hours. Without food.

Junaid

There are many points of control on the way to Iran. You didn’t face any dangerous situation?

Joulia

I didn’t see anything from the inside of the container.

Junaid

But did you stop many times?

Joulia

Yeah, I just counted them, I think it was fifteen check post camps. And suddenly, we were like in a grave. So where were you when you came out of the container?

Teheran. The smugglers said they took me out in Teheran. Then we went to Urmia. After they opened the containers they took me into a car. Were you afraid?

If you were caught by Irani forces, they would report you in the Taftan, that is an area in Quetta, a big jail. So if some Pakistani caught you in Iran, they would take you to Taftan.

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Joulia

Junaid

Can Pakistanis catch you in Iran?

Joulia

Yeah.

Junaid

Are there many people from Balochistan in the jail of Taftan?

Joulia

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Yes. Fortunately this was not your case. So what happened after they opened the container? Where did they take you?

Into a house, and after that they took me to the Urmia, a city in Turkey at the border of Iran. So that was when you crossed the border and moved into Turkey?

No, I was in this place, just five minutes from the border. There’s a big mountain between the Iran and Turkey. So you need to climb it. We climbed it by foot, there was snow. It was too cold and you had no oxygen. We started climbing at 7 pm. We were climbing all night. Are there forces nearby that they can catch you or even shoot you?

Yeah, there is an Iran check post very near, but they didn’t fire at me. Is it necessary, for those from that part of the Middle East, to cross that mountain before reaching Turkey?

Junaid

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Yes. Everybody went through there.

Junaid

So did you reach Turkey after going downhill?

Joulia

Yes, I was in Turkey after crossing the road.

Junaid

Was this part of the deal with the smugglers or were you autonomous? Did you have to cross it yourserves or did you have some agreement?

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Sameer

No, the smuggler left you at the top. He said, “Go down and there is some person who is with the smugglers, and you should give your smuggler name to them.” We had code names. So you give the code name to the people that wait for you and you are free inside Turkey?

No, there is a safe place. They call it a safe place but it’s not really a safe place. Inside Turkey, they take us and go to the safe place. They call the agent, and ask, “Is that your person?”, he says “Yes, he is my person,” so they give you money, and they take you to the bus station. After the bus station they take you to Istanbul. When we are on the border after crossing the road, we sit in a van. It is really crowded and you cannot breathe.

Joulia

Do all these people cross the border and go into Istanbul?

Sameer

Yes, and there is another agent waiting for you.

Joulia

And how do you find him?

Sameer

One agent is connected to the whole network, so they are giving you numbers, and if you go to them, they will let you come. Me and Junaid met there.

Joulia

Did you both come here with the same agent from Instanbul?

Sameer

Yeah, first day we came, and second day we depart, to Mytilini, with the boat.

Joulia

Does this agent have any relation to Balochistan?

Sameer

No, nothing.

Joulia

So their job of bringing people from Turkey into Greece is not part of a political struggle but they are doing it for money. What about those who brought you from Iran to Turkey and then Istanbul? Do they do it for money or are there any other reasons?

Only for money.

Sameer

Joulia

Then the only ones who were doing it for Balochistan were the ones in the cross between Balochistan and Iran.

Yes.

Sameer

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So you lost connection with your friends at the border, in Chawar, and then you arrived in Mytilini, by boat, with other refugees from other countries?

Yeah, there are many refugees from other countries: Syrians, Afghani, Pakistani. And how is the atmosphere between you and the Pakistani?

We don’t discuss it. We don’t talk to them. Can you tell me more about your journey?

When I came to Istanbul and gave the money, the agent gave me a life jacket and took me to another place. The bus stopped in the forest and he said, “Follow me.” Where did this happen?

In Turkey. After Instanbul. Before you arrived in the port?

Yeah. It was night and we were walking in the forest for 30 minutes, near the sea. And there were a lot of people who had guns, pistols. And these people stood in front of us, and said, “Come on.” Two or three people came with boats like tubes and pushed them to the shore. We had to push them back into the water when the boats were filled with people. It was very heavy. How many people were in this boat?

64 people in this tube. I was very afraid and thought, “It’s my last day.” Because the waves were very big. I said, “If the boat turns, I will take off my jacket and I will die. I don’t want to live anymore.” The water went in the boat, and the waves were huge. It was very bad because there were small children inside this tube. Everybody was just praying, in different languages. Many Gods... How long did it take you to arrive to Mytilini?

Mytilini was near. After 2 or 3 hours, there were two lights in the sea. If you cross those lights, you are in Greece. So we crossed that light and some soldiers came with a ship, they beeped to the driver and they were saying, “Stop, stop!”

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Was he accelerating?

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Yes, there were big waves coming and he was accelerating. It was the police that came so he needed to accelerate. We said, “Stop, we will die.” He said, “If you stop they will shoot you.” But then he stopped and the Greek police took us out of the boat. Everybody was pushing. Somebody stepped on my finger. I said, “Let the women and children go first.” And they came and took you into the big boat because it was part of the deal, or because they are obliged to save you?

They must save us. They have to do it. And after us they went to another place and there was another boat, so they took the people from that tube too and we were sitting almost three hours on that boat and there were two or three more boats after that. They took us to Mytilini and said, “Go down.” We went down and said, “Our journey is finished, now we are in a safe place.” But it wasn’t. It still continued. We were in Greece, we had to apply for asylum. And yesterday they said you have to wait for seven months, right? Did they explain why you have to wait for many months?

Sameer

Because they have to make decisions, maybe they think Junaid is Pakistani.

Joulia

So they check whether it is true you are from Balochistan?

Sameer

Yeah, I passed the check. They ask,“Which religion do you belong to? And which areas are near from you?” So we give answers to them all. We know the right answers because we are from there.

Joulia

That’s what they asked you yesterday as well?

Sameer

No, yesterday they just gave me this card, nothing else.

Joulia

And how about you, Junaid?

Junaid

Yesterday I had the interview. I was the last one who was interviewed.

Sameer

In my case they believed that I was from Balochistan, because I gave them all the right information about the Balochistan. And still you have to wait for the results of the interview?

Joulia

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Yes, we are all waiting. They promised me that I would receive the results in February. So I’m waiting. What do you think will happen? Will they grant you the asylum? So will you travel north? Do you think you have chances to get asylum?

I don’t know. If we get it we will go to the North. To Germany, Sweden. Whatever. Our party was for Germany, Sweden, the U.K. In Greece we don’t have any support. If we go to the North, we have 300 to 400 Balochs live in Germany, so they can support us. And we can also support them; they need people. The rest of your family is in Balochistan?

Sameer

Joulia

Sameer

Joulia

Just my sister. She is living by herself.

Sameer

Is she involved in the political struggle?

Joulia

No, she is not. But for her it’s dangerous. Because our area is among the most targeted ones. Gougon, Mahir, Gomazi. There is no police or army check post. There is nothing. It’s in the forest. So the Pakistani army appears with fifteen or sixteen trucks first and then the soldiers follow with the helicopters, the gunships. They camped three or four times in our place. The last time they came they abducted eleven people, and killed two. Where were you then? Were you here in Greece already?

The last time I was in Greece. But before that I was there in the forest. Tell me, Sameer, you grew up in your village?

Yes, but I left my village at the age of five to get education in Karachi in Pakistan. In 2000 there were no killings or atrocities of the Baloch in Pakistan. At that time we didn’t know that we have rights, we didn’t know what our rights were. Once we started speaking about our rights they started killing us. When Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed by Pakistan, I was just ten. They were doing strikes and these kinds of things in Karachi and they stopped the factories, and I first heard about the freedom of the Balochistan. When you were ten you heard for the first time that actually you are Baloch?

No, we knew we’re from Balochistan, but we didn’t know about the situation. Then I listened to somebody who was talking about freedom and the 73

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killing of Nawar Akbar Bugti and I went to some rallies with the BNM president. He gave a speech in Karachi to the Baloch people and talked about the Pakistan army, in front of them. He was a brave man. And after that, on the 23rd of April, 2009, he was abducted, and on the 26th of April he was killed by Pakistani forces. They threw his body away in the area of Balochistan, in a road or in the forest. I knew something about Balochistan, but this situation made me think deeper. I was only ten years old. I was thinking: Why are they doing us these kinds of things? Why? Did you have the answers?

Joulia

Sameer

No. So, I continued my education. In 2009, Ghulam Mamman, the president of the BNM, came to talk about the Baloch rights. And then he was killed. We had attended his speech and after his killing I said, “Now it’s time to fight.” In 2010 I started with the social media, with Facebook and such.

Joulia

Did you join the network, or did you organize your own platform?

Sameer

No, I’m just alone.

Joulia

You posted information about Balochistan and its history.

Sameer

With fake IDs that I made, I posted the pictures of Pakistani atrocities for instance. After 2009, the situation in Karachi changed and the Pakistani forces started abducting people from there. In 2011 I came back to my village again. The situation was very different because now everybody wanted freedom. And I was thinking that it was a good thing. I had a chance and I wanted to join the organizations who wanted freedom. Then I went to protests; they gave the dates and we went there, and we joined them, we attended their speeches, in 2011 or 2012. In 2014, my uncle was killed. I am very sorry, dear Sameer. How did it happen?

Joulia

Sameer

He was from Khush Kalat, which is in Tump. He was going to another area, Turbat, they knew about it and they abducted and killed him. Was it a long-term plan?

Joulia

Sameer

Yeah. After that I still continued, because I said, maybe it was just an accident. But again in 2016, in February, my first uncle was killed. He was shot in his belly and he was still alive. There was some people who saw him and took him to the Turbat hospital. They said, “We don’t have that Junaid Baloch & Sameer Ahmed

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kind of facilities to make him survive.” They said, “You need to take him to Karachi.” There were two people with him, they were not in the political struggle, they were civilians. On the way from Gwadar to Karachi they were sitting in the ambulance car. In Gwadar there was an EPSI check post, Pakistani army. They stopped them and said, “Who is he?” They said he were a civilian, and that he had shot himself accidentaly. They said, “No, he was shot by the army in the Nasirabad,” they would know about that.They abducted the other two guys. My uncle was still alive, they took him to Gwadar, to the navy camp, and gave him some injections. The Pakistani army?

Yeah. He was still alive, he was talking, but after being given some injections, he died. The forces abducted both the people who were with him. When they left the camp with their women and came to Karachi, the forces were still after them. My uncle had died, but ISIS were still after them. After my first uncle had died they took him to Karachi and dug a grave for him. After this, we did more protests against Pakistan, we became more active. Me and my other uncle and lots of BNM members arrived, and my friend Jameer, who was also a member. It was independence day of Pakistan, but it’s a black day for us, so we protested on that day. 27th of August is a black day, we made it a black day. And what did you do on this day?

We rioted against Pakistan. Then, in 2016, when my second uncle was killed by Pakistani forces, by the secret agency, they said that the Baloch freedom fighters killed him. But it was not true. The agency people came and killed him. After ten days I thought: Now it’s my turn, I have to leave. My father and mother forced me to leave. I went through the back roads, we had made some roads where we could go with motorcycles, not with cars. Some paths, off the roads. There was a main road, so we made another road for us. And that’s how you left your village?

Yeah, in June. We took a small boat. We had contact with the members of the party, they were helping us. In this boat were some Iranians, they took us near Chabahar in Iran. When the smuggler let us out in Chabahar, a second smuggler came, and he took us to his home. Next day we went to get tickets for the bus and some clothes. We were happy we would be going on the bus but suddenly they said, “You have to be in the luggage area.” The luggage area had all the luggage, it was like a small grave. They said, “go inside.” 75

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We were two people. I went and then my friends came, we could not move. There was a hot pipe near our heads. We could not move. If we touched the pipes, we would get burned. You didn’t have any air? Did they make a small corridor?

Joulia

Sameer

They small holes under the seats. We could hear the footsteps. We went to the check post and we couldn’t see anything. The driver stopped, somebody went inside and came out. Fifteen times, I was counting the stops. For 31 hours we were trapped inside the bus. Only two times they took us out. First time, the driver gave us cake and water, nothing else. The second time they took us out just for two or five minutes. Were you thinking that you will not survive?

Joulia

Sameer

Yeah, you could say that. After that, near Iran, it was very cold and we didn’t have any warm clothes to put on. We were wearing Balochi clothes, just that, nothing else. And there were holes, and the bus was going at 120 km per hour. So it was really cold. After that we finally arrived. They opened the back door and said, “Come out, it’s Tehran.” In Tehran, the smuggler had a house. The smugglers name was Haji Ahmad, I don’t know if it was his code name. They took us to this place. I don’t know the name of the area, because it was my first time in Tehran. After that, almost three hours later, agents came and took us to another place, to Urmia, just five minutes away from the Turkish border. On the first day they told us to climb up a mountain. We agreed and went up. We were 90 people, and the women were crying, “We cannot.” Women, children, they said, “We cannot do it”. And the smuggler wanted 100 dollars for the horse. We just had 200 dollars. On the first day they said the road was closed by border police, so we could not go, they said, “You have to come back. Come back again.” And my feet had blisters. So I went back down the mountain. The agent said to come down quickly because the police was coming. But I could not run because of the snow and the cold, I could not go fast. Slowly I walked down, but they were all gone. Everybody was gone?

Joulia

Sameer

Yeah, I was staying behind because I was going slowly. A car came, I went inside and the agent in the car turned around and said, “What are you doing?” I said, “What did I do?” He said, “You are coming down slowly, why?” “Because I can’t walk so fast.” He said, “I’m going to kill you!” I said, “Okay, do whatever you want.”

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The agent had a gun?

Yes. They took us back to the house and we rested for three days. I said, “I’m not going to climb in the dark.” After our rest, they said we should come back up the same mountain. We went back again, and that time we were twenty people. So I went up the mountain for the second time. I couldn’t do it, but I tried. The wanted money, but I only had money for the camps in Greece. I gave them 100 dollars for just two minutes on the horse. They called the horse for me, and I mounted it. It had walked with me for just two minutes when they told me to come down. My legs were burning, I couldn’t move, I said, “I cannot walk.” The smuggler said, “You have to go, otherwise I will kill you.” He said, “Go down the mountain, there is a person, give him the name of Haji Ahmad, and he will take you into the safe house.” So I went down. Again?!

No, to Turkey, to the other side. We were going fast, and suddenly there was a road. My friend was walking ahead but somebody caught him and pushed him, beat him. I tried my best to go back, but somebody caught me from behind. “Come down, come down, and sit on the ground.” There was snow, ice, but they said, “you have to sit here.” We sat for two hours. They were Turkish border army and they started beating us up. We said, “No, don’t do this.” They took us to the jail, they didn’t give us any food for the first day. The second day they took us to where they were going. Where was that?

There were two check posts. They camped and spent the week there. Then they took us to their jail. After arriving there they were checking our health. Then we went to a long hall, 74 people were sleeping inside of that hall. There we saw our our friend Adnan, he was also sleeping. He woke up and said, “Sameer? Are you Sameer?” I said, “Yes.” The camp people gave us food only two times per day. One at two o’clock, and one at seven o’clock, mostly bread, salad and rice. After three days they said, “come out and start digging the road. Start making the road for the soldiers.” The smuggler agents came and talked to the officer. I don’t know whether they gave him money or something else, but after a few days the officer left us. He was gone for three days but we were still there. When the agents came they said, “Come out!” The next day we started digging and preparing the road. Like, we needed to remove ice from the road. After seven days all the remaining soldiers left us. The agents came again, they said, “OK, you can go.” 77

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So the agent made it possible to get you out of the Turkish jail?

Yes. They took us into a small van. We were about 30 people in that small van, we were all standing. After three or four kilometers, we said, “Open the doors, we cannot breathe.” They took some people out, into another van. Then we came into what they call a safe house. They call your agents, they say that their people arrived and that they need to pay money. From there they took us into another house in Turkey and gave us tickets for Instanbul. From Instanbul we called our agents. They talked to a taxi driver, gave him an address, and he took us there. Junaid and my second cousin were there. There, we took a bath and rested for almost a week. After some days they took us to a bus and then they took us in the forest. In the forest, we walked for fifteen minutes in the rain. We stopped, and there were so many people with guns. They said, “Get into the tube boat.” We took it into the water and they said, “Sit down in this boat.” But there were 64 passengers, we could not sit in the boat, we were all standing. We were going for two or three hours like this. Suddenly the rain came, small rain, but the waves were huge. Everybody started crying and praying. All of them. Then we crossed the border and suddenly the Greek border police came and rescued us, because we were in those crazy waves and so many people were inside our tiny boat. That time I was praying. Luckily, everybody survived. But you didn’t know what would happen when you arrive, right?

They said jokingly they would deport us to Turkey again. They took us into the port and people were going down from the boat. There was a bus waiting for us. They took us into the Mytilini camp and we stayed there; and they were saying to us, “You are Pakistani, we will not give you a stay paper.” What’s a stay paper?

Joulia

Sameer

You can stay for a month in Greece. Syrians, Afghanis, they were receiving stay papers, but to us they said, “You are Pakistani,” it was bullshit. After that I went to the Moria camp, it’s like Khora, Khora people were there. Henriette, a human rights activist, was talking to the news reporter. She said that they were helping everybody. I said, “What? You are not helping everybody.” I told her my story and she started crying. She said, “You have to go and apply for asylum.” She talked to a UNICEF person. Then she went to another place. But she did a lot for us, they took our case and we sent a letter to the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. Junaid Baloch & Sameer Ahmed

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They took the letter and gave us asylum. We received the white card. We, the ten Baloch people from the Mytilini camp, were the first ones. And four Christians also were given asylum. Then we came to Athens, but we didn’t want to stay here because we didn’t have any place to stay. Again, we got an agent, a smuggler, who was trying to take us across the Macedonian border. We had to give him 200 euros per person, but we gave him 500 euros, and we told him that if we reached Macedonia, we would give him more. The first time we tried we were 70 people. We walked for one night, crossed the border, and were in Macedonia. There were so many farms, big farms, we went inside them, we were hiding between the plants. After walking for another night, the agent stopped us, he said we needed to rest because the morning was coming and we couldn‘t walk in the morning. We had to walk in the night, so we slept. In the night we had to start walking again. And you were also there, Junaid?

Joulia

No, I didn’t come with them. I said, “I’m not going to Macedonia.”

Junaid

Really? And you stayed in Mytilini?

Joulia

No, I went to Athens.

Junaid

My cousin Adnan was with me. In the morning, it was very cold, we came across some Macedonian people. I said if we hadn’t rested at night we would have reached our destination point, the army patrol camp. This is where I was hoping to reunite with some people I knew. So we started walking for five miles and someone said, “Come, come here, are you refugee?” He was speaking Macedonian but we understood because he spoke some English. He said, “You have to wait, I will get a taxi for you.” I had heard about this from a friend, he tried three, four times to come to Macedonia, and someone did the same thing. The Pakistani guys and four Syrians said they would go with him before I could say, “He is making a fool of you, he is not going to call a taxi, he will call the police.” I had just come out of the farm with the Pakistani guys, I told them, but they didn’t understand. I was walking out of the field when police came and arrested us. They jailed us for one day, we didn’t get anything to eat. Just some water and two pieces of cake. And I went to jail in Macedonia. It was a police office. So they took us into a room, there were two Indian guys, and more Syrians, and two or three Afghani. When I was going into that room a soldier punched me, it was like somebody throwing a stone on my head. And they didn’t give us food, and on the wall was written, “2004”. Everybody who went into this jail wrote on the walls about freedom. The policemen said, “Don’t give food to these pigs,” and they came 79

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back again... At night the same person came again and took our pictures and names. Only that night they gave some food to us, it was our fourth night there. Then they took us to the truck and we went back to the border. They made a hole, they cut a hole and they said, “Go! Go back to Greece.” Joulia

They cut the fence?

Junaid

Yes. Three days of walking and then back. I came back to Khora and…

Joulia

And Junaid was there!

Sameer

Yes, everybody was there, I said, “Thank God, they are all here.” We said we wouldn’t again go this way. There were other options we tried. But my cousin Adnan had very bad stomach pains, he said, “I will die, let’s go to the hospital.” We went to emergency. He needed a surgery, he had a hole in his abdomen, the doctors said that he will die otherwise. In the hospital, I told them that we didn’t have money, they said, “OK, because you are refugees, we can do it.” Because I was with Adnan, my asylum date had expired. It was on the 15th of April, but I went to the office on the 17th of April. There was no one to stay in the hospital with my cousin. I went to the asylum office, they took my card and said, “Get out. You need to go and make phone calls.” I said, “I don’t have any numbers.” They gave me the numbers. I came back to the hospital, and talked to the doctor. The doctor was good, so he wrote a letter for me: that I was in the hospital on the 15th of April. The doctor helped me and I submitted this letter to the asylum office. They gave me my card. They gave back my card and said, “You had to do an interview.” Five days later I went for my interview. On the 20th they gave my card, on the 25th i had my interview, they just gave me five days. And I was not in the situation to give an interview because I was at the hospital with Adnan. So I went on the 25th of April instead, I think. They asked me about my life and my journey, about why I came here to Greece. I told them everything. The interpreter was Pakistani, it was a big problem. I said, “I need a Baloch.” They said, “We don’t have any Baloch interpreter.” I again said I needed a Baloch. They said, “We don’t have one, but you can speak Urdu and English.” Because my English is not good I talked Urdu. In my interview I didn’t say I’m a political worker, that I worked for that party. I told them about the situation of the Balochistan, but I didn’t describe myself because I was afraid of the interpreter. I talked about the situation in Balochistan but they rejected my case. They said, “You don’t have any case.”

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How are you going to do it again? They have to review this.

I appealed again. They said I needed a lawyer. I came into the GRC, Greek Refugee Council. I came there and I said, “I need a lawyer, take my documents, all my things.” The GRC person said, “I will call you, and we will do an interview, a small interview.” But she didn’t call me, and I don’t have a lot of money to give to a private lawyer, so I went by myself into my appeal dates. I sent the all the papers, one of them came from my party, from the BNM, one came from the Commission of Pakistan, and the third was from the International Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. It talks about the missing persons in the Balochistan, human rights evaluations, about these organizations. They gave me letters, I submitted them all and told them everything. Now I’m still waiting for the result of their decision, or maybe they promissed to call me, but I don’t know if they will call, or wether they will reject me again. I’m just waiting for the 17th of February. It’s really hard. If they reject our case, we will have to go back to Pakistan, and they will kill us. We are witnessing the Baloch genocide. ◆

Drawings: Sameer Ahmed in Athens Junaid Baloch with Baloch tombs

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ahmad alkhatieb Krytyka and Universitas community talk to Ahmad, one of the initiators of the Syrian Revolution. The revolution seems to be bleeding out of its initial geographical borders... We meet Ahmad at the Skaramangas Camp.

Liwaa Yazji: Why did you leave?

Ahmad: I felt that things began taking a different direction from where they intended them to be at the beginning of the revolution and I felt that we had become a burden on the whole movement and on our society at large. Liwaa: How did you leave? I’m asking you why did you leave because when we are compelled to leave, it’s either running away from something we fear or running after something that we need.

Ahmad: We had to pay a bribe to the regime’s mercenaries of almost 1 300 dollars to be smuggled through one of the roads controlled by them. I helped the revolutionaries by holding the camera, I was a cameraman. Sometimes even I would hold arms and stand in checkpoints. I lived all the stages of the revolution and the escalation of the war, from the point when all the light artillery was used up to the Russian intervention. And it was normal to fear, we felt the fear

throughout these stages. Between East and West Homs there is only one road, with one checkpoint, on the bridge. The distance between the two parts is only some hundred meters. But nobody can cross it. The only person who could was a woman who pretended that she was a midwife. She passed the checkpoint. She brought a memory card with material about bombings and martyrdoms to the East Homs and gave it to me. I have passed it to one man who was supposed to take it further and destribute the recordings online. His cousin worked for the regime. He found out about the card... On the next day, soldiers came to the house where I stayed. Six neighbours were present at my place, but the soldiers just took me. They didnt ask for my ID, they knew who I was and came for me.

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And that’s why you are laughing like this.

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Ahmad

Yeah. They moved me from one detention centre to the other and one officer was telling the other to take care of me. They tortured me for three days. We call this shabbeh. You are hung by your hands, while only the tips of your toes would touch the ground. Without food, without water, without anything.

After three days they brought another group of detainees to the prison. They saw me in the same place, they said why is this ****** hanging here? Bring him for interrogation. So they brought me up for interrogation, they tortured me for 2 hours before starting the interrogation. They were trying to force me to confess a false statement. At the end I said nothing. At the end of the torture a short man stepped on my face and he told me, “Where I was ready to sacrifice everything for is your God” and “You want freethe revolution. Me and all the guys in dom? The only freedom that you the revolution, not just me have is to jump on your sisters, to rape your sisters, this is the only freedom that you have.” And he was from Aleppo but he was imitating the Alawite accent. I was released for a month and a half. I was not trusting anyone when I was released. For fifteen days I wouldn’t go out of my room. After fifteen days I decided to challenge the fear and go back and help my companions. And my area was one of the first to be liberated, it’s called Talbiseh, it was liberated by June 2012. In Syria I was ready to sacrifice everything for the revolution. Me and all the guys in the revolution, not just me. It was very serious.

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Katja

Why do the people in Syria die right now? There are many people that can get out of Syria, but nobody gets out. I talk about my area. Why? Because they want to continue what they started. Maybe I made a mistake when I got out. I always think that you guys are so incredibly strong, because you go through this and continue living in a brave way.

But the really strong people are inside Syria.

Ahmad

Katja

But would you say that in general, aren’t there also people who don’t want to leave?

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There are many people inside Syria that want to leave, but on the other hand there are also many people who want to stay and fight till the end, they want to fight for the country, they don’t want to lose their city. And how did it happen, step by step? You said there are several steps starting from the light arms to the bombs and the escalation is something that we know the least about.

It started with peaceful demonstrations. Gradually, however, the regime’s oppression of these demonstrations was getting more and more ruthless. So the people that were armed at that time and the guys who had guns were in a defensive situation to protect the demonstrators. But it was exactly like all the other revolutions, like Cuba, Algeria, China, whatever, this kind of armed people turned into guerrillas or into something like gangs. And from that moment there were gangs and guerrillas in the streets, these groups, we all knew what had happened from a historical point of view: like there would be seized areas, freed areas, there would be bombings and there would be real fights. And you? Where are you in this picture?

I’m inside the picture. You said before that you feel a big wound inside of you. Does that mean that you’re disappointed by the human kind or that this is a painful memory or that you feel that you’re not whole anymore... What exactly means that wound inside of you which continues to hurt you?

All of these together. At the beginning I was living in this illusion that all other governments would have a human reaction towards what’s happening in Syria but that was a lie. And there are lots of situations that all human beings face and these situations stay with them forever. Can you imagine the possibility that one day this wound will be healed in you?

It’s not something that will be forgotten but I think that there should be a moment where I will be not in a revenge mood, not in a reactionary situation. And right now, do you feel that you want revenge?

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I believe that I am not in the situation that I’m seeking revenge, but because I still want justice, not because I personally want revenge. And the people that you know, do people want revenge? Do they stay in Syria because they want revenge?

They are there to finish what they started and they are sticking by their principles. There’s a group of people that have sacrificed everything they had and it’s very hard to believe that they would just forget it and get over it. How, for example, when you bury you wife and daughter with your own hands, how would you be convinced to not really think of the killer as someone you want to take revenge on? How did you get into the movement?

Joulia

Ahmad

Katja

The first demonstration that took place was in my neighbourhood. Looking at other incidents that were taking place in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and all this, the people like the young men in Syria they thought yeah we also deserve to have a better chance, but nobody was really thinking that, or daring to move unless they saw that this is possible. They looked at the other experiences. They were saying to themselves that they had a better chance if they move out of Syria going elsewhere.

Joulia

Not to have a better society.

Katja

Right, but that means that the better chance is to be out of Syria.

Joulia

Ahmad

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Ahmad

OK, but the Arab spring is not over, is it? It’s continuing in a different way, that’s the title of one article in our previous journal. In what way is it still continuing? Are they fighting only in military conflicts? What kind of revolution is taking place now in Syria? Were you in Syria motivated by the tactics and strategies of the Arab Spring? Or is the revolution directly connected to the wider region?

We’re not copying what others have done, we have the same ambitions. I mean are you connected, working together on a planetary level, or is it only Syrian local revolution?

I think it’s hard to describe everything in one word. There might be some groups that are motivated like I was saying, but even before Tunisia they were sitting among themselves thinking how they can change the situation, so it’s Ahmad Alkhatieb

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really hard to say if everything was connected or not connected. The situation in Syria was not good, and it would push anybody to think how to change it. But I don’t know if every group of people that did something in this revolution had their own dependency or not. A group that is connected is really different from a group that is not connected. There could be a group that is connected to what is happening in Tunisia, but at the same time there is another group and another group, and another... there’s no umbrella to describe it. And maybe do you think that it would be better to have the umbrella?

This is what the Syrian revolution is missing – an umbrella. Maybe you can do it from here. Be responsible for offering “shade” for the entire operation. All the things that happenend – have they changed your view on life?

Sure. We were living and we don’t know why God has created us. We don’t know where God has put us. I was reading about the Algerian revolution and it felt like I was living the same events now – history repeating itself. Ahmad, where are your parents? And are you in contact with them? Do you speak with them?

They are Inside Syria. Absolutely every day I speak with them. And what do they say?

We miss you. And how are they now in Syria?

They are well. Before the revolution, my family was very rich. But when the revolution started, we lost everything, we lost three houses and ten big cars. You are not becoming a fighter because you want to become a fighter. You are becoming a militant revolutionary not because that’s what you decided to do, but revolution takes you there – to a Skaramangas camp, that’s where it takes you. Maybe there must be some new methods of the revolution which will not get you

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into such a difficult situation like now. What methods were employed? You demonstrated, demanded democratization. What were the demands exactly? Ahmad

Joulia

Ahmad

Very simple demands like taking restrains off our shoulders and to treat us like human beings. People were not aspiring to live like a Swiss or an American citizen, just really to have a human life. I’m sure it was not a neoliberal revolution, it’s just a question. Did it have some specific character to it? Like for example, in Greece, in 2008, a policeman shot a boy, riots happened, Exarcheia area was burning. There was fire everywhere, because this generation suffers. The Christmas tree in the centre of the square was burnt, so all the consumeristic, celebratory symbols were destroyed. A boy was holding a flower which he gave to a policeman, provoking him. The policeman was totally armed with all these weapons but he offered him a flower.

The policemen in Greece are totally different to the policemen in Syria. It’s more like a dogmatic relation between the people and the police in Syria. Syrian policemen are more loyal to the leader, because they were brought up to be that way rather than being loyal to the people. Why are they loyal to the regime? Are the payed well? Do they think they are right?

Katjja

All these things.

Ahmad

Katja

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But, Ahmad, why do you think that somebody has to give you that life that you demand?

I didn’t want from anybody to give me that life. I can find my life. But I need that space to find my life, in Syria I can’t do that.

Joulia

So the revolution was to make space.

Ahmad

Yeah absolutely, of course. And you said that the houses and the cars were lost? Why, because of the bombings or something else?

Katja

Ahmad

No, because my house and all the things my family owned were taken away. When the soldiers for al-Assad president came to our city, we ran away, my family ran away and left my house and all the

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things my family owned. And after that the soldiers stole everything. We ran away just with our clothes. Why did your family run away? Were the soldiers after your family?

We had seen already what happened in other areas when the regime forces went in. Which means that it was a natural reaction after you’ve seen what the regime has done to other areas. You escape, because they are coming to kill. But what do they do when they come in? They come and slaughter everybody?

They would come in, they would inspect IDs and then they will also inspect our files, like their security files and there is a certain number of deaths and a certain number of prisoners that they should take anyway. So people run away because they don’t want to be one of those detained. So no matter whether they find something that seems to be guilty they just always need a particular number of prisoners, despite of what they have or haven't done.

Yes. But when I say a number it is metaphorical, not a fixed number, like they should do something. They take a sample of the people and in a way they use it as a template for everybody else, so when they kill them or detain them it looks like a lesson to the rest. They have invested a lot of money into Facebook development, because they’ve heard that the Arab Spring was organised with Facebook. They decided to control it, and that’s why they caught you. Because they read what we were writing. It really feels like having a binding thread with other movements, that’s why I’m sticking to finding out the details of the revolution, because people who identify themselves as revolutionaries feel very connected to the Syrian revolution. We were doing anti-Putin protests, we were doing Occupy and when you describe things from the beginning of the repressions, it reminded me of many things. What do you want for your future?

I want to get to Germany. Maybe I will complete my studies, and now there is also a national team for the Syrian players in Germany. They started this practice about 10 days ago. I want to join the team.

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And what are your studies?

Katja

In college. I studied sport in Syria before the revolution. I was in the last year. This was in 2011. I left the university, because I couldn’t move around in my city, there were many soldiers on the way to the university.

Ahmad

Katja

What year did you leave Syria?

Ahmad

About three months and a half ago.

Katja

You did not go to university in Syria, so did you stay at home? What did you do?

Ahmad

We were blacklisted so we could not go to the universities, we were detained.

Late evening. End of workshops. Headquarters of Avtonomi Akadimia.

I remember the first one killed in my city... we were crying. After three or five years, in one single day twenty three people died. We got used to it. Death became usual. Nothing was strange. How many persons killed today? Three? Ok. God will help them.

Ahmad

Does it make you feel...

Joulia

Like a crocodile. In the last years I became like a crocodile. Nothing is effecting me. I remember once a helicopter threw two barrels. I worked with a hospital. When Assad bombed us, we went to the place, made a report and brought injured persons to the hospital. We brought a woman and a child. When we arrived to the hospital, someone told me she was the daughter of my uncle... I went to smoke a cigarette, and one guy came to me and told me.

Ahmad

Looking at the images and films Ahmad shows us on the computer

This is the airplane that bombed us. This is my cousin. This day thirteen people were killed.

Ahmad

Children were something to sell. Look here: inside this bag there are hands and a stomache for a person. On this photo you can see Daesh when they came to our area. There, at the beginning of the street. And look at the free soldiers on the other end of the street. Two or three families were stuck in the middle of this street. Ahmad Alkhatieb

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We helped them out. I took the photograph, while not beeing able to move from there. Very dangerous. There are snipers everywhere. We have made these premises for orphans. There are about 1 200 orphans in my area. This is our building. One night, around fifty bombs were thrown around it. Nobody was hurt. The building was almost destroyed. But no one died. I was inside. God saved us. Two barrels. At the same time. Fifteen meters away from us. Huge explosion. I lived three years like this. Every day – bombing. From 2012 until 2015. And I am here now. So, sometimes I feel so sad. I think it was wrong to get out of Syria. I wonder: we started revolution and I get out. It is a global revolution. You miss your city. But you are just the same active here. I don’t think that people need to die to fight for their country. You fight in your heart. And in what you do. It doesn’t mean that you have to be killed.

But when you start things, and then after six years, you get out of the country? I think I’m a coward. Because I am the first person from my area who made revolution. And now I got out of Syria after six years. Yes, because you can make revolutions. And we need you alive.

I can’t do anything outside Syria. When I was inside Syria nobody was able to help us. What can I do now? Support them on Facebook? Make a comment or video? But what do you think you can do for Syria when you are dead? You still have your entire life before you. And you don’t really know what your life will be like. When you are dead, you can’t do anything. So I think when you were not harmed when your house was bombed...

But the people who try to help them today, in my mind, don’t need to help. The people inside Syria have to help. Those people who did not die because of the bombs. All those people have money. How did we arrive here? I borrowed too much money but I arrived here. It is hard for people inside Syria. No warmth in the winter. No food. Everything is expensive inside Syria. Sugar was 25 Syrian pounds before the revolution. Now – about 500 Syrian pounds.

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But I think God wants you alive. Otherwise you wouldn’t be. And in order for you to be alive you have to go certain path which leads you here.

Nobody knows what happens in Syria. That’s right, you see many videos, you see the news, you read the newspaper. But the truth is not like you think. There are people inside Syria who need help. But nobody helps. That’s the reality. When you listen to the news, they are just talking, “We need to help, we need to give people in Syria the food baskets.” Nobody talks about the criminal. Nobody talks about the murder. How There are people inside Syria who need much time the Americans help. But nobody helps. That’s the reality. fly, and French fly, and Israel, and Germany. No one? No bomb? They create Daesh. To make forget the cruelty of Assad’s people. How Daesh came to Syria? By the airports. Everybody came by the airports. By Turkish borders. Why Erdogan let them enter? Because there is a big deal between Turkey, USA, Russia, Israel, Iran. They want to bring every jihadist from all over the world and kill them. But who will die inside Syria? The people. Look at how many people were killed last year. Maybe from Daesh 100 and from the people 1000. If they want to kill Daesh, they can do that in three days. I swear. USA, Turkey, and Russia can. But no one wants do do that. Because they want to cut the cake. Syrian land cake. I need a big piece of it. How? I’m fighting the terrorists in Syria. I spend about two billion in Syria. The countries are fighting on the Syrian land; America and Russia and France and Germany. Through the Syrian fighters. Through Assad and against the government. Everybody knows that, inside and outside Syria. But nobody can do anything. Amnesty reports: 13 000 people were killed in jail. Where are the governments? Can you imagine this?

Ahmad

How many people live in jail now?

Katja

Ahmad

Now about a million people. In my family, I was the one who went to jail for 50 days. My father went to jail for six months. He is 60 years old. Why was he arrested? My brother is now in jail. For five months now. He didn’t do anything, Just because he is from Talbiseh. Talbiseh is a free place. There are no soldiers of Assad there. Assad transferred the president of the prison who is responsible for 13 000 deaths reported by Amnesty, he transferred him from Damascus to Homs. There, he was killed two days ago. Nobody, no animals, no birds could enter the premisses where he stayed. According to the news, six Jihadists went to the building and killed the president. Al Quaida made a report, confirming that it was done by them. No one can stop Assad from killing the children. Ahmad Alkhatieb

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There are no any humanitarians in the world. The people are humanitarian. Governments not. You start supporting Assad regime at the moment you are becoming a humanitarian. When you start doing these projects, you help Assad. We are doing this without the political dimension. WITH political dimension, we are not supporting Assad. By saying the truth, we are helping the revolution. When it’s depoliticized, it becomes complicit. When you don’t fight against the system, you are silently supporting it. We are in a political situation, where if you don’t take the stands, you are opportunist.

That’s right. Of course. If the revolution fails, it will be because of the media. All the media are lyers. What is the situation in Syria? There are Daesh, Al Quaida, and free fighters. Right? And everybody likes you. You are not alone. Russia wants to support Assad to fight the jihadists. This is our problem. It was the revolution but they created Daesh and Al Quaida to hide the revolution. And they can make them bigger and bigger.

Joulia

Ahmad

Looking at the images and watching Ahmads‘ films

So the schools are travelling from one place to another depending on the bombs.

Yes. I recorded this film about three or four years ago when the situation was better. What will happen to these children who have no school and nowhere to play? What will happen? I saw John King, the president of the UN in the New York Union, the big one John King. He came to our area with other members of the UN and I told him about everything that was going on. He promised us that he would help us and that food would come to our area and that education would start again, he said this to everybody there. I would show him to you but I can’t find the video, sometimes YouTube deletes videos because you’re using famous music that you should buy prior to posting. Well, they steal the videos for their films, but the music you have to buy it.

I have to buy food in Syria, not music. My city is in the north, Homs. There are 300 000 people in our area, and in my area about 16 000. So, there are about 315 000 people suffering. If you want to see you can go. It’s impossible, now we are sitting here and have this moment to talk about it.

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Look here, it’s the last one that I will maybe show. There are moments that we can’t forget. This video is from the revolution that started in my area and here, my friend, is my city. This is my song. We were learning this song, in Berlin!

Joulia

Ahmad

Joulia

This is what happened inside Syria and inside my city, every day. You know why I told you that I feel I am a coward? Because I left my people inside this situation and I run away. I will search for my life, and what about the other people in Syria? What will they do? Wait to die? Inside me there are voices that say: Why did you leave Syria? Why did you start the revolution with your friends and then left Syria? That’s what I think. Deeply inside it makes me feel selfish. So you are a human being and you want to deny your instinct of survival and say that it would be better to just commit suicide for the revolution, even when it makes no sense to stay there, even if they kill me, I’m still there. Is that really better?

Yeah, for me, that’s actually better.

Ahmad

Joulia

Ahmad

There is no other way to continue the revolution than to do what you had to do. Now you can’t see how exactly it’s possible to continue to really be in an active, phase, because it’s this phase we experience in all movements right now. Look at what Putin has done to all of us in Russia. So just answer to the inner voice that you disagree with it.

It’s a political answer.

Joulia

Ahmad

You mean that your body should be there? You feel uncomfortable because your people, your body needs to be together with the bodies of your people?

Like you do, you miss your people inside Russia or what? Don’t say you don’t.

Joulia

My people are with me. Ahmad

Joulia

Where? Inside your heart, inside your mind? But you miss them? And you can’t go to them? And one third of the whole place will go under the water, so in the future it will not even exist at land, you know? So it’s really scary, everything will be completely

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gone. But after it’s gone, it will live inside my heart. You’re right, my inner voice tells me to go there, but it’s not so loud.

Because that has started since many years ago? Yes, yes.

Maybe I needed this conversation more than I thought. We adapt to this situation and it’s one of our most underestimated abilities, I’m not talking about political opportunism. How long are you here now?

45 days. ◆

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abed nasralla Krytyka talks to cultural mediator Abed, a front-liner at Lesvos, or better “the messenger” – a modern Hermes whose hermeneutic interpretations establish communication and the first signs of hope. He honors his position by serving all parties in need, for stepping in, initiating dialogue, partaking in resolutions and crisis. Both a witness and participant of the refugee crisis, he saw what cannot be translated, told or voiced.

Joulia Strauss: Everybody probably needs you, right? They call you day and night, because there are so many difficulties between these two different cultures?

Abed Nasralla: If immigrants are involved and they need professionals, they ask for us. You know, there are a lot of NGOs and I am sad that they are getting a lot of money, but they are keeping the money and they are only paying some people. They are impostors, not real cultural mediators. This is why I don’t work with NGOs here. When I came to Khora, I came because my friend Jamal asked me to, mainly because my services were in need. I translated for them two or three times, and they understood the meaning of a professional cultural mediator and that of an unprofessional amateur. I also speak Greek, which helps the Greek police and the Greek asylum office, wherever I’m working, to understand, because not all the employees speak good English or understand Eng-

lish, so they ask me to go to register the immigrants by speaking Arabic and Greek. And at the same time, when they register them in Greek, they also do so in English, I translate from Arabic to Greek and from Arabic to English. Joulia: It’s a triple translation.

Abed: Exactly. For instance, on Leros, Samos and Lesbos, I was the only one who could speak the three languages. Joulia: You were probably very busy!

Abed: Yes, when I wanted to work. Because sometimes you know, they are not asking us, they are not paying us as much as they need to pay. So then, I don’t work, I prefer to sit down, to offer help, but not to work with all these people. Because I know they will get the money for themselves and I won’t be paid. As happened in the case of a collaboration with Frontex. Do you know Frontex? 97


Why do you work with Frontex?

Joulia

Why? I work in registering people. Not in chasing people. Frontex is not chasing people, does not harm people, there are just a lot of people that are coming and are claiming that they are Syrians but they are not Syrians. They are from Algeria or from Morocco or from Iraq, or from Afghanistan. They say, “I’m Syrian.” So we are needed to identify their origin. You know some people, some Tunisians or Algerians, they learn the Syrian accent and they try to fool us. But I’m an interpreter, a cultural mediator from the first word on. I can understand where they are from. You know, by asking, “Are you Syrian?” in Arabic. From his answer I can understand from I’m an interpreter, a culture mediator. which country he is. Look here – From the first word on I can underAbed shows a photo on his mobile stand where they are from. phone – This is Avramopoulos. The counselor of the European Union for Immigration. This is me! This one is the Greek minister, you know him. This one is the minister of foreign affairs of Luxembourg. I was translating for him in Lesbos.

Abed

So, how do you understand where a person comes from?

Joulia

Abed

You know if you ask a Syrian “Are you Syrian?” In Kasuri he will answer, “Eh”, his yes. If you ask a Palestinian “Are you Syrian?”, he will say “Ah”. So I understand that he’s Palestinian or Jordanian. If he’s from Lebanon he will say, “Ehhh”, if he’s from Egypt he’ll say “Aywa”. You see? That is the difference for starters. Frontex are police officers, they can’t understand the cultures, they can ask about some photos, about singers or about currency or about car numbers, but they can’t understand where they are from. For me it’s easy simply to understand because I have an in-depth knowledge of those cultures in the region.

Joulia

Abed

And you tell Frontex, “No this guy is not from Syria” and they send him back?

No, no. The only thing Frontex does is to write down his personal information and they send him to take his fingerprints. The Greek police officers continue the registration procedure; they send him to the first reception; then they send him to the asylum office. So EASO, European Asylum Support Office, they do the interview and they send it to the Greek asylum office, to decide what to do with this person. Frontex don’t send people back, the Greek police ask and decide whether they will send people back. I worked in deportation; I was in the first and second deportation. Abed Nasralla

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What is the first and second deportation?

Deportation means to send people back. The first one was when all the media television, all the people were there to see if they would send people back to Turkey, I was there. It was in April 2016. A year ago. If you go check the news, maybe you can see my photo with the vest of Frontex. I worked with IOM also. So were they sending them back?

You know the procedure is difficult. For the Syrians and the Iraqis, they don’t send anybody unless they ask to go back. They ask, “Can you send me back to Turkey because I can’t stay here for ten months or one year? I want to go back to Turkey.” Like this they send Syrians and Iraqis. But Algerians, Moroccans, Pakistanis, they don’t have a war, so they can’t give them asylum. They ask for asylum and the asylum office decides not to accept them. In the deportation we have escorts from Frontex and escorts from the Greek police when sending people back. First they send the photos to the Turkish authorities. The Turkish authorities accept the people and then they put them on the ship, we send them there, we go with them and the Turkish police take them and send them to the camps. They don’t jail anybody, they are refugees.

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But camps are like jails, no? So they are now forced to live in Turkey.

Joulia

They came from Turkey, so they go back to Turkey, it’s the same for them.

Abed

But not the Syrians.

Joulia

The Syrians, if they ask for it. They volunteer to go back.

Abed

So you mean no Syrian refugees are being sent back?

Joulia

By force, no.

Abed

And what about this deal between Germany and Turkey?

Joulia

Firstly, it’s not between Germany and Turkey, this is between the EU and Turkey. They give money to stop the flow of refugees. Secondly, if they send a Syrian back they will need to make him ask for international protection to send him to Europe the legal way. You know they do the same job like the Greek asylum office, but in Turkey. This is what we do in EASO. We have three kinds of interviews: admissibility, illegibility and vulnerability, which are linked to special cases. 99

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Joulia

So this period was probably extremely active for you?

Abed

The last two years, yes!

Joulia

Abed

When this all started did you realize that it would take such an enormous dimension?

Yeah, because first of all, I was watching the news, like when the battles started to become more violent, the people started going out by the thousands, a lot of them were coming here. In the area I was living we had thousands of people who were trying to go with the help of the smugglers by planes, some of them with the trucks, you know a lot of them died inside the big trucks and big cars. Some of them by walking. They died by walking? How? They were shot?

Joulia

Abed

Not shot only, but you know, to go from Greece to Germany you need to pass Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary. There’s a lot of snow. The police guard the borders very well, so to pass the borders you need to go through the mountains, through the snow. You know I can’t forget a photo of a man, he was Palestinian, he died hugging his young girl – because of the cold. He was hugging her, giving her heat, but he died. It was an incredible photo. A lot of people died going there. Also a lot of people died by coming here. I saw a lot of corpses, a lot of young children died, drowned in the sea. I saw a lot of families coming to Lesbos every day, five to six thousands and they were all wet, cold, they were trembling, their skin became blue. So I tried to give them some heat by opening the offices to them, especially the small children, to keep them warm, to let them rest a bit. But the NGOs were criticizing you for trying to do that?

Joulia

Abed

The NGOs were only for profit, not to help. Believe me, I know. I have seen a lot of them, but in the place where I was working they were prohibited from entering. It was the military area, only police and the army can be inside.

Joulia

And so you were police or army?

Abed

No, neither. We had about a million, passing only from Lesbos.

Joulia

So you’ve met around a million people?

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Yes, it was like a living hell. The official number is about 850 000. But because I know that a lot of them were copying the same papers, officially they don’t have the right numbers. Only about a million arrived in Germany! So how did only 850 000 pass?

Abed

Right, so you mean a million just in Lesvos?

Joulia

You know what is Lesvos?

Abed

Yes Lesvos I know, it’s were the ancient Greek poet Sappho lived. She’s actually the first anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal poet. But anyway. So, this unique ability of yours, to be a triple translator and cultural mediator at the same time, has probably been very helpful for people and so you’ve seen one million people who wanted your help.

Of course. You know, the problem for the new arrivals: they were getting registered, but nobody told them what to do next. So you can imagine, hundreds passing in front of me asking me, “What to do? Where to go?” So I needed all the time to tell them, “You can go to the port – take the bus or the taxi to go to the harbor – buy a ticket to Athens. And from Athens, if you want to continue, you need to buy a ticket and go”. All this they wanted to know from you, every day? Thousands of people?

Yeah, thousands, every day. You know, when they are arriving to the islands, the police were taking them to the Moira Camp. Nobody, not the UN nor the NGOs, were telling them what to do next. “So, OK, they took my photo, they took my fingerprints, they gave me a piece of paper, what to do with this piece of paper? Where to go?” Nobody was telling them, I told UN many times, “You have a lot of interpreters, go to the tents and inform the people where to go after finishing!” Did you tell the NGOs as well?

The NGOs, everybody, but nobody did anything, because the only thing they wanted was to collect money. Were you sometimes subjected to some desperate violence?

No, you know I have seen many people inside, because the area was closed, if an immigrant enters this area, he can’t go out and come back, he has to finish his registration with his family. So, a lot of people had their small children, 101

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they had nothing to eat, nothing to drink, nothing. So they were begging us to give them something to eat, but we had nothing. Many times I needed to go out, to buy things and to come in, because I had the authority to go out. I told the authorities there that they needed to have at least a container or something, somebody to sell essentials to the people. The people had money to buy things, but there was nothing to buy inside the registrations area. Joulia

This registration process could take weeks...

Abed

Four to five hours inside. Outside a week or more. For the Syrians.

Joulia

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And then after being registered they stayed on the island because they didn’t know what to do?

No they were leaving, last year. Now, they stay because they have to stay. They don’t give them the permission to leave. On all the islands the Greek authorities keep them until the procedure finishes. The asylum process? Which can take years?

Joulia

Abed

Months to one year. I saw people on Leros, they were there for ten to eleven months. They were staying, waiting for the results of their asylum application. In the camps. They were waiting there, they have some money, a small amount of money that they end up spending because they can’t eat the kind of food brought to them. Because camp organizers are not familiar with their culture, they bring them, for example, spaghetti. It’s not in their culture to eat pasta, it’s not a food for them, so they reject it. They need food they are used to eating, but the army or the NGOs don’t ask us what kind of food to give them. They just offer the cheapest possible option. They give them like 100 grams of rice, 100 is small, you can’t feed a person with this quantity, you just can’t. I’ve seen people sitting in lines waiting to get one croissant for breakfast and those in charge of the food distribution were kicking them out, by pushing them. I saw many bad things. I was fighting with these people; because I speak Greek, for them I’m Greek, so I can sue them for what they do. They were afraid of me, when they saw me they acted like good people. When you have three to four thousands waiting to take one croissant each and you know they need to bring their whole family and the young children to receive the quantity, one croissant for each person. If I were to go on behalf of my family, they would give me all I want. And many times some of them, they get in the line and when they arrive, there’s no croissant, nothing. What do they do? They don’t eat. You understand? Many, many, many problems. Now it’s a little bit better for them, then we had no tents, Abed Nasralla

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no containers, nothing. Now in Moria they have a lot of containers, a lot of tents. I can show you photos: When it was raining, they were throwing their children over the fence, because they couldn’t stay with their children under the rain because they had no shelter. After that the UN thought to erect a big tent to put them inside, to be protected from the rain. I saw a lot of people who were trying to climb over the containers and to jump inside the registration area because they couldn’t stay for days outside. Once you get inside the cage, you can’t go out. If you go out you need to stay to wait in the line for a week or more. It was a crazy situation, very crazy. And were you traumatized by this?

You know, for me, I’m a professional, when I was leaving that place, I would go to my home – shower and relax, I was not thinking of what I had seen that day. Because for me it was very difficult to think about it again, so I trained myself to be calm, not to think about these things. Not to get emotionally involved, you mean?

Exactly. Because if you get involved emotionally with this thing, you can be destroyed. It’s something that you have to avoid thinking about. It’s more or less like a self-protection mechanism.

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Abed Exactly, I felt satisfied many times because I was helping people, it was not my goal to work. My goal was to help, these people are my people, I had to help them, I didn’t care if they are Muslims or Christians or Yazidi or I don’t know what. For me they are human beings, I need to help them. We had a lot of Yazidi, they worship the devil, but for me they were human beings, I needed to help them. You know they were coming to me saying they had a baby, “Please give me something to feed it.” You can’t If you get involved emotionally with leave them like this. Not only me, thethis thing, you can be destroyed. re were many employees buying these kids chocolates, something to have inside, to help and aid the people through the process. I saw a lot of men crying, not because of their hunger but because they couldn’t help their children. You know, when you see your child crying from hunger and you can’t do anything about it… you have the money but you can’t help your child; it’s very hard. So they were coming to me, by seeing my kofia they could tell I’m Palestinian, so they were coming and asking me, “You speak Arabic, please can you help us in this or in that.” – “Yes I can, no I can’t because I have my work, I can’t lose it, if I lose it I will 103


not help you, because I will not be here.” But in general I helped the majority of people because I wanted to do so, not because I was obliged to. They are my people, you are a foreigner, but for me, you are human, I need to help you to be there for you, this is me – as a human to human. If somebody asks for help, I need to help them. I can’t refuse, this is me. It was probably very difficult to combine translating and helping at the same time.

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Abed

It’s difficult and you know I was going home like a corpse, like a dead man. Running all day, listening to many people, translating into many languages. Did you make a mistake at some point?

Joulia

Abed

Of course. I am not a God! It was a misunderstanding... sometimes I was very stressed so I rejected people, “No I can’t help you, go go!” And afterwards I regretted it but, you know, when you are stressed and you have a lot of people talking to you, a lot of employees asking you, “Abed go here, Abed go there,” you stop listening. The police, the doctors, everywhere, I needed to be everywhere. This is why everybody knows my name, not because I’m famous.

Joulia

So what was the most challenging moment for you?

Abed

When we had to register 72 minors in 1 day, it was crazy.

Joulia

And make them undergo the medical check?

Abed

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Ok, first one undergoes the medical registration and after that they go to the psychologist, to the sociologist and in between they have these interviews. If I had the time, I would go outside and everybody would come and ask me for this that or the other, so it was a crazy situation, totally hard. This wasn’t part of your job before, this year it became part of your job to solve humanitarian catastrophes.

For the last two years yes, but I was always helping here in Athens, helping some Palestinian NGOs, Palestinian organizations, helping Palestinian refugees. So for me it was nothing new. For me my main goal was to help people, so no complaints, I needed to help them, I helped them. What was the hardest part of this kind of help?

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The hardest part was not seeing the dead people or the dead children but telling their parents that their child is dead. You had to translate this?

Of course. When they bring the child dead to the hospital, the doctor needs to examine, whether he’s dead or alive or what. Afterwards they need to tell the parents that they have lost their child. How, in which language? So, they used me and my friend. This is where they need not just a translator but a cultural mediator. To know the way to give them the news so they don’t collapse. Once my friend who worked with the doctors and I had to work on a case where they brought in a small girl, seven years old, dead. She had drowned when they arrived, her father and her mother didn’t know that she was dead. They took her to the hospital, they told the parents. So they thought that she lost consciousness?

Yes, but they said to us that they only had this child and that they had left Syria to protect her. And losing her was losing the meaning of their life. How can you tell these people that they have lost their child? And so the doctors were expecting you to say it?

Of course. In which language can they say it? They don’t know; neither the language nor how to communicate such content appropriately. And what’s the difference of this cultural mediation?

In our culture, we take some verses from the Koran, for example, talking about patience, talking about the loss, talking about many things and hugging the man. It’s prohibited to hug the woman, but you hug the man, and the man will talk to his wife, in his own way. But always with images and with words, taking them from our culture. You know, if you go and tell them, “I’m sorry your daughter has died,” they will collapse, both, it’s like the thunder hitting them. But if you go and tell them, this is life, you have to be faithful, you have to have faith in God, God may give you patience. You know these words, we know how to say it because it’s in our culture. And you had to tell them until you had a clear understanding from their reaction that they now got it. And how many times did you have to do it?

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Me, I did it one or two times, but my friend he was doing it every day. He was a cultural mediator also, like me. He is experienced like me, but he was working with the doctors. I was working with IOM, with the police, with everybody inside. So they were sending him to the hospital, but sometimes when they had a lot of work, they sent me. I did a translation through the telephone, right in the beginning. Another time a Syrian, he had his wife, she was pregnant, she was in her last days ready to give birth, and he was like, “No, we leave now.” You can’t leave, maybe she would give birth in the ship. If she is not in a hospital she will die.” But the man was like, “No, I don’t care, I want to take them to go.” I was translating over the phone. The doctors, they called me from the hospital, to translate from Greek to Arabic, from Arabic to Greek to the doctors, and English for the others Crazy situation. And did you persuade him?

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No he was like, “I’m leaving.” I said to the doctors, “He is stubborn,” he wanted his wife to give birth in Germany because he thought that his son or his daughter, I don’t know, they will take the German nationality so they can stay. It’s the same, “No! We are leaving.” They left, but the doctors wrote a paper saying they are not liable for her. The consequences of this act... And so we don’t know anything about them now?

I think the next day or two days later, she gave birth in Athens, but I don’t think she was in the last days of her pregnancy, so she needed to go to the hospital. You know, this is the culture, they are stubborn, they think that they know everything. I have seen people sitting, waiting for their turn to go inside, for a week, under the rain, in their place. They don’t leave their place because they will lose it. They brought a man inside, he couldn’t stand up because he was sitting three or four days in his place, not going to the bathroom, nowhere, because he didn’t want to lose his turn to go in. And when they brought him in, the doctors, when they cut his clothes we saw his skin. It was peeling like an orange, so soft and wet. After three days it became like this?

Joulia

Abed

3 days and nights, he was sitting, water coming like a river, under him, it was raining, and he was sitting in the same place.

Joulia

He was shocked, otherwise he would have stood up.

Abed

Yeah but he was like, “I don’t stand up because I don’t want to lose my turn”. Abed Nasralla

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Have you cried?

Sometimes yes, but not in front of them. I would go inside when I saw a man crying because he couldn’t help his children. I’m a father, I have children, I always put myself in his position. So he’s crying for his children, he reminds me of my children, so I would go inside, I can’t cry in front of them. I told you about the doctors, many times with the psychologists, other stories also; the doctors are crying, the children are crying and in the middle, I can’t cry, because if I cry, it will crush the chain of translation and communication. The end. Many times we were going inside the places where we had the minors to make them be calm, to understand some things, about the culture here, about how they need to behave. I remember one time, the commander of the camp, he asked me to come with him inside the minors area. I went to the room and I saw a young boy who was 15 years old, he was from the area around Deir ez-Zor. He was crying, and there was the psychologist, one other Greek woman, and the translator, and a young girl. The commander said, “Please, come with me,” he took the boy and went to another room and the commander started talking to him, saying, “What’s wrong my boy?” I was translating, but in two minutes I knew that just translating was not enough. I said to the commander, “You let me? – “Ok, I let you,” he said, because he trusted me, so I started talking to the boy, and in two minutes he was laughing. How did you manage to do it?

Because I knew his culture, I asked him, “Why are you crying? Because I am missing my family.” So I told him, “In a few days, you will leave, you will go to Athens, and from Athens you continue your journey to Germany, to anywhere you want, I promise you that and you will ask for asylum, for reunion with your family, so you’ll be with them again.” But he was laughing and it was five minutes, not more. We took him to the psychologist and the other interpreter, she was from Sudan, but she was born in Greece, she wasn’t a cultural mediator. The head of the translators came out and she said to me, “You are a magician, you hypnotized him, what did you do?” I said, “This is my work. This is why I’m a professional.” She asked, “What did we do wrong and you right?” I said, “The first thing you did wrong, you never go to a boy or a young man with a girl interpreter, never!” He will not listen to her, he will have his eyes on the floor and he will not listen to her. Another incident: we had a young boy who was a minor. He would turn eighteen in five months. The law says that he can’t travel alone. We brought him, he was like a wild animal, “I don’t care, you can put me in jail, you can torture me, I’m not listening”. The police officer was treating him, 107

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was talking to him, I was translating for about one hour. We brought him clothes to change, nothing, no, he was saying, “I will not register, I will leave, I will kill, I will hit! I talked to him for five minutes in front of her. He said “Ok, I will change clothes.” She looked at him like, “What happened?” I said, “Give him the clothes to change.” He changed his clothes and said, “Ok, where to sign?” They were asking me, “What happened? You talked to him for five minutes and you ended the problem.” I said, “Because I understand him. I talked with him the way he can understand, not the way you understand.” She went to the commander of the police and she said, “We need this man here, with us, we need him desperately, because we have a lot of such problems.” Joulia

Abed

But how could you understand the wild guy? Is it because you are a wild guy yourself right?

No no no. You know, always look for the reason why is he wild. Why doesn’t he want to get registered? Why doesn’t he want to give his fingerprints? He said, “Because I escaped from war to go to Germany, to help my people to escape the war. We don’t have enough money to leave all together so I left alone, they gave me what they had, if you keep me here you will keep me until I am eighteen, so if I go to Germany I will not be able to bring them back.” I said, “Nobody will keep you here for five months.” He said, “No, my family, my father he told me.” – “Your father, he doesn’t know the situation here. I know, I am like your father, look at my eyes when I am talking to you.” He was looking down, I said, “No, look in my eyes.” Because I can read eyes, I said to him, “I promise you, in 15 days you will be in Athens, you will be released in Athens and then you can continue your journey.” I said to him, “I’m the interpreter here, you will see me every day, I will not lie to you to go inside, you can do whatever you want inside, it’s the same, but I know the situation here, your father does not, you can trust me.” He said, “OK.” I was treating him like my own children, so he relaxed, he changed his clothes, he went up to the guest houses. I need to explain the situation to you: When we register them we put them in custody, inside the fences, where they have their own food, beds, heat, everything, but they can’t go out, until we send the papers to guest houses in Athens or Thessaloniki and find out if they can accept them. This is the law. So in ten days they would answer us if they had space or not, ten to fifteen days. So, when the guest houses were full we couldn’t accept people, so we had this problem to delay their deportation, going to Athens, so this guy he was desperate to go to Athens, you know they need to be minors under eighteen so they can ask for their families. This was very important for them, so he tried to kill himself because he thought that he will never leave and will not be able to bring his family, because this boy, he was tortured by ISIS, he showed me many signs of torture Abed Nasralla

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in an attempt to prove to me that he had gone through it. Many unbelievable stories. You know when I was going inside to announce to them who will be leaving, everybody would gather. I could not go alone, I always went with the commander, he was announcing the names, I was translating and they were, you know, shouting like leaving the jail, they took the commander and carried him, like making this a parade, a celebration. They were so happy! For me it was a pleasure, because they finished the ten or fifteen days inside the custody safely, without risking their lives. For me it was satisfaction, it was a great thing. They were smiling, laughing, shouting. We took photos together, “Please please take photos with us”. They were respecting me and I was treating them like my children, they are without parents, they are my own people, so I need to be with them, helping them. Many many stories. You are happy after having helped so many people?

Joulia

Of course, satisfied.

Abed

It must feel really great. You do it every day here also, not just on the islands. So it’s your life, to help, help, help.

My parents, they taught us, if we can help other people it’s in our duty and culture to do so. You know the first time I went to Khora and I said I want to volunteer here, they said, “You speak Greek! Please go to the hospital now because our volunteers can’t understand the doctors, their English is so bad, they can’t understand us.” So I went there, I finished in five minutes and we left. You know when I was on Lesbos, all the eyes were on us, the police, the intelligence, Frontex, everybody, because there were some interpreters taking money from refugees to help them get the papers, so everybody was watching us. For me, they watched me for a year, they didn’t find anything, they watched my landline, my mobile, everything, I was clear. I told them, “Look in my bank account, I don’t have money.” You know there was a period when we had about 30 000 people in the city of Mytilini, everybody was asking me, “Please help us get the papers, we can give you 500 euros per paper”. 30 000 people! It’s 10 million for me. I was starving too, not having enough money to drink coffee, but I always said, “No, if I can help you I will help you without money.” This is how I grew up, I can’t take money from you, not because I will go to jail – unlikely scenario – but that’s beside the point. I just couldn’t accept this money, No. This is me, this is what I do. 109

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suhel ahmad The problems started when Suhel’s father publicly announced his support for the opposition, and also appeared as a candidate for the opposition’s party in public. As he and his associates were very popular with the inhabitants of the village, the town was attacked by the government troops. A huge massacre ensued. The inhabitants were slaughtered. Hardly anyone escaped and survived. Suhel was beaten by the soldiers on the head with a rifle. He lost consciousness. When he woke up again the soldiers were no longer there. He saw that his entire family had been murdered. Members of Krytyka Polityczna learnt from Suhel back in 2013 how he had walked from Greece to Berlin to join the struggle at Berlin Kreuzberg’s O-Platz. Tania Hron visited Suhel in Berlin to follow up on his story.

Tania Hron: Suhel, may I ask you what language you prefer speaking for this interview?

Suhel Ahmad: My mother tongue is Arabic. We speak English too, because when we go to school we learn English from the first year on. To do the interview in English would better than to do it in German. May I ask how old are you?

I was born in 1975. Where were you born?

My family is dead now. They died because of the political situation in Sudan: it very much depends on your ties to the leading party, to the president. I don’t now. It is a region in crisis. Since many years there is constant war in Darfur. The situation is terrible. When did you leave the Sudan?

16 years ago. For sixteen years I didn’t go back. I can’t. My parents were killed because my father was in a political opposition. They’d probably kill me too.

I was born in Sudan, in Darfur. My family lived there, in a beautiful village, all green, a river, flowers, fresh air. We had a house. I had cows, sheep, goats, camels, and two cars. 111


I left everything behind. Sold my cattle, my cars, whatever I could, and left because my grandmother told me to do so. She urged me to find a life without the constant threat to be killed. She said, “Suhel, you have to go, you have to find a solution for your life.” Is your grandmother still in Sudan?

Tania

Suhel

Yes, she is. But not in my city. None of my family members are allowed in the city we used to live in. She’s in Khartoum, the capital. Are you in touch?

Tania

Suhel

We speak from time to time over the phone. She tells me, “Make something of your life, and stay away from Sudan, there is no life for you here.” She very much wanted me to succeed here, in Europe. But it is not that easy. I don’t know if I would have come if I had known what kind of humiliations Europe had waiting for me. I catch myself asking myself, “How come you sold everything you had and left for this future?” I needed the money to get to Europe. I wanted to have a peaceful, quiet life. So I went on my long journey. First I flew to Turkey. They treated me well there, I encountered good, helpful people in Turkey. But I couldn’t stay forever, and I wasn’t allowed to work, because I wasn’t legal there. Just as a tourist I could come to visit.

Tania

When did you leave Turkey?

Suhel

I left in 2006, sorry, I mean in 2007.

Tania

Did you leave by boat?

Suhel

No, not by boat. I was walking. From Istanbul to Alexandropouli, the first town after the border between Turkey and Greece. I walked at night, resting in a sleeping bag during the day. I walked for three nights, hiding from people. I didn’t meet anybody. I ate very little, an apple and an orange. I had a bit of water with me. I was very tired, the walk was long. All I carried was a small backpack, not too heavy so I would be able to run if police would caught me. Turkish police officers back then were actually very nice to me, they even gave me advice, “If Greek police catches you, tell them you’re from Palestine, then they won’t arrest you.” A Turkish policeman told you that?

Tania

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Suhel: Yes, he did. I came to Alexandrone, a small village, and asked people for some water and for some food. But the people just called the police. I asked them what they were doing, I had just hoped for some food and for a refill of my water bottle... The police caught me, kept me for three days in a small cell full of dirt and feces. They gave me a small paper after that, enabling me to go to Athens. The police told me to ask for asylum. I didn’t know anybody in Athens. I found a Sudanese coffee shop and asked the people working there for help. They told me to find cash, like 2 000 Euros, and then go North, by airplane, bus, for papers. I tried. But I was denied access to the flight I had booked, instead I was arrested. My money was gone after I had tried for the third time to fly out of Greece. I asked the people from the Sudanese coffee shop where to find work. Someone suggested to go to Crete and work on the olive plantations. How did that work out for you?

It was very bad. Work was hard, and all we got was food and shelter. No money! I felt like a slave. I tried to find work elsewhere. I asked for work at a hotel. Back in Sudan, I have done College and four years at the University where I studied Tourism. I have worked in four and five star hotels in the Emirates, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. I worked at Burj Khalifa, making breakfast, lunch and dinner for up to 3000 people! But a hotel manager in Saloniki told me he couldn’t employ me because his guests would not like to take food from my hands because I was black. I couldn’t believe it. It was pure racism. It’s not like there isn’t any racism in Sudan, or that everybody in Europe is racist. But that time, it hit me very hard when I was rejected because of the color of my skin; and all my qualifications were overlooked. I was not prepared for that. I had all the papers necessary; work permit, my references, my experiences. How was I to accept this?! This gave me such a bad feeling. The olive harvest was over after three months, so I had to leave. I went to Patras and to Igoumenitza in the North-West of Greece, from where I was trying to escape every other night. I tried to travel in the wheels of big trucks that went on a ferry to Italy. I only briefly smelled the air of Venice, of Ancona, of Brindisi, and of Bari. I had no chance, I was always caught and transported back to Igoumenitza. It was a crazy thing to do: you had to hide in very a confined space for hours on end, you cannot pee, only into a plastic bag, you cannot eat, you cannot relax. It was dangerous too. I saw a friend dying. He had fallen out of the truck wheel and was run over by that truck. It happened right next to me. I didn’t know what to do. The little money I had was gone. There were 250 people from all over the world living in Igoumenitza, Afghans, Iraqis, people from Iran, Sudan, you name it.

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Do you still have contact with any of them?

Tania

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Very little. One of us, Sheikh Mohammed Ahmad, was caught on a boat. He was put in jail for three years, just for being on that boat in the port. He called me after he was released, telling me he couldn’t pass the border to Macedonia, that everything was closed and blocked now. All my friends are telling me the same: chances are much smaller now to cross the borders than they were before. So in 2009 I decided to try crossing the border by foot, like I did on my journey from Turkey to Greece. I felt it was my last chance. I couldn’t continue like that, trying to get on a ferry in a truck wheel, or doing something else dangerous and stupid. So I packed my small backpack again. I bought chocolate, water, some food. I took a warm sleeping bag I had bought for 45 Euros in Saloniki, and I ran. It was winter time when I left, there was snow around me. I walked at night and tried to sleep at daytime. It was cold. I ate fruit I found on the ground, forgotten from the last harvest. Drank from streams. I lost seven kilos of my weight! There were very few places to eat. When I met people I told them I came from Bulgaria and was visiting a friend. I couldn’t trust people. Partially I traveled by bus. But mostly by foot. From Macedonia to Serbia and further I walked. I wanted to rest in a hotel, but I couldn’t because of the missing papers. I was scared to be taken back to the camp in Greece if I tried to stay in a hotel. Instead I was hiding in the mountains. I remember being asleep in a canyon. Rain came, and suddenly the canyon was flooded with water. I had to walk all night, on and on. From Serbia I went to Hungary. I walked on. It took me over two months to get to Germany.

Tania

Suhel

How did you get to be part of the movement of O-Platz, the camp of refugees living on Berlin Kreuzberg’s Oranienplatz?

It took me a while. I arrived in Munich. Some guy I met, a man from Somalia, told me I should ask for asylum in Germany. He had done that and it worked well for him and his people. So I followed his advice. I was sent to Braunschweig where they interrogated me. I was denied asylum. I had three interviews, all of them had a negative result. Why were you denied asylum in Germany?

Tania

Suhel

They said Sudan was safe. They said that there was no war. But that is not true. There is a big war in Darfur, it never stopped. They think we are liars, and that we just want to come here to live off the money from the Jobcenter. Suhel Ahmad

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That’s ridiculous. What angered me the most was the so called Residenzpflicht. I had to stay at the place I was assigned. I had to ask permission to come and go to the camp I lived in, like a child. I felt I was treated like a criminal, not like a refugee seeking shelter from war. I wanted to fight for my rights. That is what all the people at O-Platz wanted: dignity and human rights, we wanted that the deportations back to where we fled from stopped, that the Residenzpflicht would end. We traveled – many of us marching on foot – to Berlin to demonstrate at O-Platz. We came from all over the place. I was actually living at O-Platz for one year. How was your life at O-Platz?

We lived in tents. We had an outside toilet, and much later a small truck with a shower, occasionally. It was cold too. And plenty of us became sick. Also, we were attacked sometimes, I remember some people had tried to set our camp on fire. But we were happy! Because we were fighting for our rights! People had to notice us, we were heard. We even traveled to Brussels by bus to talk about our situation in front of the European Parliament. We had a lot of hopes. We went into the refugee camps, trying to help. We talked to people, we explained to them how the system worked and that they should join us in our protest. We were friends, we cooked food together, made music, and we felt we took back control of our lives. We even had a band. I sang in this band, I sang in English about our situation, about what it meant to be a refugee. No Nations! No Borders! I loved it. We were 50 people in that band sometimes. What about the school, the Gerhard Hauptmann Schule in Kreuzberg? The building was occupied by some of the refugees living in the makeshift camp on the Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg.

I was the man on the roof of the Gerhard Hauptmann school in Ohlauer Straße. The police wanted to clear the building, so we went onto the roof of the building and said we’d rather jump off the roof then being taken away by police. We didn’t walk for hundreds of miles to be locked up in a camp! I stayed on that roof for nine days. There were up to 200 people living in that school, at that time about 40 us still remained. Most of us didn’t have the right to ask for asylum according to German law. We wanted to draw the attention of the public to our cases, and force politicians to act. I was desperate. I had lost years of my life already. I said to myself, “My life cannot continue like this.” I said to the others, “Let us go onto the roof.” Either the German authorities would hear us out, or we would jump of that roof, and die. The others asked me, “Are you sure?” I said I was, and so we went on that roof 115

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for nine days. In the end we signed an agreement that said most of us could stay in that building, and that we would have a trial for the Asylverfahren – the asylum procedures – in Berlin. It did, however, not grant us the right to stay in Germany. I received a permit for three years that ends in 2018. Then I will have to renew it. I’ll have to prove I learned German and have found a job. I’m already scared of this. After we came down from the roof and left the school building, I was arrested, for throwing glass and garbage of the roof. Did you throw things from the roof?

Tania

Suhel

I did. But nobody was there when I did. And I did it once. They put me in jail for five months for it. People asked me wether I wanted to go back to live in the school. But I actually wanted a life, find an apartment. Did you try to find work?

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Suhel

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Suhel

I tried to find a job. I worked at a construction site. But this is not my work, I’m not good at it. I’m more of a scholar, not so much a man that is good with his hands. I got sick there. The shifts were long. And I was cheated, I was told I would get 1600, but they only gave me 600 Euros. It was too much, I felt deflated after that experience. I asked at the Jobcenter for support in order to open up a small restaurant. I was told I didn’t have enough qualification. My degree from Sudan was not accepted. I would have to learn German, and had to take a one year professional training after that. Is it because I’m black? I don’t know. But I wonder. Why are my qualifications not taken into consideration? So I’m back to a school now, even though I’m over 40 years old, learning German. It’s not easy for me. Do you still have contact to the people supporting you at the O-Platz camp?

There was a lot of support. But it’s been a while. I can still call people and ask for help and advice. But on the other hand, there is also suspicion about my motivation. The judge at my trial told me I was causing too much trouble in Germany. I’m worried my permission will not be renewed after expiration. How do you feel about the three year permit?

Tania

Suhel

I’m am not happy about it. I feel depressed. I fought so hard for my rights, and yet I’m not safe. I can be kicked out after my permit is finished. Are you in touch with the other squatters from O-Platz and the Gerhard Hauptmann School?

Tania

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Oh yes, we are still in touch. And we still try to help with our modest means. We visit refugee camps, telling people there about their rights, we share our experiences and we give advice.

Suhel

How do people react to your offer?

Tania

Suhel: Some are happy, some tell us to just leave them alone.

Suhel

Do people know what to expect when they come to Germany?

Tania

Suhel: I think they do. There is a lot of information now. And let me tell you one thing: it is weird there are so many new Arabic shops and restaurants opening up that are run by people that came to Germany as refugees. I wonder how this works. Who is paying for that? What do you wish for yourself for the future? Would you like to open up a restaurant?

I would like to, but I’m not sure this will work. I want to work in a restaurant, I want to work with friends. I want a small life. I wish I had a family. But it feels to me like time is running out for me. I am determined to learn German now, and I want to improve my English. Let us see where it goes from there. I need to find a new apartment too. I’m tired of living in shared flats. But it isn’t easy now with all the new refugees pouring into the city. I’m looking for apartments every day. So far I couldn’t find one. Life is short, we don’t know what’s coming for us. I wish I could run a restaurant where I could employ other refugees. I’d like to help people that are in the same situation I’m in. But I don’t know if I will ever get there. But I’ll keep trying. Maybe after I finish my German language training I will work for two, three years and save up enough money. And then open up a place together with other people. I still have hopes. I’ll keep fighting. We will do. Let me leave a message for your readers: No border! No nation! Stop deportation! We are human beings, we have rights like anybody else. We just want a chance for a normal life. Do you know of the situation of other people that were living at O-Platz?

I have a lot of friends in Berlin. Most of them have a hard time. As far as I know, most of them remain in an unclear situation, between deportation, refugee camps, Jobcenter, short term permits to stay. I don’t think they want to have us in Europe.

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manaf halbouni Manaf Halbouni is a sculptor from Damascus based in Dresden. After installing his controversial barricade bus monument in front of Frauenkirche in Dresden, he joined Universitas workshops.

“WHAT IF”

Manaf interviewed participants individually on their positions on the topic “What if ”. On a world map, Manaf discussed fantasy world with the participants, so that a new world map was created. Meetings were documented by video recording.

Just how would it be if each of us suddenly had the power to change the course of history and everyone had the opportunity to create his own state. What would your new country look like? What would be your goals as a king, president or dictator?

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SPIROS / POSITION: CONSULTANT / CAPITAL CITY: ISTANBUL

The plan is to be as big as the former Roman empire. First goal is to invade the oil states (Saudi Arabia, Iran...). To avoid problems everybody will forced to convert to one religion and all will have one language. Step two will be the take over of Asia by promoting dictators to rule the country under the name of democracy. Step three is to promote all the rightwing parties in Europe and USA. The plan is to keep everything in parts so each can only deal with their own business. The most important goal is to keep Europe in parts, even with war. Spiros’s dream is to see Europe like it was 50 years ago. NADER / POSITION: DIPLOMAT / CAPITAL CITY: ATHENS

The diplomatic state of Greece will have the duty of bringing education to the countries with poor education, beginning with the Balkans. The missionaries of education will swap everywhere. The dream is to have a world without problems and borders.

CHRISTINA / POSITION: REVOLUTION LEADER / CAPITAL CITY: RIO

Christina will start a Worker’s Revolution in Rio. Everybody will have work and there will be no rich people. The biggest goal is to free the world from Capitalism. The factories will be for the workers and the land for the farmers. Beginning with the capital Rio, the revolution will sweep over all Latin America and it will become one country. In order to free more people from capitalism, the revolution will take its way to the USA, China and India. In the end the revolution will be everywhere. Who is against it will be eliminated. Through the power of the revolution in Rio the Europeans adopt the revolution and start their own. ANGELO / POSITION: MUSICIAN / CAPITAL CITY: VIENNA

Angelo’s dream is an ultimate state of music where all the rules are made by music. Everything starts from his capital of music: Vienna. Many countries will follow his music rules and support him. In case of any war, Angelo will invite the warring sides to a music freedom symposium in Hyderabad/ India. In case it needs help, the next step will be a big freedom party in Rio.

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TAHER / POSITION: KING / CAPITAL CITY: ALEPPO

King Taher’s philosophy is to run an empire of good food and tourism. As he controls the countries with the best weather he can provide the world with the best food. Everybody loves his country, the citizens are wealthy, extremely educated, and they all love the king. To stabilize his energy sector he decided to prepare the invasion of Iraq’s oil fields in order to have an independent energy source. After the death of King Taher the people should elect the new King.

ZOI / POSITION: QUEEN / CAPITAL CITY: PARIS

Queen Zoi’s politics means keeping all citizens rich. She only wants to rule over France as a queen who everybody loves for her wisdom. All problems in the country well be solved through negotiation. All citizens have the same rights and everybody is welcome in the Kingdom. Many neighboring states share Queen Zoi’s politics and there are good treading deals between the countries. In case of war Queen Zoi will prevent it by stepping back from her position. She wants to be remembered as the Queen who saved the life of her citizens by giving up her position.

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RECORDING 1: MANAF HALBOUNI AS A GENERAL OF THE ISLAMIZATION ARMY

Manaf

I wanted to involve the art university of Dresden in my projects, such as the one called “Der Sachse auf der Flucht”, a Saxon fleeing, you know, where I packed a mercedes with cliché things a person from Saxony would carry when leaving the country. The Uni was not interested. They were worried or something. Maybe I’m not a curator’s favorite. I was one of the first artists to use public space in Dresden. That is how I got a lot of attention. That’s how I got invited to the Biennale, and then to the Refugees Week in London. It was fun. I drove there myself. I had some trouble because I didn’t get that I had to pay the toll for some highways. It was weird to drive “on the wrong side” in England. I had a small budget but it worked. For the exhibition opening in Leipzig – where they displayed my work with the maps – I went as a general. Like the general I invented for this project. I designed a medal; I gave this medal to the director of the museum and to the founder of the foundation financing the museum. My medal is called the Iron Half Moon. I’m thinking about who else to give it to, I’d like to extend this project. How did people react to the medal you created?

Joulia

Manaf

Joulia

They liked it, everybody laughed. I made a hundred of these medals, and now I have to honor other people with it. It is for special merits as an atheist. Maybe it would be good for politicians too – I don’t yet know how to establish this thing with the medals. This kind of thing worked well you’re saying. So do you think that you are using a language codified by the media? And this is why people react? That you’re playing with terms people are familiar with from media discourse?

Maybe. I don’t want to interpret: people see what they see.

Manaf

Joulia

Manaf

How about your connection to the Syrian artists community? Is there even such a thing? Do you belong, or don’t belong? You said you’re invited to work with other Syrian artists now, even though there isn’t much connection, did I get that right?

Oh no, I am part of the community, somehow. They know me, I know them, some from back in Damascus. But in Dresden, I’m somewhat on an outpost and all alone. All the others are in Berlin, or in Paris. I see what the others Manaf Halbouni

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are doing – mainly because I see it on Facebook. There is a community in Paris. But the art scene there is, well, I’d say more conservative. There is more money in Germany for art that is connected to topics about Syria. Why is that so?

I think the art scene in Paris is more traditional. The community in Berlin consists of the younger, less established people. Do Syrian artists connect their art to their Syrian roots?

In Paris? Well, they left the country, I mean Syria. That is a topic. The wellknown and established artists from Syria all went to Paris. It is a classic route. The artists used to travel to Paris and back to Damascus. The young artists go to Berlin now. But on top of the different circles in Berlin and Paris, there are circles with different ethnic backgrounds. It is a bit like a little mafia. It’s been like that in Syria too. So how are you working with your connections to the community?

I help when I can. And I also suggest people. It happens now that I’m asked to suggest people, which I gladly do. An exhibition about the history of Syria will soon take place. I suggested inviting some Syrians, and also some people from Dresden. I know some who were in Damascus in the 90s. They could display their pictures, maybe together with images from nowadays. I also suggested inviting the artist Hamid Suleiman who published a graphic novel, “Freedom Hospital”, about a hospital under siege in Syria. I thought that it could be interesting to bring this together.

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RECORDING 2: REFUGEES AND MILITARY IN SYRIA

You wanted to explain something about different types of refugees.

From my perspective there are three different categories of refugees from Syria. First the ones who lost everything and leave because they don’t want to die in the next bombardment. Then, we do have fortune seekers who just hope for a better life, money, comfort. Gold diggers. But there are also the young men between 15 and 25. They leave the country because they want to avoid being drafted into the army. In Syria, as a young man you only have two possibilities after you finish your high school. Either you study, or you go to the army. 123

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If your school results are good, the state allows you to go to a university. So a lot of Syrians try to excel at school in order to be permitted to study for five years, and not be called to the military. But after finishing their university degree, they still have to go to the army. They can prolong their studies by taking a sabbatical. If they did well enough, they can study some more in order to get a doctoral degree on top. This buys them another three years or so. But in the end you still have to go to the army. You’re likely to start off with a better rank, and you have more privileges than other recruits. But now, in our civil war, all the parties of conflict try to get you to participate in their platoon. This is why the families mostly send away their young sons. They don’t want them to get killed. They don’t want them to become canon fodder. Depending on what area you live in, you’re pulled into the army or into irregular troops, or even into IS. IS is recruiting twelve year old boys I’ve heard. They send them to the Koran school. There, they get a brain washing. The best thing to do is to run away before you turn eighteen. Borrow some money, go to Europe, go on, don’t you stay, there are only crazy people around here. Joulia

Manaf

They are sending away kids of twelve years? The people send their children away?

I’ve heard of kids that came with their dad, or just their older brother. I read about groups of brothers and how some of the brothers got lost on the way. Terrible stuff. You said there were alternatives to this fate?

Joulia

Manaf

We had a system in the nineties, it worked like this: You leave the country, move to the Gulf States for some years, you come back with a lot of money and open up a business in Syria. But, more importantly, you could buy your way out of the army for a hefty sum. So this became a real mass phenomenon. Young people left Syria right after they finished university in order to work for a few years in Dubai or Saudi Arabia for not so much money but enough to pay for getting rid of their duty to go to the army. Are you telling me there was a law to regulate this?

Joulia

Manaf

Indeed. You had to live for five years in one of the states around the gulf and pay 5 000 dollars to get out of the army. The ones who lived in Europe had to live abroad for longer and had to pay twice as much. People in Europe or America were thought to be making more money so they had to pay more. So, I wanted to do that too: avoid military by living in Europe and paying for my way out. When I left the country in 2008, you had to live in Europe for five years plus you had to pay 5 000 euros. Manaf Halbouni

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So you decided to go for it.

Exactly. I wanted to study, and then avoid to be drafted. A lot of people did that at the time. Is there an institution in Syria you have to go to and just pay?

Oh no, you had to go to the Syrian embassy in the country you lived in, and pay there. If you had walked into the recruiting offices, they would immediately have drafted you into the army. When you turned sixteen in Syria, you were given a little booklet by the military. As soon as you turned eighteen you had to get a stamp every year. That thing allowed you to not go to the army for another year. They checked whether you really studied or not. It was hell to go there to get your stamp. It was scary, the people were corrupt, and it was humiliating. You had to be dressed properly, shiny shoes, ironed shirt and all. And you had to have a very short haircut and no beard. If you didn’t look like you were supposed to, or made other mistakes, they denied you the permission to stay away from the army. Did this really happen?

Sure. Next to the recruiting centers there were a lot of hairdressers, from the nice salons to the barbers on the street that just shaved your head with a machine. If you didn’t have short hair, they could just keep you and recruit you right away.

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What about human rights?

Joulia

It depended on how much money you had and whom you knew.

Manaf

Did the refugee camp in Elefsina we have been visiting remind you of the recruitment centers?

It reminded me of the military camps I had to go to during my time at university. Once I had to speak to the officers because I wanted to get out of the camp for half a day. They shouted at me, kicked me around. I called my dad then with a mobile phone I had kept despite the fact we were not allowed to have such devices. My dad knew a lot of people. He just called someone. After that, the officers called me back in and apologized, and my permission to leave for the rest of the day was granted.

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And why did you go back to that camp?

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Manaf

I had to. If you didn’t go, you didn’t get to study any longer, the camp was mandatory. You didn’t get results, or degrees. They had you by the balls. By the balls? So women don’t have to go to the army?

Joulia

Manaf

No, only men. I left in 2008, after my experiences in the military camps. I never got a university degree in Syria because I left the country. So you escaped. But now young men are recruited for the army as well as for the IS?

Joulia

Manaf

At the moment, yes.

Joulia

How is the IS recruiting?

Manaf

The IS? Well, they first close all the schools and fire all the teachers. Then they open up a Koran school, where they indoctrinate the children with the ideology of IS: die for god, all this super radical stuff we read about in the news. They brainwash the kids in the areas where they rule.

RECORDING 3: ABOUT “MONUMENT” AND THE “WHAT IF” PROJECT

Joulia

Manaf

Krytyka is the place to talk about the meta level of the reception of your artwork “Monument” in the media.

Well, this work was developed in different stages. Two weeks before we erected it people in Dresden heard about the work, and got upset. They demonstrated against it. Then we set it up, and they were demonstrating again. Then they realized they couldn’t really stop it, so they changed strategy, they tried to find another way to get rid of the “Monument”. So all of a sudden the flag was top news. Then, after that flag thing was not an issue anymore – it became clear there was no intended connection between my work and the image of the buses in Aleppo with that flag – it was time to blame me as an Islamist. They did that because of my project about the maps. That is the project I will also work with here in Athens. The version you see in front of me displays the colonization of Europe, it was labeled: plan for jihadists...

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So these people attacked you using an older work of yours, or something you work on now?

They used this work here. And nowhere in this work do I say anything about Islam! Or other religions, for that matter. But it was put together like this. It resulted in: this Manaf Halbouni is working on the islamization of Europe. Moreover I was said to be a supporter of jihad. They seriously wrote that?!

Yes. And that I was an undercover Islamist. An extremist who was living in Germany. So you were labeled a dangerous Islamic terrorist.

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Eleni Zervou comes in

Hi, Eleni, may I introduce: this is a radical Islamist. Manaf, this is Eleni, who is trying to save Europe from its full islamization by her translation activities.

Yes, that’s me.

Joulia

Eleni

Can you speak about your work in English, Manaf?

Joulia

Sure.

Manaf

Great. This part is about Manaf ’s bus barricade installation work, which is currently being exhibited in the center of the city of Dresden. This is the place where all the demonstrations of the right wing groups and parties normally happen. He built his work exactly there, so they don’t have any time or space to demonstrate at this spot. You see, it is a monument built with big buses. The people attacked and still attack it all the time by different means. In Manaf ’s story we are now at the point where they started to find different strategies to belittle his work. Because they couldn’t avoid it, because it was there, and it was hard to overlook it. Now Manaf will tell us about the work he will do here, in Athens. It will be a work with maps. The right wing took a look at the maps and started to argue that Manaf was an Islamist, a terrorist. Please take a seat, Eleni, I’ll make you some tea. 127

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Where should I sit, there? Did you arrive yesterday, Manaf?

Eleni

Manaf

Yes. You see, later we will talk to other people too, but we’ll start with you – is it ok for you to be recorded? Yes, it‘s ok.

Eleni

Joulia

Manaf is considered an Islamist because of the imaginary country he envisioned for the future.

Does it have a connection to the Caliphate, or what is it about?

Eleni

Manaf

I started this map project in 2015. Last year, I showed it in Leipzig for the first time. I displayed the picture of a general who colonizes Europe. They took the story, changed it into one saying that I was making a cookbook for Islamists, and was showing them how to colonize Europe. They said that I was a terrorist, living among Germans, and that I would have to be killed.

Joulia

Killed? Congratulations.

Manaf

They also said Angela Merkel was collaborating with terrorists.

Eleni

Who says that?

Manaf

The right wing PEGIDA – Patriots Against the Islamization of Europe, and the AFD – Alternative für Deutschland. So, they’re all against me now. That’s a good starting point.

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Manaf

I’m a very hated persona. I’m the Syrian Islamist who blocked the demonstration space in Dresden. The good German citizens couldn’t gather there. And when I told them I had a German mother and knew the city from my childhood, they answered, “It doesn’t matter, you’re Syrian.” I grew up in Syria, my dad is from Damascus, and I studied art in Germany and Syria. Wasn’t there a story about someone who discovered a photo? What was that with the flag and all? The outcry about the bus project “Monument” developed in three different stages. In the beginning, before I even started to set up the installation, the right wing protesters started to demonstrate against the work, saying it was making the city look ugly. They couldn’t stop it this way. It was a bit scary. Manaf Halbouni

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The address of my workshop was published on a website, as if somebody should go to it and threaten me. I got police protection. I like this recording. The story has been told from three different starting points now, whenever a new person comes in, we start again. Let’s continue.

Then came phase two: After they didn’t manage to block the installation, they found that picture with that flag... What flag? Here is a picture by the Reuters news agency of a bus barricade from Aleppo. This flag – shows the flag of an allegedly terroristic organization – was on it. There are a lot of different pictures from that event. This one has that flag standing in the middle of the bus. For the people trying to sabotage “Monument” this flag was a flag representing terror in Germany, the right wing accused me of alluding to it. But most people in Aleppo told me that the flag stood for a group who were actually helping Christians in Aleppo, and fought against ISIS. I can’t say anything about this, I just don’t know. Right wing German organizations said it was the flag of a terror organization, Russians said it wasn’t. So I got into the middle of a mess. The right wing side was angry, saying I was toying with symbols of terror. They said that with my work I had planted a terror flag into the middle of a Christian country, near a Christian church. Well, that church is more a rebuilt tourist attraction then a Christian prayer place, but so be it. They couldn’t stop the erection of the artwork, so they had to find something else to get rid of me putting it into the heart of Dresden. This is when phase three started: the right wing connected my artwork with the imaginary maps and a text about a general invading Europe with me being terrorist. Is this about the maps project? Or is it a new project? Is it the „What If?” Project? I read about it. The map project started in 2015. I wrote a small text about a general leading his troops for an attack on Europe. I’m not saying anything about religion in any of the texts I wrote for this work. Or in any other text by me. I actually don’t think religion plays such a role in a developed country. I believe in current conflict religion comes second, not first. But Pegida and AfD used this text and the maps against him. They took art as a manifesto for a religious war.

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Here is another good story: They even suggested I was to take the truck from the terror attack in Berlin instead of the buses from Aleppo. They had a flyer made showing the Frauenkirche church at the Neumarkt in Dresden and the truck from Berlin as the new installation of “Monument”. It was supposed to be a symbol against terror. I didn’t get that. This insinuated we only had to think about victims of terror in Germany, or in Europe. Other victims were only of secondary importance. They were not worth thinking about. How did the media react to “Monument”? How could you describe the spectrum of the reactions? Could you name some you considered allies, who understood your work? Wasn’t there a lot of fighting?

So far only some German Media got upset about the work. Others didn’t enter the war against me. They only just said, ah, nice work. American Media presented it as a work against Trump, such as the LA times. There are many institutions who liked my work. Some such as The State Art Collections in Dresden, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the University of Arts in Dresden, and the Art Magazine, and more, commented positively. There was also a radio discussion with the Berlin Art University. The honorary president of this institution stated it was a good work, he said, art didn’t have to be pretty and nice, not even in Dresden. How about reactions from Syrians?

Joulia

Manaf

Joulia

Syrians are very funny. Some thought I really imported buses from Aleppo. Which they thought to be terrible. But of course that wasn’t possible, I had the buses reproduced. I started to mock Syrians about it. Syrian art places acknowledged it was a perfectly constructed image showing what was really going on in Syria. Overall, the Syrians liked it. And a lot of people called my father: „Your son is all over the news!“ Shall we start the islamization of Europe? Are we going to start outside, or will your first participant start inside? Would you like to already involve people passing by, or would you rather at this stage start with one person?

We will start inside.

Manaf

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rachel clarke

Storyteller, Curator of the Storytelling Arena Berlin

Storytellers as Bearers and Sharers of Knowledge This is an article on Autobiographical Storytelling, which has established itself also as an art form in Britain and the United States. The author deliberately blends selected stories about personal experiences in life and work, to demonstrate how the Storytelling Arena – Syrian Series which she created, grew organically out of several key experiences, which she describes. She mixes these personal experiences with reflections on how storytelling can be used by an individual or groups living in exile to make his/her/their knowledge visible and to generate understanding and respect even among those with no prior knowledge of it. The idea of ‘integration’, with which the article concludes, is a reflection on a debate in Germany, where politicians and media often insist that refugees need to be prepared to ‘integrate’, if they wish to remain in Germany, ie by which they mean assimilating to the German culture and values. The author emphasises that she disagrees with the idea of integration as symbiotic and that she always regards it as ‘a two-way street’.

Once after a Storytelling event in Berlin, a professional storyteller called Kristin Wardetzky, who has won the Wild Woman Prize for her art, asked me, “What inspired you to create this Storytelling Arena - Syrian Series?” I replied,

“I’d need to answer that one with a story”. When another wild woman artist whom I also admire, asked me to write an article for this magazine, I realised the time had come to tell it.

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SCOTLAND

I grew up surrounded by talented tellers of tall tales, with humble hearts and a cracking self-ironic sense of humour, between Glasgow and the Highlands of Scotland. But it was ironically my cousin from Chicago, a visiting University Tutor of Folklore, who introduced me to Storytelling as an art form. Typically, for a man who grew up in an emigrant family, he was more Scottish than the Scots themselves. Donald arrived with a backpack and bagpipes in a kilt. His beautiful hippy girlfriend Ariel was as light and beautiful in spirit as her namesake in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. They breezed off together into the Highlands to follow the Scottish nomad folk, the Travellers about whose stories Donald was writing his PhD and book. They stayed overnight and wowed us with a story or three, before being picked up by Traveller friends in their caravantruck. As my family watched them go, my mother cracked a joke about ‘the uselessness of pot-mending tinkers in the days of supermarkets’, my father told us how he used to tour the mountains up north with just a backpack and his bicycle, and my 13-year-old self longed to join them on their journey, head over heels in love as I was, with both Donald and the idea of freedom. INSPIRATION

My search for freedom took me to Berlin, where I learned theatre directing at the former East German Academy of the Dramatic Arts, Ernst Busch, where they also taught me applied sociology and dramaturgy, and the East German ‘Handwerk’ (artisanship) and all about hard-work. My Glaswegian spirit had been suppressed at an Academy producing theatre for audiences who – after the collapse of the communist state – had understandably had quite enough of left-wing politics. So my Glaswegian spirit took me after my degree to Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed in Rio, Brazil and Peter Schumann’s Bread and Puppet Theatre in Vermont, USA. The latter two projects worked in the style of a collective, despite having very strong and inspiring leaders. They proved in practice that one could change the world, at the least locally, through theatre as artistic activism. Then I met a man, who became my partner, whose love of politics took him and me to live, work and love, in what we had in Europe just stopped calling a Third World country.

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LAOS

I found myself for the next five years in the remote countryside in Laos, where it bordered on Burma and Northern Thailand, working for an international development aid organisation. I started out working in three northern provinces, but I moved to work on village level, where I felt I could work in the most meaningful way. The people were from the Khamu, Hmong, Yao and Lahu tribes, each speaking their own language and with their own traditions and community structures, which existed parallel to the ones from the communist state. I communicated in the Lao language, not being able to learn all five, and on the recommendation of a local official, who was from the area, I recruited village business women who had small shops at the roadside. I told them, I’d like to work with them with mutual respect, “eye to eye, mind to mind, heart to heart,” as the Scottish storytellers always say, when they talk about how a story should be told. I explained to them that storytellers are carriers of knowledge and generate more knowledge when they exchange their stories with others. I told them that in my country, we consider stories more valuable than lists of facts, because they enter our minds, our understanding and consciousness much more easily and stay there much longer than facts ever could. The villagers said they told stories, but they didn’t perform them in front of large audiences. But when they tried performing stories, some decided they loved it, mostly the shop-girls, who found it a welcome change from shop and field-work. The shop girls formed mobile teams, I trained them in performance skills and how to collect peoples’ stories. Next, we rehearsed to create verbal scripts of these stories in local languages and performed them all over the lowlands and the highlands of Bokeo province. Sometimes, we’d go by local bus, which was usually a tuktuk, to the road’s end and walked uphill for hours to the mountain villages. The people came to see our plays, after long days in the fields, whole villages, by the light of flaming torches, even carrying their grandmothers in their arms along the mountain paths several kilometres to the next village to see us perform. After supporting my colleagues to become project managers of their own organisation with their own office, I left for my home in Berlin, knowing that they would thrive. I love them till this day, my Lao family, we both gave each other equally as much.

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THE SYRIAN SERIES

In the winter of 2015, I volunteered as a teacher and commuted from the centre of Berlin to deepest Brandenburg. I taught German to 20 Syrian men in the morning and 20 Syrian men in the afternoon. They were all under tremendous pressure to succeed financially. They all were desperate to get their loved ones out of Syria. When they discovered that German law didn’t allow them to bring their families to Germany, bitter disappointment set in. Those who were married had a chance to bring their wives over, but it would take a long time and a lot of paperwork. In the meantime, I was their only contact to the outside world, and they told me their stories. With the help of a student with excellent English, whose finals had been interrupted when a bomb hit his university, they told me about growing up in Syria, the beauty of going out in old Damascus and the music of Aleppo, about family life, courting and other traditions... And I realised that people in Germany needed to hear these stories. The media was empathetic and reporting on refugees’ journeys, but also making us underestimate these people by stylising them as victims. These people were carriers of their culture, a second Syria came alive in the room through their stories. Syrian may yet lie in ruins, but it could also blossom here in Germany, through these people. As their stories revealed, these people were full of knowledge and capable of living fruitful lives here, if not suffocated by paperwork. Integration? They were ready to have integrated yesterday if they had been given the chance. I invited any of my students who felt like it to tell a story about their lives before the war in Syria at my monthly thematic Storytelling event – the Storytelling Arena in Berlin. The first night, we called Berlin Aleppo Damascus Berlin and it was sold out within 24 hours, with 5 000 people inquiring about tickets. We got around the language barrier by translating some stories from Arabic into German, and some from Arabic into English, and pairs of author-storyteller and interpreter-storyteller performed these stories together. The stories they told that first night were full of longing, a young man called Fadi told his dream as a teenager of playing in one of Aleppo’s three basketball clubs, which was thwarted by the storyteller’s height. A student, Mohammed told a story of the girls he had fallen in and out of love with as a boy in his neighbourhood, and about one date with a girl outside the beautiful citadel in his city Aleppo. And in doing so, he realised that his city was the real subject of his story, the love which would outlast all others. He and the audience that night collectively mourned its destruction. A third storyteller, Maher, told a comic tale about the first time his mother made him cook Rachel Clarke

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for the Eid Al-Fitr, the fast-breaking festival after Ramadan, and how his attempt at the signature dish Fateh turned out to be a disaster, for which his friends punished him, by not allowing him to cook for them for years to come. The audience was half German, half Syrian. This first event in February 2016 marked the start of what became the Storytelling Arena– Syrian Series, and we’ve been creating such events ever since. We choose the topic for each event depending on themes reoccurring in current conversation in the Syrian community, we had several about the revolution, one called ‘Syrian Love Stories’, and two about Syrian impressions of Berlin and the Germans, one of which was a comedy night. Working with the Syrian people over the last fourteen months, has taught me about courage in the face of real and sustained suffering. They have taught me about how quickly a whole community of friends can be built and how it can sustain and support you like a family can. Banned by the German state from bringing their families here to safety, friends have in exile become their surrogate family. Storytelling is an art form. The tales have been created to be told and are shared in a dynamic, expressive way. It is no coincidence that authors, journalists and poets from Syria soon made up most of our guest storytellers, because of their talent with words. Although the stories are autobiographical or biographical, they are not the same as a journalistic article. We work together on stories, their dramaturgy and rehearse them for performance. A story designed to be told is different to a short story or description of a view or a city written for a reader. The storytelling interpreter and even the author himself will notice the difference when preparing to tell it: A story designed to be told will be much easier to remember and can be improvised, whereas a story designed to be read, will have to be learned word by word. The audience will always notice the difference when listening. Stories written to be told will carry more emotion, be more eventful and have a much bigger impact on the audience. In Scotland, I learned the art of storytelling, in Laos, I learned so much by immersing myself in another culture which challenged many of my ideals and beliefs, which is not always a comfortable process. From the Syrians, I learned that stories are carriers of culture. Being a stranger in a foreign land, your experience, whether positive or negative depends on the people whom you meet. If we meet each other with openness, respect and curiosity, an exchange of experiences and knowledge can take place, beneficial for both sides. Storytelling is one way of creating common ground. Integration is only good if it’s a two-way street. Autobiographical storytelling is an important and fascinating step in this process. 137


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liwaa yazji

Liwaa Yazji is a filmmaker, poet, playwright, scenarist and translator. She is a board member of the Syrian cultural organisation EttijahatIndependent Culture. Her first documentary Haunted (2014) eplores what it means to set off in a war. Liwaa has participated in Universitas with her workhop What are we afraid of? Human connections.

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RECIPE TO ABANDON THE SHADOW

I lost the gift of forgetfulness without forgetting, And of laughter without thinking, The gift of adolescent revenge And pure fury I lost the familiar frailty And vivid colors, Hearing without judgement And nature without squalor, The gift of time passes without me And of fire, Of sorrow revealed, And of saying what is spinning in my head... and spinning. of sleeping without the tether of a bed and It keeps spinning... Life without longing, The limp ease of improvisations to come. The celebration of the levity of emptiness, The indifference to concern, And it keeps spinning... that ability not to feel guilt,

First published in English in: Three Poems by CECArtsLink and Segal Theater Translated by Chip Rosetti Edited by Samantha Kostmayer.

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Facing possibilities with open eyes And abandoning a frightening idea, Persuasion without outdoing And... Oh, how slow learning disappeared! Remaining in water, The examination of the self And reinstating it as it was As it will never be again.

I lost I lost I lost

simple love simple love... it.

I lost the sparrow of my spirit its cord is still dangling from the day`s ceiling The quotidian ordeal of the afternoon Will eat my shadow And turn me into a point That will never end.

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georgia kotretsos & mehul sangham Exploring the Geometry of Possibility As we sit on the cusp of what is an almost certain collapse of the social, economic and ecological systems that make our planet habitable, we face new existential questions that demand an immediate reconciliation. These are necessarily metaphysical questions; they are not so concerned with the ‘aversion of an end’, but rather with the first principles that have provoked this end. This paper explores the liminal spaces of a reconciliation, exploring a new epistemology for change.

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The Triple Illusion The signs and remnants of a dying 400-year-old socio-economic system1 are all around us, giving the last heaving breaths of death. We are now living within the stronghold of the end days of a corporatist and extractive paradigm that is guiding all human activity to its final cataclysm. As we sit on the cusp of what is an almost certain collapse of the social, economic and ecological systems that make our planet habitable, we face new existential questions that demand an immediate reconciliation. These are necessarily metaphysical questions – questions that are not so concerned with the ‘aversion of an end’, but rather with the first principles that have led to such an end. With some clarity, Gilles Deleuze writes in Spinoza: Practical Philosophy that “consciousness is inseparable from the triple illusion that constitutes it, the illusion of finality, the illusion of freedom, and the theological illusion.”2 The triple illusion that Deleuze identifies belongs to a fantasy of human exceptionalism. This human exceptionalism has been the foundation and justification for much of human activity over the last 400 years; which we could say may be best characterized by the Nietzschean ‘will to power’ or the innate drive to control, order and tame the wildness of the natural world. We may also see that this has reached a precarious and fragile realization in our time, as leading thinkers name this epoch of geological history the ‘Anthropocene’ – a time in which human activity has impacted every natural and living system on our planet, often to its detriment. Blind To The Wisdom of Our Beginnings We should all take offence in this. The naming of a geological epoch (as the Anthropocene) is the final insult, the final act of hubris by an insidious revolt of ape-like dissidents to the natural order of the great verse of history. As we are increasingly emboldened by the miniature triumphs of our technical rationality, we have become blind to the wisdom of our beginnings – we have

1 Capitalism has been the dominant economic paradigm for the last 400 years (Picketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, 2013).

Lambert, Léopold (ed.), The Funambulist Pamphlets, Vol. 03: Deleuze. Punctum Books, Brooklyn, NY 2013, p. 95.

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declared war on the organic, innate and indigenous wisdom that bore us. However, taking stock of this state of the world, we could say that this epoch is not so much the result of man’s impact alone but rather of an out of control set of social, cognitive and linguistic forestructures – a linguistic virus. A chaotic, fracturing, breaking, corrosive explosion of a social consciousness that has no history, no time and no purpose – it is a mind at the behest of the transcendental, the ideological and the abstract. Christian Narrative The triple delusion is a metaphysic that is exemplified in the Christian narrative of human history. Accordingly, we are creations of the divine, endowed with free will and this will, lead us either to salvation or to eternal retribution. However, this logic has deeper and more entrenched roots within the development of Western thinking, for example the Aristotelian doctrine of essences, which, through the systematic categorization of phenomena, implicated a hierarchical and transcendental ligature on the immanent becoming of everydayness. Kant’s Transcendental Idealism and Descartes’ mind-body division as lineal successors to Aristotelian logic, later developed as theories in which essential and ideal natures predominate over the emergent, immanent becoming nature of reality. We may thus say that this era (in which human enterprise has grown and propagated itself beyond the means that support it) of abstract machines, ideological organisms and memetic viruses drive human activity resulting in a denigration of our obligation to the materiality of our existence. This schizophrenic impulse, borne from a fundamental Cartesian mispercepti145


on, then operationalized by Aristotelian declarative logic and systematized by the social and linguistic shackles of the triple delusion, has placed man in a hyperreal and simulative cognitive prison. This is the delusion of the grand importance and eternal redemption of the self. This is nowhere more apparent than in the perfunctory and onerous machinations of late stage capitalism. As an adjunct to the narrative of the triple delusion, it has extended the ideological servitude to the more secular activity of economic activity. We have become impotent actors at the behest of an abstracted deity of capital – an idealized form of value – forgetting the importance of real fiduciary agreements. This has left us vulnerable and subservient to the gruesome behemoth of late stage capitalism – whose totalitarian dictates have embroiled human desire within false notions of liberty, freedom and self-actualization. Knowledge At the core of this is a conflation of different types of metaphysical knowledge: between knowledge of essences and knowledge of existences. Heidegger articulated this as the difference between the metaphysics of presence, a direct access to knowing, exemplified by the operations of declarative knowledge (inductive and deductive reasoning), and what he simply termed thinking or more ambiguously, essencing – the moment of creative revelation. The deconstruction of this legacy of the metaphysics of presence takes one to the place of ontological poetry, of paradoxical truth and ultimately the dissolution of the self – it deconstructs the triple delusion at its root. Deleuze develops this in his explorations of Leibniz’s Pyramid and Borges’ Forking Paths – setting up an insight into an alternative, virtual and simulative ontology. Deleuze, in describing what he called ‘the power of the false’, distinguishes between the truth of essence and the truth of existence… “In truths of essence, the analysis is finite, in truths of existence, the analysis is infinite. That is not the only one, for there is a second difference: according to Leibniz, a truth of essence is such that its contradictory is impossible, that is, it is impossible for 2 and 2 not to make 4. Why? For the simple reason that I can prove the identity of 4 and of 2+2 through a series of finite procedures. Thus 2+2=5 can be proven to be contradictory and impossible. Adam non sinner, Adam who might not have sinned, I therefore seize the contradictory of sinner. It’s possible. The proof is that, following the great criterion of classical logic and from this perspective Leibniz Georgia Kotretsos & Mehul Sangham

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remains within classical logic I can think nothing when I say 2+2=5, I cannot think the impossible, no more than I think whatever it might be according to this logic when I say squared circle. But I can very well think of an Adam who might not have sinned. Truths of existence are called contingent truths.”3

In this way he uses the above discussion to explore the boundaries of declarative logic, proposing that the means of understanding the truth of existence requires a radically different operation. The logic of essences finds truth through a finite number of declarative operations; whilst the logic of existence finds truth through referential, historical and contingent references. The basic assertion here – that essences and existence have distinct metaphysical knowledge – is one that indicates the need for a re-assessment of our fundamental being-in-the-world. At stake is a reconstitution of the axiomatic meanings of our beings: agency, desire and identity. The flaw inherent in the transcendental causation of the triple delusion is founded on a conception of self that is idealized and essential – however at odds this is with our everyday experience of it. Therefore, we misperceive our world as a mere derivative of a field of essential and idealized abstractions – and so will always be driven by a transcendental causation. Indeed, Western history and in particular the rise of the neoliberal structures of late stage capitalism exemplify this error. However, if we renounce the atomistic view of ourselves, taking freedom to truly be the realization of our contingency and vulnerability – we shall discover the true meaning of our creative potential. As Spinoza articulates: “Men think themselves free, because they are conscious of their volitions and their appetite, and do not think, even in their dreams, of the causes by which they are disposed to wanting and willing.”4 – .

Our role in this time is to write-in the death narrative of the atomistic ego, and give birth to the identity of the contingent self. What comes with it is a complete re-enactment of the mythology of time, space and energy – an ontology of immanence, of quantum entanglement and creative ethics. It is not so much that we have abandoned the transcendental or ideological; but rather that we conceive of them in a radically new light – as the simulative

3 Lambert, Léopold (ed.), The Funambulist Pamphlets, Vol. 10: Literature. Punctum Books, Brooklyn, NY 2014, p. 99–100. 4 Spinoza, Baruch, Ethics. Penguin Classics 1996, appendix. Eugene Marshall (ed.), The Spiritual Automaton: Spinoza’s Science of the Mind. Oxford University Press 2013, p. 160.

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and virtual spaces that give rise to emergent actualities. This is what Karan Barad has called ‘meeting the universe halfway’ – requiring what she has called an ‘ethico-onto-epistem-ology’. In this new praxeology, we take responsibility for every action, as the very medium of world creation – an art that can only be achieved through the death of the atomistic self. Conversely, this new self is ‘self-caused’, self-actualizing, and self-producing. This self can never find a logocentric locus. It rather is the line of flight that is engaged and coupled with the emerging horizon of experience. New Sense So how do we develop this new sense – this new embodied cognition of the geometric fields of possibility? We may find some clues again in Deleuze’s contrast of Leibniz’s Pyramid and Borges’ Garden of Forking Paths. “Why did God choose this world? Leibniz goes on to explain it. Understand that at this level, the notion of compossibility becomes very strange: what is going to make me say that two things are compossible and that two other things are incompossible? Adam non sinner belongs to another world than ours, but suddenly Caesar might not have crossed the Rubicon either, that would have been another possible world. What is this very unusual relation of compossibility? Understand that perhaps this is the same question as what is infinite analysis, but it does not have the same outline. So we can draw a dream out of it, we can have this dream on several levels. You dream, and a kind of wizard is there who makes you enter a palace; this palace… it’s the dream of Apollodorus told by Leibniz. Apollodorus is going to see a goddess, and this goddess leads him into the palace, and this palace is composed of several palaces. Leibniz loved that, boxes containing boxes. He explained, in a text that we will examine, he explained that in the water, there are many fish and that in the fish, there is water, and in the water of these fish, there are fish of fish. It’s infinite analysis. The image of the labyrinth hounds him. He never stops talking about the labyrinth of continuity. This palace is in the form of a pyramid. Then, I look closer and, in the highest section of my pyramid, closest to the point, I see a character who is doing something. Right underneath, I see the same character who is doing something else in another location. Again underneath the same character is there in another situation, as if all sorts of theatrical productions were playing simultaneously, completely different, in each of the palaces, with characters that have common segments.”5

Lambert, Léopold (ed.), The Funambulist Pamphlets, Vol. 03: Deleuze. Punctum Books, Brooklyn, NY 2013, p. 95–96.

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For Deleuze, Leibniz postulates the very fabric of reality as a rich meshwork of interlocking, fractal virtual possibilities. The universe is the material emergence of a field of possibilities: the virtual space of becoming. However, Deleuze uses Leibniz to discuss the disjunctive movements of actualization – why certain phenomena come into actuality, while other merely hold the structural space of the virtual. For Leibniz, the ‘real’ actualized world is the world that God has chosen – it is the apex of a set of speculative worlds, which exist in parallel. They in fact give cause to the fold of the actualizing moment. However, this ultimately relies – in a totalizing way – on the choice of a supreme divine being. In contrast to this, Borges postulates in his short story The Garden of Forking Paths the same fractal virtual space, but he does it within a complete deconstruction of the transcendental forces. In his conception, all worlds are commensurate and equal – contained in a set that maintains its tensegrity through the relations of infinite becoming and infinite regress – a dense structural unity borne through the paradox of paradoxes. In this framing of a geometry of possibility, the divine choice is replaced with our moments of deep thinking – in which we act to collapse the wave of possibility through a deeply creative coupling with the unconscious, subconscious and infinite. It is at this point we find the true realization of the Deleuzian project – to develop this ethico-onto-epistem-ology that defies the linear edifice of thought. In revolt it allows us to think in infinite fractal forms of poesis. To go through this initiation fire, we must reduce the burden of the triple delusion. We have to reduce the Aristotelian metaphysics of presence and the sickness of capital. To instantiate such a maneuver, we must return to thinking, as Heidegger explained, as a fundamental self-production borne from a communion with all, with all that is and could be. In this final reckoning the geometry of space is transfigured as a virtual play of creative energy. ◆

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leopold helbich The State of Exception As Governmental Technique CONSIDERATIONS ON SECURITY AND SYSTEMIC FEAR IN EUROPE

More and more frequently over the past year I have been sitting at the table with people that have been labeled ‘terrorist’. Not that the people had changed who surround me — they are people from many countries with different mentalities and come from diverse social environments and cultural backgrounds. However, the legal status of these people has drastically changed: the fate which now links them is an existence in which they are excluded from the society in which they live. They have been deprived of their human rights and have to live under conditions of legal dehumanization, which expose them to extreme military and police violence under the premise of ‘national security’. These people are activists, refugees, and anarchists who are criminalized under the dictates of a political, economic, or virtual state of exception. It’s these encounters and conversations I had during my journey across Europe which prompt me to write about the increasing application of the state of exception as a governmental technique, or a bio-political strategy of governing, ordering, and reshaping society. In the following pages I will try to give an outline of the situations I encountered in Greece, Turkey, and Poland between Autumn 2016 and Spring 2017. As an author and film-maker I am forced each time to apply certain criteria in order to choose those aspects from the complex reality I encounter, which I want to communicate to the readers or viewers. Hence, this essay, too, is necessarily a fragmentary and subjective description of the reality at the places that I visited. The selection criterion which I chose for writing this essay was to study the transformation of society through the application of the state of exception. In the best case, this essay will direct the critical gaze of the viewer to certain systemic connections in the situations within the countries I describe, which can easily be overlooked in the complexity of events. For only if we enter other ways of seeing, perceiving, and describing the world can come to a different understanding of the changing reality we partake in creating. 151


THE ECONOMIC STATE OF EXCEPTION IN GREECE

1. Athens From any arbitrary stand-point in the present, Athens can be regarded along two distinct flight-lines: one is directed towards the past and the other towards the future. Regarded along the first one, Athens is the centre of the antique Hellenic culture, the birth-place of Western philosophy and democracy, the dwelling of the ethical and political values upon which modern Europe bases itself, the cradle of the exact sciences, the ideal polis where the ideas of Western arts and politics were born; in short, the cultural origin and centre of Modern Europe. High above the roofs of the buildings, in the geometrical centre of the city, the Acropolis shines the eternal light of the Greek demos over all Western societies. Too beautiful to have fallen under the vandalism of the many occupiers that conquered the city in the past, she commemorates the eternal values of Humanism. This view-point was that of eurocentric Classicism. Until today, Athens clings in many details to the romantic representation of itself, which was imposed on it by the Historicism of the 19th Century: the time when the Bavarian King Otto wanted to turn the village into the new capital of Europe. Up to the present day, the Evzones (Presidential Guard), prance around the parliament, their movements synchronized like clockwork, and perform elaborate choreographies in their clogs and folklorist, Bavarian-Hellenic costumes. Their movements are reminiscent of the perfected art of royal horse conditioning and the absolute authoritarian bondage of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Walking along the central streets Panepistimiou and Akademias one can admire the magnificent Athener Trilogie of buildings which were designed by the DanishAustrian architect Theophil Hansen, who wanted to turn Athens into the only city in the world where every building has its own entry for its owner’s personal horse-drawn carriage – the minimum requirement for the new metropolis of Europe at the time. The Athens of the past has always been nothing other than the idealized representation of its temporary rulers. Yet, in their eyes, the ideal Athens of the future was nothing but the eternal resurrection of its past, an illusion that was lost from the very start. Thus, Athens has as many pasts as there are people remembering them, and every past is yet another idealization of her contemporaries’ dreams. Along the other flight-line, that of the future, one can see into the abyss of the present. You ask for the hopes and the expectations of the people and the answer you always receive is that there is no hope and therefore no expectations. You try to spot some light in the dark, but there appears to be no way out of the crisis. Finally, you realize that the two flight-lines are not connected, and that you are standing precisely between the fligtLeopold Helbich

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line of the past and the flight-line of the future, which are torn apart right where you are: the present is navigating along the bifurcating folds of an imminent catastrophe, where one seemingly stable reality might suddenly jump to an alternate one that is itself unstable. In this moment, the suffering of the people, the break-down of the economy, and the corruption of democracy, become visible as the devastated psyches of the precarized and disenfranchised people stepping out of the dark. The way that leads into the future, you realize, is blocked by the injustice that reigns over the present. The street on which you are standing is crowded with homeless people showing their ulcerating wounds asking for alms, knowing that if they fail to hand over twenty bucks by the onset of night as ‘protection money’, they will be beaten up by thugs from the organized crime groups. In the parks, where the oranges blossom and the bourgeoise tourists dawdle, the poorest and most vulnerable inhabitants of Athens are sleeping crouched on banks or on the ground: those refugees who did not want to be admitted to the state-run camps and are hoping for their chance to travel onwards to the north without being registered in Greece. The most desperate among them offer their services and their bodies at night or under the open sun to make the money they need to pay traffickers who will give them a new passport and arrange their border-crossing for a price of approximately 8000 Euros: a fortune, if you had to leave everything behind fleeing war, hunger, or political persecution. Besides the antique statues drug addicts are lingering, whose intoxication alone makes their existence bearable, but sends them further down into the vortex of despair. Next to the bars where you can hear the sounds of Rebetiko, children are collecting rubbish in order to survive. If it is true that you can determine the degree of social justice in a city from the physical and mental constitution of the most vulnerable of its inhabitants, then one can clearly see the whole magnitude of poverty of Athens in the faces of the excluded, the exiled, the homini sacri. The resulting image is a schizophrenic one where the abundance of the past meets with the austerity of the present, and where the hopes of the deprived for a better life collide with the impossibility of a better future of the many. Although the Acropolis still shines the eternal light of democracy, neoliberal capitalism is already destroying the demos itself. Though the foundation stones of Plato’s Academy are still lying around, the knowledge about philosophy is already vanishing due to the budget cuts targeting schools and universities. Though one can still listen to the enchanting sounds of the Rebetiko in the bars – the music invented by the immigrants from Asia Minor – today’s immigrants have to wait out dead time in state-run camps where they are denied any activity or occupation. Athens, the ideal and the foundation stone of Europe, is also its mirror. 153


2. The Greek debt crisis Greece is a country where crisis has become the norm: for seven years now it has been stuck in recession, the longest any European country has suffered in times of peace. Greece lies captive in the chains of public debt, which it neither can pay off, nor should pay off, since the accumulated debt originating in the arrangements with the Troika and their policies of ‘internal devaluation’ deprive large parts of the Greek population from the most basic human rights. The so-called ‘rescue measures’ and credits from the Troika have their price, which cannot be determined by the purely economic measures in the official reports about the streamlining of state budget and the growth of GDP. They can only be fully comprehended by looking at the dramatic effects the shrinking economy has on the people, the society, and nature. The socio-economic developments in Greece, exacerbated by the global financial elite’s pressures, as well as the inability of the Greek government and its international creditors to find a sustainable solution to the debt crisis, have severely disrupted the country’s social fabric. The powers of capital, finance, and debt, have been restructuring Greek society with horrendous effects. Already in 2011, the NCHR warned that the drastic reductions in salaries and pensions, the elimination of collective labour agreements, the increase in unemployment, the withdrawal of social benefits for the poor, the increase in direct taxes, as well as the bulk of complex and unpredictable austerity measures are undermining democracy, strengthening rightwing parties, widening the social divide between the rich and the poor, while impoverishing an increasing part of the population who are excluded from any economic gains.1 Significantly, these facts were downplayed in all official counts, which enabled the IMF and ECB to declare, in January 2013, that the Greek economy was already being ameliorated – while unemployment rose to almost 30% and youth unemployment sky-rocketed to 60% in the same year. This conclusion, however desired, is a very partial truth. Yet it clearly shows that the growth of GDP can coexist with a shrinking economy producing increasing wealth on the one side and extreme exclusions on the other. From these facts alone it becomes obvious – and many academics have raised this claim – that austerity has failed. But it is interesting to look at the origin of the NCHR Recommendation, On the imperative need to reverse the sharp decline in civil liberties and social rights, 2011. Available online at: http://www.institut-fuer-menschenrechte. de/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF-Dateien/ENNHRI/Stellungnahme_Greek_NHRI_2011.pdf 1

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Greek debt crisis to find out that the whole program, from its beginning, has not been a “neutral” economic project, but a political strategy serving primarily the interests of private investors and lender states. Contrary to the popular opinion that Greece’s debts must be due to excessive public spending prior to the crisis, the fact that between 2000 and 2007 Greece’s public expenditure was actually lower than in most other European countries refutes this claim. The accusation, repeated over and over by popular media and politicians alike, that the Greeks had lived beyond their means, and that therefore it would only be fair that they now pay off their legitimate and deserved debt, also misses the truth. The actual causes of the increasing public debt in Greece between 1980 and the onset of the crisis in 2009 were the extremely high rates of interest the country had to pay to its creditors in connection with the low exchange rate between Drachma and Euro. Together they created a ‘snowball effect’ accounting for two thirds of the increase in public debt between 1980 and 2007. On April 23 2010, the Greek government officially requested the financial support of other EU countries and the IMF. However, the negotiations and the signing of the credit agreements between Greece and its creditors were conducted in complete opacity. The Memoranda of Understanding and the loan agreements are international agreements which according to the Greek Constitution needed to be signed by a majority of at least three fifth of the Greek parliament members. However, the Loan Agreement from May 8, 2010 was neither given to parliament for ratification, nor presented to the public before approval. Similarly, the austerity measures were accepted without having been discussed in parliament beforehand. Hence, the MoU and the loan agreements infringe the legal process required under Article 36(2) of the Constitution. The highly praised debt cut for Greece granted by the Troika in 2010 failed to reduce Greece’s public debt in the long run and actually harmed Greece since the PSI (Public Sector Involvement) generated new debt obligations for the country towards the EFSF. The big losers of the PSI were small bondholders and public entities: the PSI scheme refused to compensate small bondholders, while at the same time fully compensating Greek banks and providing sweeteners to foreign investors and banks. A total of 14.5 billion EUR of losses were imposed on public pension schemes, even though, due to their intergovernmental nature, these payments did not reduce the amount of outstanding debt at all. The Greek debt cut, in fact, was a convenient way of clearing the balances of private banks from the ‘bad loans’ they had previously issued themselves with the expectation of high profit margins. 155


The third rescue program, which Greece received in 2015 and which is planned to run until 2018, grants 86 billion EUR to the Government distributed via the ESM and is fully funded by the EU. The conditions for Greece it includes are more reforms and privatizations under the Asset Development Program, which is inscribed in the Memorandum of Understanding. This schedule demands that Greece will sell government assets to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund, mainly comprising airports, ports, as well as public oil, gas, and water companies. The approved transfer of EYDAP and EYATH, the country’s two major water services, to the ‘Superfund’ effectively violates the Greek Constitution and the ECI which demands the protection of water services from privatization. In effect, those who are now profiting from the rescue measures granted by the EU and the Troika are precisely those who caused the crisis in the first place: international financiers and private investors. Under the austerity measures a brutal capitalist logic of extraction and privatization is played out, which Marx, back in the 19th Century, had called ‘primitive accumulation’. The Greek debt crisis serves as the pretext for the complete technical and juridical restructuring of the country which eventually aims at the brutal extraction of human and ecological resources while violating the Greek Constitution and international human rights obligations. The debt restructuring, in which private debt was socialized and capital gains privatized, and the ‘rescue measures’, which forced the Greek government to hand over large parts of its sovereignty to the credit lenders, effected the complete restructuring of the Greek society to neoliberal ends. 3. The economic state of exception One could say, that in Greece the economic state of exception has become the norm. What started as a banking crisis in Greece back in 2009, has grown into a complex economic, social, democratic, and ecological crisis, which is perpetuated precisely by those measures that were meant to alleviate the effects of the crisis. The neoliberal governmentality of the Troika has effectively infringed the Greek government’s sovereignty and, in some cases, suspended the Greek Constitution to enforce privatizations and austerity measures. Hence, the situation in Greece shows a structural proximity to the political state of exception, which is traditionally defined as the immediate response of the government to severe internal conflicts, which implements a zone of lawLeopold Helbich

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lessness where juridical provisions are deactivated and the decrees of the sovereign de facto receive the power of laws. Of course, neither was an explicit state of exception implemented as a reaction to the crisis, nor did the government suspend existing laws in its wake. What happened instead is that the traditional sovereign, i.e., the Greek government, was deprived of large parts of its sovereignty by the arrangements with the creditor countries and trans-national institutions like the ESM as a condition for the allocation of credits, and the measures taken under the auspices of austerity politics effectively infringed international human rights obligations. The transmission of the Greek state’s sovereignty to the Troika implicitly played out through the loan agreements, which Greece urgently needed back in 2010 as its banking system had run into trouble and the Greek government had to declare the loss of market access. What the mechanisms applied to rescue the banks did, however, was to swap the risk from the private to the public sector, and then from international organizations like the ECB and the IMF to European rescue mechanisms like the ESM. As a condition the Troika required deregulations and privatizations monitored via ‘enhanced surveillance’ mechanisms by the EU Commission.2 In short, private debt was socialized, public goods were privatized, and the Greek government was forced to use its own legal sovereignty against the interests of its population in the interest of its lenders. Apparently, the lenders were aware that the conditions imposed on Greece would infringe national and international agreements, which is reflected in their choice of the English law for these agreements. The English law allowed them to circumvent both international human rights obligations and the Greek Constitution. But these precautionary measures were not enough. Out of fear from retroactive court proceedings and out of the concern that Greece would pay back all credits – no matter their costs on its population – they included a clause in the borrower’s obligations which grants the agreements full immunity from international law: “If any one or more of the provisions contained in this Agreement should be or become [...] invalid, illegal or unenforceable in any respect

Transparency International EU, From Crisis To Stability. How to Make The European Stability Mechanism Transparent And Accountable, 2017. Available online at: https://transparency.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ESM_Report_DIGITAL-version.pdf 2

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[...] the validity, legality and enforceability of the remaining provisions contained in this Agreement shall not be affected or impaired thereby.” 3 The economists, politicians, and lawyers who dictated these conditions to the Greek government surely learned from Milton Friedman’s advice to neoliberal capitalists, that a crisis is the best moment to implement unpopular policies: ‘Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.’ And the ideas that were lying around in the heads of economists and politicians as the global financial crisis hit Europe were precisely the ideologies of neoliberalism and austerity.

THE POLITICAL STATE OF EXCEPTION IN TURKEY

1. Istanbul Arriving by bus in Istanbul I can see the images of an attack on the public TV screens, but people around me don’t seem worried or concerned. It’s one week after the double attack on the Beşiktaş municipality, which killed 48 people and injured 166 others, so I think it must be a reiteration of this event on TV. Then, on the mini-bus to the city, I ask my neighbor what happened and he tells me that half an hour ago, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot while giving a public speech in Ankara. The assassinator was member of the Turkish police and shouted “Don’t forget Syria. Don’t forget Aleppo” before pulling the trigger. Whether this event would harm Turkey’s relation to Russia, I ask him, alluding to the possibility of an armed conflict erupting between the two states on Turkish territory. No, he says, on the opposite, it will improve the cooperation between Erdogan and Putin: the assassinator was a Gülenist. – Since the failed coup of July 15, 2016 every enemy of the state is called a Gülenist and thus falls in the same line with the PKK and Daesh. They are elements that need to be detained or murdered to reinstill national security. But as long as the crimes committed in Syria continue, there will not be peace within Turkish territory. The terror attacks will not stop unless the terror in Syria comes to an end. Red flags everywhere. The national flag of Turkey waves from every official building, every palace, every mosque, every window, and even from the poles of the boats crossing the Bosporus. As if a national holiday had been declared to

3 Intercreditor Agreement, Article 13 (1); Loan Facility Agreement, Article 12 (1); EFSF Framework Agreement, Article 15.

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commemorate the victims of the failed military coup, the national flag is used to symbolize national unity in times of civil war. The atmosphere that invades me as I walk on the streets around Taxim Square is the presence of an extreme, excessive, and intangible violence that could erupt in every moment. The silence of the people passing, the gatherings of riot police, the hooded security forces, the red flags: they all adumbrate a horrifying violence that knows no right and that will legitimize its own existence by pure force. Next, I recognize that every police car is flashing blue light, but I can hear no sirens. On the streets there are people with their faces completely covered, machine guns raised. Police, security, and military forces increasingly resemble each other. Intuitively, I try to avoid large crowds and to circumvent police crews. I laugh at myself, but the fear is chilling too deeply through my bones to get rid of it. 2. The failed coup d’État and its consequences Immediately after parts of the Turkish military attempted a coup on July 15, 2016, the state of emergency was declared by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the events of that night more than 240 people lost their lives as fighter jets dropped bombs on the parliament, tanks were on the streets in several major cities, and helicopters opened fire on Ankara. Already in his first speech to the Turkish population, at 6:30 the following morning, Erdoğan accused the religious movement of Muhammed Fethullah Gülen of being responsible for the coup. Whether Gülen, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has actually been pulling the strings of the coup, is contested until today. There are credible reports that Kemalists and Secularists must also have been involved in the events, and probably also high-ranking party members of the AKP who were close to Erdogan. Other statements, including those from the German foreign intelligence agency BND, suggest there is no evidence at all that Gülen was involved in the military uprising. Whether Gülen was behind the attempted military coup or not, the assumption alone was sufficient for the government to implement an official ‘state of exception order.’ This did not alleviate the conflicts within the country, but resulted in an intensification of the state-administrated terror exercised on the population. The attempted coup, which Erdoğan called ‘a gift from God’, has allowed him to proceed against all his political enemies in a brutal coup de force.

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Several emergency decrees allowed the government to suspend thousands of military personnel, police officers, civil servants, and academics from office. In the few hours immediately following the coup, 2,745 judges and prosecutors were detained. By now, more then 100,000 people have been sacked from public and private sector jobs because of their alleged connections with the Gülenist movement. The Ministry of Education was hit hardest by the purges with 40,000 teachers losing their jobs. Among the 10,000 teachers who were dismissed in South-East Turkey alone, more than 90% were stationed in Kurdish-speaking regions. The government proclaimed that the teachers were suspected of having ties to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Under the pretense of reestablishing national security and fighting the Gülenist movement, the Turkish government applied draconian measures to suppress any political opponents, be they Kurdish freedom fighters, Gülenists, or Daesh. According to a statement by the Turkish Minister of Justice, given on November 22, 2016, the government had launched legal processes against 92,697 people, including arrests, arrest warrants, and investigations. 39,378 people among them were detained at this point of time. International NGOs have reported on the increasing torture of detainees, especially in the aftermath of the failed coup. The torture methods applied by police and security include sexual violence (rape and the threat of rape), the deprivation of existential goods (water, food, sleep, emergency health-care), beatings, as well as psychological violence. Especially during times of governmentimposed curfews, in which citizens were banned from leaving their house for up to several weeks, thousands of people have lacked essential supplies, leading to thousands of people dying of starvation. The security forces have been used to spread violence and fear among the population using the most brutal methods of oppression. Beforehand, however, they were practically given impunity from persecution through a number of laws issued on June 23, 2016. Among these is Law No-6722, which requires an official authority to give permission for any investigation into soldiers’ or public officials’ conduct who are suspected of having broken national laws or international human rights obligations during counter-terrorism operations. Moreover, the decree KHK/674 issued in September 2016, allows the government to expel democratically elected public officials from office and to replace them with ‘trustees’ adhering to the official party line. These trustees can immediately take over the offices which mayors or members of municipal councils leave empty after they are imprisoned or expelled due to Leopold Helbich

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terror-related charges. This decree was used to replace officials of Kurdish origin almost entirely. Thus, the Turkish government has effectively established a system of totalitarian control that forces every authority to adhere to their party line, in an attempt to control as many aspects of life as possible and to create a perfectly synchronized functioning of the state’s machinery. This is precisely the process which the Nazis had called Gleichschaltung. The suspension of the rule of law by means of the state of exception also gave the Turkish government the necessary pretense and powers to eradicate independent media, especially Kurdish-speaking TV and radio channels. Within the half a year after the failed coup, more than 160 media outlets were shut down throughout the country. Approximately 9,000 journalists lost their jobs for not writing in line with the government or the financial and industrial elites that are close to those in power. In December 2016, more than 130 journalists were in pre-trial detention, most of them under terrorism-related charges, which was one third of all journalists known to be imprisoned world-wide on that day. To complete their censorship of independent thought, the Turkish government closed down 15 universities and detained more than 6,300 academics across the country. Social media, which were the last resort form many activists, human-rights defenders, and dissidents, are being surveilled and censored. Those who speak openly about the repressions are being prosecuted for spreading ‘terrorist propaganda’. Based on Article 299 of the penal code (now Article 301) hundreds of online bloggers are being prosecuted for insulting the president, a crime that might result in joblessness or imprisonment. Since 2015, the security operations conducted by the Turkish Government forces displaced between 355,000 and half a million people in South-East Turkey, most of which are citizens of Kurdish origin. Though the excessive use of force, torture, killings, and the curtailment of the right to political participation and freedom of opinion by the Turkish government reaches back much further, it appears as if violence against the Kurdish population had drastically increased just after the Turkish government, in April 2015, stopped negotiations with the PKK and toughened the solitary confinement conditions of their historical leader Abdullah Öcalan. When a terror attack in Suruc attributed to ISIS killed 33 and injured 100 young Turkish and Kurdish socialists, the Turkish government did nothing to support the Kurds. Accusing the Turkish government of complicity with the jihadists, two days later members of the PKK killed two Turkish police officers in Ceylanpınar. Under this pretext the Turkish government declared a ‘war on terror’ against the PKK and ISIS. This war, so far, has mostly targeted Kurdish forces. 161


The security measures and purges conducted by the government in the wake of the state of emergency increased state-administered repression and violence into the extreme. Security on the one side, and terrorism on the other, formed a single deadly spiral, where violence leads to more violence, and state-terror and terrorism legitimate each others actions. The official state of exception and the repressions against all poltical enemies of the AKP it facilitated were the background that allowed Erdoğan to realize his long nourished dream to change the parliamentary democracy of Turkey into a presidential system. On December 10, 2016, the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) brough forward a constitutional referendum, which was held through-out Turkey on April 16, 2017. It was won by a slim majority of the electorate (51.3%) that voted yes. The two main opposition parties CHP and HDP have objected the legality of the referendum, with the CHP challenging 37% of the ballot boxes and the HDP objecting to two-thirds. Both refused to recognize the results, arguing that the Supreme Electoral Council had allowed more than 1.5 million ballots to be counted which were unstamped. Erdoğan claimed that the support for the referendum had risen in South-East Turkey, the region most violently targeted by his reprisals and political ‘cleansing’, although most of the Kurdish population there voted no. In his victory speech, prime minister Binali Yıldırım claimed, “We are brothers. We are one body, one nation.” However, just three days after the referendum was held the Government decided to prolong the state of emergency for another three months. The referendum, which itself took place under a state of exception, approved eighteen changes in the Turkish constitution which will give the executive president far greater control over the executive, legislative and judiciary branches. Article 104 will make the President both the head of state and the head of government and give him the power to appoint and to dismiss ministers and the vice president. Several articles will transfer the executive powers of the cabinet to the President, who will also receive greater control over the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors. Article 119 deals explicitly with the state of emergency, which the Parliament can now extend for up to four month in times of peace and for an unlimited period in times of war. Although the President’s powers to declare a state of emergency will be subject to the approval of the Parliament, which can extend, shorten or remove it, the abolishment of the right to interpellation and other changes will effectively strip the Parliament from its powers to request a vote of confidence or a change of government. At the time of writing this article, the results of the referendum are still contested. Yet it is clear that the state of exception was Erdoğans mechanism of choice to legally establish his Leopold Helbich

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autocracy, the referendum being the final step which de jure granted him the authority he de facto held since at least July 2015. 3. The coup d’État as governmental technique The political theory of the 17th Century comprehended the coup d’État as a radical, decisive, and violent measure, which benefited the weal of the king and the well-being of the state. For this reason, although the political coup did break with the norm, it did not infringe the raison d’État. On the contrary, it was defined as the moment in which the state invokes the original violence on which it is founded, and by which it is legitimized, in order to enforce the machine of the state. The coup d’État was seen as a tactical decision, by which the sovereign increased his power. Thus, the coup d’État, in the moment of his manifestation, revealed the origin of sovereign power being the apocalypse on which it is founded. By taking the failed military coup of July 15 as a reason to implement the state of emergency, Erdoğan could lay the foundation stone to transform the already corrupted democracy in Turkey into a sovereign dictatorship. Every terrorist attack of the following months was used as a reason to prolong the suspension of the law by means of the official emergency decree. The state of emergency is the moment when the sovereign disrupts the bond that ties his power to the population and founds his autocratic rule in the proclaimed necessity to counter terrorism with terror. The fact, that the state of exception is the very situation in which a sovereign dictatorship can legally be established shows its proximity to the coup d’État. For Machiavelli and his contemporaries, the coup d’État was the political fuel which keeps the machine of the state running, since it attaches the state to the monopoly of violence, which is the axis of its authority. A coup was not a measure to stop the proper functioning of the state, but a measure that is necessary to create order and to expand the command and the rule of the state. What legitimized the coup was necessity, and who decided matters of necessity was the sovereign. Here, the medieval theory of the coup d’État reveals its proximity with the Modern theory of the state of exception: both are based on the concept of necessity (necessitas legem non habet) and both establish a zone of ambiguity between law and fact, norm and excess. They remain in an ambiguous relationship with the law, being at the same time inside and outside the juridical order.

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It is possible that by the 21st Century, the coup d’État and the state of exception have entered a fateful symbiosis where one facilitates the other as the sovereign’s immediate response to a severe internal crisis. This is precisely what happened in Turkey: the political state of exception, and the unlawful violence it legitimizes, were the apocalypse on which Erdoğan is now founding his authoritarian rule. His response to the failed military coup was an implicit, hidden, but successful coup d’État, which did not disrupt the functioning of the state but, contrarily, re-enforced its power by potentiating the bio-politics and thanatopolitics exercised on the population in the name of national security.

THE VIRTUAL STATE OF EXCEPTION IN POLAND

1. Warsaw The old town of Warsaw is a simulacrum, an exact copy, a lithic mockup of its own past built from the rubble of the Second Wold War. If you start walking from the Opera along the Teatralny and take a left at the Branickich Palace into the Midowa, and if you then keep walking until you pass the Paca Palace and take a turn into the Długa in order to continue walking towards the archaeological museum, then you are walking on the road of a destroyed and reconstructed past. Warsaw’s entire old town, the new town, and the Krakow Suburb were reconstructed in 1946-53 according to the oil paintings of the Italian 19th Century painter Bernardo Beletto in an attempt to rebuild the city as it was before the War. Maybe out of longing, maybe out of mourning, maybe out of the hope for a better future, the survivors who rebuilt the city tried to call its destroyed past back to life. But there is never a way back, and history kept on marching in the opposite direction. In effect, a second inner city has mounted up around the first one, consisting of sky-scrapers, four-lane roads, neon-lights, trash, luxury, cables, cameras, and security. The two cities exist next to each other, but they are completely alien to one another and have nothing in common but their name. Arguably, identity is an illusion based on the conceptualization of an existent homogenous unity, while in reality there are always multiplicities of processes exhibiting differences and similarities in their unfolding. This is why every state needs architectures and symbols to manifest the semblance of unity, and values whose content can be redefined according to the demands of each time while at the same time seems eternal and unchanging. Freedom, democracy, justice, truth: They all seem to have a clear-cut definition and identity, but reality keeps changing under the concepts by which we try to identify and control the living until, at some point, we realize Leopold Helbich

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that the concepts and reality do not fit together any longer. Or the concepts change their meaning altogether according to the discourse in which they are embedded, until, finally, they bear no resemblance with what was once meant by them. So how about Justitia, the blind goddess who lends itself to every country, every government, and every authority to wrap her white dress around the eyes of the people, in Poland? 2. Law and Justice in Poland Immediately after the ultra-conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) came to power in Poland, they sacked the head of the anti-corruption agency and restricted the opposition’s oversight over the actions of the secret services. Then, in October 2015, they introduced a law which allows the government to choose the judges of the highest court. The PiS then deposed the judges that were appointed by the previous government. The reason that prime minister Beata Szydlo gave to the public was that the previous government of the liberal Civic Platform had illegally appointed judges for the tribunal and that the PiS is simply ‘repairing the law and […] protecting the government.’ The highest court, however, had a different understanding of the matter and in an official ruling declared that this measure had infringed the Constitution in several cases. Yet, they couldn’t change the law and through the following changes in legislature the tribunal effectively lost its status as the highest control institution. The next step on the way of the PiS towards the legal suspension of democratic order was the media legislation it passed in December 2015, which gave the government control over all public TV and radio stations in the country. Thereupon the government could depose hundreds of journalists from office and replace the heads of the public TV channel TVP1 and the public radio channel Polskie Radio with government-friendly appointees. Again, the stated intention of the government was that they wanted to make sure the Polish media would remain ‘impartial, objective and reliable.’ The media legislation was a necessary step for the PiS to limit the distribution of information in the interest of national security, which facilitated their next anti-democratic steps. On January 7, 2016, president Andrzej Duda signed a new data retention law that had been pushed through parliament in a fast track process. It legitimizes intrusive surveillance measures and extends the covert investigative methods of the Internal Security Agency (AWB). The law binds internet providers based in Poland to provide data retention technology and to store 165


the metadata of all users of their networks for up to two years. This means, effectively, that all mobile or landline phone communications, text messages, online downloads and uploads, as well as emails and web-browser search entries must be saved by the providers and that their metadata will be accessible by the police without requiring a court order. Poland thus stepped into the line of those Western countries in which data retention has become law, such as the US, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, France, and others. The next major step was the ‘anti-terrorism law’ that systematically discriminates foreigners and infringes the democratic rights of the entire population. Since the terror attacks in Paris, in November 2015, the government had already been working on a new anti-terrorism legislation, and the terror attacks on Brussels in March 2016 were used as a pretext by the government to abrogate fundamental democratic rights in Poland. Fast-tracked through parliament and completely hidden from public scrutiny, the new anti-terrorism law entered into force as from June 10, 2016. However, the government first had to make it clear to the citizens why Poland, which has not seen a single Islamic terrorist attack, needed an antiterrorism law to guarantee national security which drastically impairs the democratic freedom of the entire population. Thus, three anarchists were arrested on the night of May 23rd in Warsaw. All three had to spend the night at the police station where they were interrogated and probably tortured, since signs of violence were visible on their bodies at the District Prosecutor’s Office the next day. They were accused of having been in possession of incendiary matter and having had the intention to put a police car on fire. Their case was passed on to the State Prosecutor’s Office for organized crime and corruption and they were accused under charges on terrorism. Under this accusation they were classified as particularly dangerous individuals (PL: Niebezpieczni) and put into solitary confinement. From this moment on, the three anarchists had to spend 23 hours per day in an isolation cell of 2x3 square meters and could see their relatives only one hour per month. For the first week, they had no insight into their charges, while photos showing them dressed in orange body suits and in chains were already shown on public TV and in public transport. A media frenzy broke out with ‘experts’ discussing their personality profiles and warning the population of the danger of terrorist attacks in Poland. At the same time, a series of false bomb alarms in various cities across Poland (Katowice, Krakow, Kapelanska, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Warsaw) on May 30, announced the coming into effect of the new anti-terrorism law: all turned out to be false. When, in September 2016, still no evidence could be preLeopold Helbich

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sented that would incriminate the three, they were released on bail, but put under house-arrest. On January 16, 2017, finally, the fourth analysis of the ‘incendiary matter’ was released. It turned out that what the three had been carrying with them at the time of their arrest were two plastic bottles filled with diesel, which due to its low inflammability cannot be used to put anything on fire. Thereupon the charges against the three were changed, and now they are accused of having had the intention to destroy expensive cars. But by that time they had already passed through the media as ‘terrorists’ — and the new ‘anti-terrorism law’ through parliament. The measures included in the anti-terrorism law even exceed the powers granted by the USA Patriot Act of 2001, giving virtually unlimited powers to the eleven Polish secret services without ensuring independent oversight. The law legitimizes detentions without court order, extends domestic spying, permits search and seizure procedures, and orders the expulsion of foreigners based on the “fear” that they might pose a risk to national security. In addition, the law infringes the freedom of assembly since public events and gatherings can be denied if there is an increased terrorist threat. It also limits the freedom of communication, since with the request of the AWB every internet or phone connection in a region where terrorist actions are suspected to take place can be blocked for up to 30 days – and even longer with a court order. The new anti-terrorism law particularly targets foreigners and immigrants, who can be surveilled, controlled, detained, and expelled from the country without a court process. The list of surveillance techniques that can now legally be used to spy on foreigners living in Poland or traveling to Poland include undercover audio and video intelligence gathering, the bugging of private lodgings, the interception of private electronic and physical post, the wiretapping of telephone calls, and others. In a country which has a proportion of foreigners of 0.28% this poses a huge risk for racial, xenophobic, religious or, politically motivated discrimination. The contested method of dragnet investigation is implicitly legitimized via the new anti-terrorism law. Although a strong xenophobic tendency was present in Polish politics long before its coming into effect, the anti-terrorism law explicitly puts foreigners and refugees in the same category as potential terrorists. One recent example of how broad the definition of suspected terrorists is and how the anti-terrorism law is used to systemically discriminate foreigners, especially from the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, is the tragic case of Ameer Alkhawlany. Ameer is an Iraqi citizen with Kurdish and Arabic parents who was doing his PhD at Kraków’s Jagiellonian 167


University when, in August 2016, the Internal Security Agency approached him. They wanted to engage him to gather information about Muslim immigrants from the Middle East just before the Pope’s visit to Poland. When he refused, stating that he is not religious and doesn’t even speak the languages of some of the people he was supposed to monitor, Mr. Alkhawlany was arrested on October 3. The Polish Border Guard filed a suit against him requesting his deportation in a closed court hearing. His charges were kept secret from Mr. Alkhawlany and his lawyer for reasons that are yet to be given, probably under the continuing assumption that he poses a threat to national security. The court decided that he should be detained and deported back to Iraq within 90 days. For six month he was held in a detention centre without formal charge and without receiving any information on why he was being detained. On April 5, 2017, an official court ruling concluded that there were no grounds for his detention and he should be released. However, on the same day he was taken by security forces to an unknown airport and illegally deported to Iraq while neither his lawyer nor the Iraqi embassy in Warsaw were informed. His deportation, which was carried out by the AWB against the official court ruling, means that Mr. Alkhawlany will not be allowed to enter the Schengen-Zone for five years. Although this is but one tragic case among many, Mr. Alkhawlany’s criminalization and deportation clearly shows how the anti-terrorism law is being used to explicitly discriminate people based on their ethnicity and (supposed) religion. The definition of what constitutes a terrorist act and therefore who can be classified as a terrorist is kept very ambiguous in the new anti-terrorism law: every action that is supposed to ‘cause unrest’ or ‘blackmail the government’ can be interpreted as terrorism. Thus, strikes and protests can fall under this category, as well as squatting or resisting police orders. The authorities ‘fear’ – not even suspicion – that someone might pose a threat to national security is sufficient that this person can be taken into custody for up to fourteen days without charges, and much longer with a court order. This incriminates article 41(3) of the Polish Constitution and allows the government to criminalize any political opposition. In this way, a virtual state of exception has been inscribed by the PiS into the juridical order, whereby everyone suspected of posing a threat to national security based on their individual pattern of communication, ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, or nationality can be monitored, detained, expelled or – according to the new ‘shoot to kill’ directive – murdered without requiring a court order. The state of exception was implemented as an ever Leopold Helbich

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present possibility to suspend the law and to deprive people from citizen’s and human rights who are categorized as ‘potential terrorists’. 3. The virtual state of exception In recent years, the news coverage of reactionary and populist media and the speeches of nationalist and conservative politicians increasingly presented a xenophobic and politically motivated display of refugees and Muslims as potential terrorists. This topic should be sufficiently well known to every attentive critic of the public anti-Muslim and anti-Arab ressentiments dominating the Western-centric political discourse today. Since the beginning of the US-led “international war on terror” and the onset of the Western intervention in the Middle East, as well as the growth of alt-right parties in Europe and the US, this discourse and the racial discrimination it entails has sadly become ‘common sense’. The purposeful display of refugees arriving at Europe’s borders and completely disconnected terror warnings next to each other in newspapers like the Bild or the Evening Standard, as well as the perpetually revived parable that ‘you wouldn’t give your child a bag of peanuts if you knew that some of them may be poisoned’ uttered in news-feeds by so-called experts as an argument against taking in refugees, shall therefore be sufficient examples of the phenomenon. What interests me beyond this horrible xenophobic discourse are the underlying structral conditions that allow this populist and nationalist rhetoric to play out. The Western interventions in the Middle East since the beginning of the ‘international war on terror’ have killed and displaced millions of people and fostered the growth of radical militant groups in these regions and across the world. These wars have forced millions of civilians to leave the places they called their home in search of a place where they are not constantly in danger of being killed, tortured, or forcibly recruited by militant groups. These interventions, and the rhetoric of politicians that is supposed to legitimize them in the eyes of the public, have created an image of ‘the Arab’ or ‘the Muslim’ as the political enemy of the West. The image of the terrorist as a bearded man wearing a turban and holding the Koran in one hand and an AK 47 in the other has been primed by the media into the heads of all of us, creating the illusion of an omnipresent terrorist threat that could potentially erupt everywhere at any time: an omnipresent threat coming from ‘the other’. Although many in-depth studies by now have challenged the conventional and convenient belief that religion is a main factor in the radicalization process of Islamist terrorists, the ‘Blame Islam’ populists keep presenting 169


Islam as a dangerous religion, implicitly equating Islam with terrorism. The hate-filled discourse of the alt-right interprets women wearing the hijab, men wearing Salafist trousers, or the turban itself as ‘indicators of radicalization’. It’s worth noticing that the concept of ‘radicalization’ in relation to terrorism has no long-standing scientific background: it originated after the 9/11 attacks and appeared in EU counter-terrorism documents in 2004. By today, however, the term has evolved into a catch-all concept that is being used to present every Muslim as a potential terrorist within the radical, xenophobic, and western-centric ‘clash of civilizations’ paradigm upheld by the alt-right, who see themselves as the defenders of ‘Western values’ against the ‘Islamization of the occident’. This offensive and misleading narrative neglects the fact that radicalization is foremost a process in which socialization and group-dynamics play a major role, as well as the experience of personal and collective discrimination under the inherent racism in Western societies.4 The terrorist threat increasingly serves as a pretext for implementing invasive technologies of bio-politcal control that target society at large and discriminate people based on their nationality, race, or religion. In this way, categories of potentially dangerous people are constructed who are consequently structurally discriminated. For example, a recent study on Islamist terrorism in the UK found that two thirds of ‘Islamism-inspired’ terrorist offenses were executed by individuals ‘who were either born or raised in the UK.’ 5 Nevertheless, Britain resists taking in refugees from Syria based on the fear that among them might be terrorists. And although an in-debth study by New America found that ‘every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident’ 6, policies like Trump’s recent travel ban on visitors from Muslim countries target foreigners and Muslims at large. These measures instill the fear of ‘Islam as terrorism’ among the population and legitimize the implementation of drastic security measures infringing the freedom of all citizens. Fear and security have always been the two main mechanisms by which states have governed the mood of the population by stirring racist, xenophobic

4

Rik Coolsaet, Facing the Fourth Foreign Fighters Wave, Egmont Paper 81, March 2016.

5 Hannah Stuart, Islamist Terrorism. Analysis of Offences and Attacks in the UK (1998-2015). Available online at: http://henryjacksonsociety.org/2017/03/05/islamist-terrorism-analysisof-offences-and-attacks-in-the-uk-1998-2015. 6 New America, Terrorism in America After 9/11, found online on April 5, 2017 at: https://www.newamerica.org/in-depth/terrorism-in-america/who-are-terrorists.

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or nationalist sentiments. Today, they are used by war-mongers and those investing in and profiting from the wars to undermine democracy by imposing the authoritarian rule of security. Security, here, is understood as a political strategy that aims to govern and prevent chaos, disorder, and anarchy. In the same way as liberal economy legitimizes the rule of the market by referring to the original chaos where ‘man is man’s wolf ’, security, too, can only legitimize itself by constantly maintaining a relation to the chaos that it is supposed to prevent. As security’s end is to govern disorder by controlling, ordering, and recreating the order of society, it is forced to produce and reproduce the subjects on which it can exercise its authority. The paradigmatic subject upon which sovereign violence is exercised via security measures is the potential terrorist, a person suspected of posing a threat for national security. The problem here lies in the broadness of the term ‘potential terrorist’. Anyone can be labeled a ‘terrorist’ who is suspected of being involved in ‘terrorist activity’: a fatal tautology. This ambiguity of definition is prevalent in official documents like the US military and police manuals, which do not distinguish between a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘potential terrorist’ in its classifications. The ambiguity of the term allows the sovereign powers to exclude people who have fallen under this category from citizen’s and human rights and to subject them to extreme violence. The permanent conjuring of the fear of a terrorist attack plays into the hands of the authorities and is helping them to implement technologies of control targeting society at large, as well as anti-terrorism laws that create a virtual state of exception in which the state can infringe fundamental human rights like the freedom to privacy, to movement, to non-discrimination, and the choice of religion in the name of defending precisely these values against a perceived terrorist threat. Thus, security and terror form a deadly circle, where one legitimizes the other and constitute the axis on which the authoritarian development undermining democracy runs. Only if we find a way to deactivate the governmental machine by restructuring the constitution of sovereign power can we break out from this deadly spiral of bio-political control that produces and requires ‘potential terrorists’ as the foundation of its power to legitimize its rule. ◆

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Georgia Kotretsos

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Dionisis Christofilogiannis

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Graffiti at Skaramangas Camp, artist unknown

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Gudrun Barenbrock

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Projection in Skaramangas Camp

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Dimitris Tzamouranis

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Elefsina Camp, artist unknown

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Vilma Andrioti

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The School of Everything

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Along with this special issue of Krytyka Polityczna, the content of the book will be presented as a multimedia documentary split screen rainbow Fire Sculpture.

The sculpture is in the form of the emblem of Avtonomi Akadimia, the M o l o t u s .

It encompasses the spectrum from Molotov cocktail to meditative lotus and represents suppressed paths of knowledge.

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the school of everything A Symposion bringing together artists, theoreticians and reformers who act within existing educational formats and invent new ones, which are to be understood as research-based activist works of art.

A TRANSFORMATIVE OPENING OF THE OCCIDENTAL EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM TOWARDS THE ARTS

The “educational turn in curating”, as well as certain aspects of “institutional critique”, constitute a fundamentally political, empowering, and critical movement. This movement changes the very definition and the modus operandi of contemporary art. It emancipates “educational programs”, which have been divergent in terms of scale, visibility, scope and content, from their peripheral status by declaring Bildung (Bild = image, Germ.) a form of art in itself. Art-as-education is a research-based activist art that is developed and performed by fostering imagination and chaosmotic learning. In this regard it may well be the defining innovative institution within society in the upcoming years. Important questions arise here regarding the conception of education as an artistic strategy and its role. What does it mean to develop micro-practices of mutual learning, either within the frame of formal educational institutions (universities) or in museums, exhibition platforms, and collectives? What does it mean to search for this knowledge in informal, self-organized off-site projects, where questions of the political, the public, and the communal converge? How do such practices relate to the understanding of knowledge as a resource held in common? What is the role of art in times of its segregation from society and within a broad financialization of education in a market-driven world, which systematically corrupts and denigrates knowledge? What is the role of genuine research within overtly bureaucratic educational institutions with an ever-increasing emphasis on predictable outcomes? In the end, what will the university of the future look like, and how can we help to create it by building a network informed by educational art projects?

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The practice of Avtonomi Akadimia, a free access intercultural university that has been active since June 2015 in Athens, aims at creating discussions around these fundamental questions. It practices the free sharing of knowledge by inviting artists, philosophers, scientists and activists to collaborate on a horizontal level and engage in durational deep exchanges with a world-wide community of participants. Avtonomi Akadimia is a socio-cybernetic chronopolitical sculpture, which operates on the actual topos of origin of the patriarchal concept of occidental pedagogy, that is, in the original garden of Plato’s Academy, the archaeological site of Akadimia Platonos in Athens.

A COLLECTIVE CURRICULUM FOR ALL EXISTING AND UPCOMING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS OF OUR WORLD

Based on its recent experience Avtonomi Akadimia proposed The School of Everything, a symposion bringing together participants from scholarly, artistic and activist backgrounds. They act within and invent new educational formats understood as research-based activist works of art by developing anti-border, open source and horizontal knowledge-sharing platforms. They engage either as practitioners and reformers, or as theoreticians with a radical pedagogy seen from a historical and philosophical point of view. Participants from various initiatives and institutions are invited to fantasize and share their ground-breaking visions of a future planetary education while working together for the formation of a new collective curriculum. The School of Everything is a model for the university of the 21st century. Universal learning is a mode of existence and the core of emancipation. The Kantian „dare to know“ can only mean a „know to dare.“ The School of Everything becomes the School of Everyone. The symposion focuses on contemplative and generalized explanations on art-as-education, which enables an enfolding of systemically hidden complexities. It relates to concrete examples of alternative educational formats or sudden dynamics and unexpected proposals while discussing and creating a common curriculum to be proposed to educational institutions in our reach. Participants of the symposion will debate the newly developed formats of art-as-education aiming at the distribution of new fields of discourse. The new formatsreplace the imperial patterns of thought and their established academic disciplines. The symposion adheres to compassion, ethical responsibility, transdisciplinarity, gender neutrality, subaltern discourses and creative figuration, as well as a double conjoining: on the one

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hand, the merging of scientific knowledge with the humanities, and on the other, the merging of theory with practice. The symposion focuses on creating future art schools, which may function as the grounding force of a new educational paradigm. In today’s higher education industry, philosophy is being reduced to philology, the conjectural sciences have ousted the human sciences and art has been deprived of its impact. This Erziehungssystem (Er-ziehung = dragging towards, German) is intertwined with the rise of populism and post-truth politics in the political arena of the West. It becomes complicit with the disasters of public policies, the corruption of knowledge by profit-maximizing corporations and the governance-by-debt on a global scale. We counteract the recent “developments” by offering our collective curriculum, a gift of the arts to all existing and upcoming educational institutions. Art as technê will liberate itself from the linear strains of modernity and take its role in society anew. The School of Everything is a critical reflection on the educational turn in art, and in this regard, constitutes an answer to the impasses of institutional critique by declaring itself to be a instytucja krytyczna, a critical institution. Its constitutive approach injects technics of spirituality into the zombified body of homo sapiens and establishes its relation to the Gods. The School of Everything becomes the School of One and All. ◆

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luca di blasi Education in Doxic Times I. THE ACTUAL STATE AND THE PERSPECTIVE FROM WHICH IT IS PERCEIVED

<assertoric mode> In global capitalism everything is floating: information, mankind, goods, and „bads“ (Ungüter) etc. As a response, new attempts continuously rise in order to regulate these movements. What emerges is a transnational system of different concentric circles beyond classical nation states. In the respective innermost circles (extropic „world cities“, global „hubs“ for transnational „global nomads“), maximal mobility and maximal access to all resources are concentrated. These circles are embedded in increasingly gated societies or gated cultures with average mobility and access to resources. They, in turn, are surrounded by entropic zones (failing states), to which they exercise extensive control.1 This text is written from the perspective of the inner circles and limited by that. The question of education should address what might be called pervasive doxification. On the one hand, we have easier, cheaper, faster and more targeted access to more information and things than ever, but the possibilities of manipulation and control over the information flow are evolving therein as well. Hence we live in a double semblance: that we understand the world better and better, that we permanently see sharper through the world and its machination, and that we understand the world less and less, exactly because of our growing awareness of the dimensions of control or manipulation 1 Access to their resources (including the human ones: brain drain), Influence on their elites (corruption), military influence, state armies and private mercenaries for the protection of the access to resources and trade routes; military interventions that create failed states („zoning“), asymmetrical trade agreements; proxy wars to the benefit of the own MIC, export of all kinds of „bads“ (Ungüter) etc. In these entropic zones lives a huge number of people who are “neither consumers nor a labor force” and thus are “counted for nothing” in capitalism (Badiou) and from whom the inner circles try to protect themselves by highly-security borderlines and outsourcing border management.

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and because of the disproportion of exponential growth of information and our incapacity to process it or to verify the credibility of the sources.2 At the same time, the so called “real” world and also our lifeworld (Lebenswelt) become objectively incomprehensible and impenetrable, because of the growing technical complexity and global conditions of production and flow of goods. We are literally surrounded by things we don’t understand, we don’t know what they consist of, how they are made, how they function, who has made them, where, by what means and under which conditions. Correspondingly, our “private” microspheres became permeable in a permanent flow of information, inwardly and outwardly. Therefore, distinctions are eroding, besides the classical ones such as private-public or lifeworld-sciences (Wissenschaft), the one of understanding (aletheia) and opinion (doxa). Almost everything becomes doxic. Knowledge now means, first and foremost, in Socrates’ famous words, knowing that you know nothing. </assertoric mode>

II. SIX THESES FOR AN EDUCATION IN DOXIC TIMES

<apodictic mode> 1. Cool Spots The former lifeworld as an obvious, unreflected precondition, as everyday life, has to be consciously constructed and constituted. Education (in the sense of Bildung, establishment) would mean in this context that we have to develop ascetic techniques that permit us to resist the permanent information and communication flow by consciously establishing areas protected by information-and communication-in-abundance, offline spaces and timeframes for vis-á-vis-interaction, reasoning, reflection, contemplation, concentration, and silence; what I call cool spots.

In addition, the immediate access to immense digital archives has an effect on our temporal and historical awareness. The focus relocates from the past to the post-contemporary – to life under the condition of the continual anticipation of what probably is to be expected soon; and, to the permanent positing of the presuppositions of prospective ‘positings’ (Setzung der Voraussetzungen zukünftiger Setzungen). 2

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2. Subtraction The power of the machinations has to be addressed, but this must not mislead us to constantly revolve around it, be it by negation (“passive” or “active nihilism” according to Nietzsche, “destruction” according to Badiou), be it by affirmation (“insight into the necessity“, amor fati). Education in doxic times must mean: to know and to negate the scary dimensions of modern machination by depriving it of the attention and energy it needs: by establishing cool spots, via “Gelassenheit” (Heidegger), “subtraction” (Badiou), etc. 3. Critique Under doxic conditions, the Socratic distinction becomes relevant again: between the ones who know that they don’t know – and those who don’t. Knowing that we know almost nothing means that we have to speak almost always in a problematic (or questioning) mode. Speaking in a problematic mode means: not identifying completely with what we say, exactly because we know its problematic character. Not identifying means: to remain free. Those who believe to know, on the contrary, commit to assertions because they don’t understand that they are lacking something (“delusion”). Asserting things that you pretend to know without knowing them means: identifying with, insisting on one’s own opinion. Education means, accordingly: criticism and active weakening of convictions and hence emancipation as negative freedom, education for attentiveness and prudence, strengthening of one’s own capacity to deal with others and with objects, as well as with complexity and uncertainty. 4. Politique provisoire This form of emancipation, however, has to face the problem that the same doxic conditions that require a weakening of convictions, a speaking in a problematic mode, increase the demand for “strong” subjects with strong convictions and assertions. This opens the door to deluded subjects who really (want to) believe in unfounded opinions and simple solutions, as well as to sophists whose interest is self-empowerment by pretending to be fully convinced. They delude without delusion, neither believe (except in power) nor doubt, they assert only because of the power of the form of assertion in doxic times due to generally restrained assertion. The following conclusion must be drawn: We have to recognize that in doxic times and under specific political conditions it can be problematic to speak in a problematic mode and to retain one’s own liberty. Instead we must dare to use the assertoric and apodictic mode, to leave the safety of negative freedom, to make ourselves vulnerable, to take sides (politique provisoire).

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5. Collectives and Correctives Because of the danger of both: either to fall under the spell of our own projections (ideology, delusion), or to become a sophist, we have to establish (bilden) collectives and correctives, collectives that are strong enough to become correctives for their participants as well as for the societies of which they are parts. </apodictic mode> 6. Against the Contemporary Weightlessness of History <assertoric mode> Collectivity in itself, of course, is no warranty for correction. On the contrary, collectives can also appear in the gestalt of auto-hypnotic delusional communities, united in their will for self-ascertainment, self-authorization and selfunleashing. Hence, the question arises: how do collectives become correctives? In opposition to Kant’s “radical evil” and further developing her concept of the “banality of evil”, Hannah Arendt conceptualized “boundless, extreme evil”: „The greatest evildoers are those who don’t remember because they have never given thought to the matter, and, without remembrance, nothing holds them back. For human beings, thinking of past matters means moving in the dimension of depth, striking roots and thus stabilizing themselves, so as not to be swept away by whatever may occur – the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation. The greatest evil is not radical, it has no roots, and because it has no roots it has no limitations, it can go to unthinkable extremes and sweep over the whole world.“ 3

This sheds a light on a contradiction of the present age which has come to the fore-ground, recently, in the wake of the (temporary) failure of the creation of historically powerful collectives (the project of the left) in the West: The one between neoliberal globalization and what is usually called “right-wing populism”, but – regarding its manifestation in the West – should rather be called “national capitalism”, a capitalism with a national face. Through it, the dominant conflict in the age of capitalism with no alternatives presents itself as the conflict between global and national capitalism.

3 H. Arendt, Responsibility and Judgement, ed. by Jerome Kohn, New York: Schocken Books, 2003, p. 95.

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In retrospect, it becomes visible that postmodernity and neoliberalism stood closer to each other than one would expect at first, especially in affirming a global nomadism and the dissolution of all out-dated (collective) identities. This dissolution of all fixed identities went hand-in-hand with the affirmation of the critique of teleological “grand narratives”. Especially the affirmation of the liquidation and weakening of all identities allowed for a radically critical approach to narratives. From a global nomadic perspective, all collective narratives (including that of the traditional left) can be conceived as narratives of injustice and violence. The confrontation with one’s (formerly) “own” archives can be ruthless exactly when one no longer identifies with it; the liquidation of identities thus favours the transformation of collective archives into toxic cabinets and collection points of racist, colonialist, anti-semitic, chauvinistic, misogynistic, homophobic, totalitarian, etc., material. Political education as it is understood here essentially means: continual political correction work on a contested history, with which identification becomes impossible. Seemingly diametrically opposed to this are “ethno-pluralistic” national selfassertions. Their struggle is directed against “political correctness”, against that which is perceived as the negation or contamination of one’s own archives. They describe it as the weakening of the national powers of resistance against the global neoliberal capitalist individualization, i.e., the reduction of people and other collectives to their individual parts (to disengaged grains of sand = desertification) and the resulting planetary history-lessness. “Seemingly”, because in order to ensure the archives, they shall be rewritten and politically corrected especially here: The same AfD-Höcke who evokes German history and identity also demands a complete “turnaround in the politics of memory”. The actual interest here consists in freeing memory from what gives it depth and roots (Wurzelhaftigkeit): the confrontation with one’s own guilt and one’s own collective failure. The same Erdogan who permanently evokes Turkish history cracks up when confronted with problematic sides of Turkish history (Armenia). The same “historically conscious” Polish PiS Party doesn’t want to know anything about Polish anti-Semitism, just as Le Pen shuns from admitting France’s colonial war crimes in Algeria, etc. Contemplated with Arendt there is no contradiction here, but, rather, there are two forms of the same desertification, the same rootlessness. Where the liquidation of all identities and the radical non-identity (Nicht-Identität)

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facilitate a historical protection (Geschontheit), which is the precondition of an unsparing condemnation of all collective cultures of memory (and a complicity with a global-capitalist frequent-flyer view), the national-capitalist alleged negation of rootlessness, in fact, never aims at the true roots, but always at pseudo-roots. Nationalists and “fundamentalists” strive for a past that never existed, and search for roots and foundations that will always seek to avoid true memory. Hence, the present front-line does not run between a global rootlessness, and resistance in the name of historically conscious people and nations, but between two forms of the same rootlessness: an affirmative global-capitalist rootlessness and a national-capitalist transfiguration of pseudo-roots. </assertoric mode> <apodictic mode> Against this conflictual system in which both opposing powers – global and national capitalism, i.e., the weightlessness of history via condemnation and the weightlessness of history via transfiguration – continually stabilize each other, the concept of historical construction (Bildung) needs to be introduced. Historical construction shall pose the question of how to bethink oneself in times of global archives and their destructive effects on the temporal and historical awareness. The concept emphasizes the fact that everyone has a stand-point, each with its own history, through which alone one can become aware that one cannot get rid of the burden of one’s own collective roots without consequences, since the price of this “individual freedom” and the moral discharge is the loss of one’s own capability of resistance against “the Zeitgeist or History or simple temptation”. If collectives are to be correctives, too, they need to be capable of localizing themselves historically under doxic conditions, i.e., to experience themselves also as misdirected, guilty, and failed collectives. The experience of and the exposure to the weight of history can serve as a corrective for collectives, through which they can serve as correctives for their societies. </apodictic mode> ◆

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noah fischer Noah Fischer works in the studio/streets/ museums/stage. Long focused on a clash between the economic realities of debt, class division and financialiation with the luxury spaces and economies of art, he is the initiating member of Occupy Museums and a core member of G.U.L.F/Gulf Labor. His work also encompasses a long-term theatrical collaboration with Berlin-based andcompany&Co. His solo as well as his collaborative work is variously seen both with and without invitation at museums internationally including Occupy Museumsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; recent project Debtfair at the Whitney Biennial.

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Step out on the jutting terrace of the Whitney Museum of American Art and cast your gaze. New York’s skyline is undergoing major plastic surgery as ultra-luxury towers rise in all directions. While the city’s tallest buildings were once corporate office-towers churning out profits, today’s spires are simply skypalace depositories for global loot to be parked. This is a visible result of our current era of x-treme inequality, the age of disruption: a cover for a counter-revolution in which the 1% now harvest well over 90% of new profits. Let’s step back from the view and return to the galleries of paintings, sculpture, and installation. Isn’t art an escape from the drumbeat of financial logic? Can’t art claim its own autonomous value system where beauty and contemplation count as currency? Well yes art is precious, but in a hyper-capitalist system no sort of value can be allowed to exist outside of the extraction logic of investment markets. So as we stroll through the galleries

Noah Fischer

of paintings we begin to see not imaginative lines, shapes and colors but something much more abstract: assets. We see that the same hedge fund managers sitting on the museum boards and thus presiding over the display of these assets are also trading heavily in them, sitting in auction rooms with their hand on the value lever. As MoMA trustee and head of Blackrock (the largest investment firm in the world) Larry Fink recently said, “The two greatest stores of wealth internationally today is contemporary art… and I don’t mean that as a joke, I mean that as a serious asset class… And two, the other store of wealth today is apartments in Manhattan…”

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But let’s get into a private helicopter and hover around the museum itself for a minute. Museums have represented the democratization of high culture (and the sack of nonwestern cultures generally) since even before the Louvre was opened to the public in the middle of the French Revolution. Today we see a mass public fed into its doors paying 25 dollars each or more. We see the iconic starchitect design as art jewel box, infused with a sense that you might bump into James Franco in front of a Cindy Sherman, a honeypot attracting countless young people to a creative calling. Most then end up trapped in unpayable art school debt so that they are forced into pawnship to the luxury goods and services industry to be as close to the magic of art as possible as art handlers, adjunct teachers, museum guards. But this is all obvious. What’s less obvious is the museum’s secret life as Eyes Wide Shut backdrop for hedge fund and real estate summit parties. What’s not visible are earth shattering business deals happening in proximity to the paintings.

Keep in mind that some of these trustees are also invested in that up and coming asset: Brooklyn real estate portfolios, while perhaps also dabbling in SLABS (student loan asset backed securities) and of course art collecting. This is to say that the striving Brooklyn artist visiting the museum for a jolt of inspiration may not know that their creditor and landlord is enthroned inside. Seen this way, the museum starts to appear as a weapon of mass extraction, a big raygun pointing from Chelsea toward Bushwick, Crown Heights, even East New York. This leaves us only one more place to investigate and this is beneath the museum. Which ancient temples lie in its foundations? In the case of the Whitney, the substance is indeed ancient, though not exactly holy. It’s the fracked gas that flows through the Spectra pipeline connecting fuel sites in Pennsylvania to New York City. This pipeline was quietly laid into the foundations while the museum was being erected, only briefly disrupted by Hurricane Sandy before being hidden away forever. But not really forever, since gas lines eventually corrode and the tempestuous sirens that are the muses of art are getting restless. ◆ 199


Noah Fischer â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Disruption Culturescape, pen and ink, 2016

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Unlike New Cinema, which is opposed to Old Cinema, Alternative Cinema, which is opposed to Mainstream Cinema, Political Cinema, which is opposed to Unpolitical Cinema, French Cinema, which is opposed to American Cinema, or Digital Cinema, which is opposed to nothing at all, Pirate Cinema is opposed to Proprietary Cinema. Pirate Cinema exists since 2004 in Berlin, and occasionally elsewhere.

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pirate cinema berlin RE: INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

The concept of „intellectual property“ is more than just a category error: it is a deliberate ontological insult. One can oppose it intellectually – by insisting that ideas spread through unauthorized duplication, modification, distribution and public performance, which in itself is an idea – but since the late 20th century one can just as well resort to a technological opposition. “Intellectual property“ in digital form – most notably the output of the culture industries – is at odds not only with the needs or desires of its addressees or consumers, but with its own material condition. A computer, as long as it is a proper computer, cannot discriminate between proprietary and nonproprietary bits: it has to compute. It can be programmed not to – not to display a book or an image, not to play a song or a film – but in order to do so it still has to work correctly, and as long as it does it can be reprogrammed to keep computing. At the same time, the internet, as long as it is the internet, cannot discriminate between proprietary and non-proprietary information. Not only does it “interpret censorship as damage and routes around it“1, John Gilmore, in: http://kirste.userpage. fu-berlin.de/outerspace/internet-article. html. 1

it also perforates censorship by transmitting data in encrypted form – as long as cryptography is cryptography – and masking the identity of those who exchange it. Computers and the internet as mass media,were bad news for intellectual proprietors: they lost control of the distribution of ideas, and as a consequence their influence over the consumption of ideas, and finally their monopoly on the production of ideas. What made the pirate movement so scandalous was not that it let the products of “intellectual labor“ circulate for free: it was the fact that, inevitably, it showed that such products could be used differently, and subsequently be produced through different means. The pirates served as a reminder not only of the functioning of communication technology, but of the fundamental laws of information as well. In the first decade of the 21st century, intellectual proprietors had to learn that digital commodities are impossible to conceive of without a digital police state. This state is now upon us. As with any other social transformation, it is not, and will never be, complete, and there are places where it has hardly begun, and ones where it maybe never will. But the nature of our transition, and its overall direction, has long been obvious. Let’s not waste 203

https:// piratecinema. org


too much time on questions of surveillance and privacy. Of course, governments and their agencies are trying hard to maintain their quasi-monopoly on information as such. But the lament about top-down control usually obscures how much of it, today, works bottom-up. If, ten years ago, it seemed inconceivable that the entertainment industries would sabotage computers and revoke the internet, that‘s because this issue has always been framed as a question of cracking down on technology, rather than making the users of technology crack up: that is one of repression rather than motivation. The mobile phone is not a communication device, and more than just a digital bug, or an electro-libidinal parasite: it‘s the assault on computing, the first massively popular digital device that does not compute and cannot be disassembled or programmed by its owner, who is also no longer supposed to keep any files on it. It‘s computing through the lens of apps, plus cloud storage; in short: expropriation. To keep people from exchanging information, a fake ubiquity of data has to be proclaimed: on-demand commodities, streaming services, smart digital infrastructure, an internet of things, eager to replace the internet of people. At the same time, self-surveillance via social media is no longer enough; we need more censorship, and child porn doesn‘t cut it anymore. Enter fake science, “Research data shows that what hides behind fake news sites is a highly coordinated behavioral tracking weaponized shadow network [...] that fuels the privacy Death Star‘s predictive influence modeling superlaser.”2 If the uncontrolled, cancerous spread of information is transforming us into click-slaves, robo-voters and digital lemmings, then who wouldn‘t want to desert that kind of internet, who wouldn‘t want to cede control to those who know how stuff works and what needs to be done to save our societies from the death grip of computers and the internet. The fairy tale of “intellectual property” is based on a popular myth: capitalism‘s guarantee that property relations will not be challenged by advances in technology, and that no disruption of business-as-usual will be tolerated, except if it generates even more business. But there are sectors of society that cannot be fully airbnb‘d or uberized: intellectual life, academia, education. These have to be financialized. When we speak of “intellectual property”, we are told to no longer insist on any practical use value, but to focus on its exchange value. A piece of “intellectual property” is a promise, and education is a bet on future profit through ideas that nobody will ever have, since everyone is already indebted to them today. The dream of the intellectual proprietors of our age is permanent expropriation, a pyramid scheme, a new world of ideas, modelled after invest-

2 Jonathan Albright, in: https://medium.com/@d1gi/election2016-propaganda-lytics-weaponized-shadow-trackers-a6c9281f5ef9.

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ment banking and real estate. One has to pick one‘s battles: Yes, the pricing of academic journals may be a scandal (the contracts, the bundling, the nondisclosure agreements), but only their contents are truly scandalous. Cinema‘s obsession with copyright has invited an entire generation of filmmakers to abandon it, and academia makes the same offer to future scientists. These are great times for actual creation: pirate archives, cheap tools, abandoned institutions and unused pieces of network infrastructure can be reassembled into real universities (or cinemas) in no time. Just as the internet had to declare itself independent from the “weary giants of flesh and steel” 3, the postinternet will have to be reclaimed from the agile, mobile, cloud-storage-wielding monsters that have usurped it. If they need a place to die, they must look for it elsewhere. The real adversaries of pirate everything (of pirate cinema, university, housing etc.) are not failing governments or soon-to-be-bankrupt big corporations, but small authors: the petit bourgeoisie of “intellectual property”, those who have been cheated in permanence, and who permanently feel cheated. These are the fiercest defenders of hallucinatory properties. When they see some-one break the rules or provoke an exception they presume a conspiracy, suspecting imaginary principles at work: What if everyone downloads everything for free? No-one will create culture anymore! We know this lament: What if everyone migrates to our rich countries? No-one will have a job anymore! Anyone who has ever pirated anything knows this person: It‘s never a creator (rather a producer, editor or translator), it‘s often a disgruntled leftist (who cannot tolerate the existence of a non-disgruntled left), and if he‘s francophone, that‘s another warning sign. It‘s always a man, usually a bit older, and more often than not, there is a distant woman involved, a fantasy of betrayal, and thus an act of revenge (one has to

3

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read Kafka 4 to fully understand this). The small author is part of a dying class, but one that has been dying for too long. His is a voice of calculated resentment masked as naive rationality, an ongoing monologue that claims it has been forbidden to speak, a complaint directed not towards anonymous powers but to those 4 The Trial and Intellectual Property (1912) serve as examples. In: https://0x2620.org/ txt/Franz%20Kafka%20-%20Intellectual%20Property.txt.

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who secretly pull the strings. Just as the collapse of capitalism brings us societies of angry old men, the collapse of “intellectual property” is going to leave us with a world of intellectual zombies. They hate technology and anyone who uses it, they blame computers and the internet for their own misery, they vote fascist to save us from fascism. To reintegrate them into future societies will require more than just radical acts of pirate populism. ◆ 206


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brandon labelle Scenes from the art of making do, tactic and tenderness SHALL WE PLAY DEAD? SHALL WE RUN? SHALL WE FIND THE EXIT? SHALL WE CONTINUE TO DREAM? SHALL WE HONOR THE FALLEN? SHALL WE STORM THE GATES? SHALL WE CAPTURE THE FLAG? SHALL WE WAIT? PAUSE

HESITATE

The coming together of the coming apart – the neighborhood torn at the seams – the bottles and the smiles, the sofa onto which he falls – the togetherness, the warm embrace, the disappointments that lead to crafting new bodies – this body, the one he hopes to give away – is this not the OCCUPY heart of the matter: the heart that wishes against the odds – he steals the opportunity, to create a context for sharing the deep innermost desire, the desire that pours out through the creativity that is living, to enwrap these together into the coming community – the chairs gathered, from out of the backroom, joyful in their destitution: that is the articulation of an aesthetic expressivity – let us speak, let us listen – the folded blankets, the banners they make at home, on the kitchen table – the scribbled notes, the captured archives sewn together into an assemblage: he she them this, and others – the newcomers which we all are – onto the scene, this scene of the new knowledge like a material – like a mixed tape pirated from the media streams and nocturnal listenings: wait, I love this song…. – from the paintings taped together to the tables screwed into place, from the colors that speak of other worlds to the hand that reaches, suspended in mid-air as it constructs from nothing a body of thought, a resistant idea – I wish for a new conscience, the project of loving relations – 209


SHALL WE SCRATCH THE SURFACE, OR DIG DEEP? SHALL WE CREATE ANOTHER TERRITORY? SHALL WE HOLD HANDS? TO CARRY THE WEIGHT... TOGETHER?

The street, the night, the hand, extending to float, to collapse, to exit the center only to come up again, to balance between the vague idea and the concrete form – upon a line that becomes a glowing thread, vibrating with the excitement of new conversation, and the compassion – to lose, to find the difficult softness of nothing, and everything – the tension of this thread, always on the verge of breaking – he tries to hold it, they try to sustain the practice, the fragile community: what he learned during walks through the night with his friends by the ocean, and the night birds with their silence and loyalty, these sounds that would always make his heart stop, to dream – where are the rooms into which these sounds may find their reverberation, their resonant becoming – where are the cities that could shiver with the touch of this vibration, the thread that may become a street under his steps, and hers and the others, so close, closer – his friends always beside him, and he for them – that is the beginning, the first scene from which all the others emerge: the scene of love, and of rebellion –

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Images: The Living School, an experimental pedagogical project initiated by Brandon LaBelle in collaboration with the Education program of the South London Gallery, 2016

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SHALL WE TURN THE OTHER WAY? SHALL WE STRIKE? SHALL WE REFUSE TO PAY THE RENT? SHALL WE BUILD AN UNDERGROUND CULTURE, SECRET? SHALL WE HOLD STILL? SHALL I TELL YOU MORE? TO SEARCH FOR THE CRITICAL NARRATIVE, UNDER THE TONGUE?

The stillness – the loss – the continual wishing, precarious, like a weak-strength – the weakness of this thought, nimble and resilient and persistent – expelled, evicted, and therefore able to trespass, to flee – and to find a community of floating subjects – which teach and which provide the news, and the knowledge scratched onto the palms, opened on this occasion, born from the blisters of loss and making – held together, blister to blister – the exchange that is always a question of shadows, what cannot be named – the dirty figure, the dirty words that speak of contemporary culture – she tells of what was left behind, she maps the territories of broken homes, she argues for new concepts of welfare and the commonwealth – he speaks of the squats, the poverty and the crowbar needed, and the neighborhood parties they would create – and the others question, and they grasp the pile of straw and the bag of crumpled papers, making pillows and vague constructs which become benches and shelves for the books – to make an arena of dialogue – an art of making do –

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YOU SAY THEN I SAY NOW YOU SAY TO PRODUCE I SAY TO HAVE AND TO NEED YOU SAY WHEN I SAY WHENEVER YOU SAY THE TIME HAS GONE I SAY THE TIME HAS COME YOU CALL IT THE SERVICE PROVIDER I CALL IT THE APPARATUS, ANXIETY, CONTROL YOU SAY THE SAID I SAY THE SAYING, AS IF

The living, the breathing, the journey and the social formation, suddenly – the night walks, the shadow bodies, the new knowledge, the coming community – the wishing and the dreaming, the losing and the forgetting, the fragile construct of common spaces – the crafting from experiences and shared narratives of survival a glowing city – where we may meet –

SHALL WE DISRUPT, D I S A P P E A PAUSE

HESITATE

OCCUPY

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elad lapidot Machlokes PUBLIC ACADEMY FOR THE SAKE OF THINKING

The greatest challenge of thought is to demonstrate that it is needed. The act of thinking always entails apology. This challenge is greater for critical thought, which, for justifying its own existence, questions the existence of the world as it is; namely, it must convince that there is a need to criticize. Critical thinking is negative thinking, which is scarcely congenial, since it wants to show that things are not as good as they seem. At this moment, things do not seem good. There is no need to show there is a need to re-think the world as it is. The need, and this entails the absence of critical thought, is now evident. The evident absence of critical thought is the first evidence of its potential presence. The need makes out the site of its coming. New critical thinking must emerge from the current need. “Where the danger is, also grows the saving power” (“wo aber Gefahr ist, wächst/ Das Rettende auch”), said Hölderlin. What is the current danger? It has many names. Under the name of “populism”, one of its central features is a discourse that, in order to assert intimacy with the “people”, condemns thinking. The intellectual, mediated, discursive and differentiated, the “media” in general, is denounced as the enemy of the immediate, instinctive, and simple. The intellectuals are not reproached for thinking wrong thoughts, but for thinking at all: the true, authentic “people” are not thinking, but acting, working. Populist anti-intellectualism is however just the radicalization and accentuation of tendencies already present in deeper structures of contemporary society, which only accepts thought as a means for something else. This is sufficiently evident, for instance, in the prevalent conception of intellectual activity and knowledge via the paradigm of natural science, and the subjection of natural science to the imperative of technology. It is clearly visible in the systematic and multifaceted eradication of the humanities in academic insti217


tutions. It is most importantly manifest, however, in the reaction of intellectuals themselves, who, in countering populism, too often understand political engagement as requiring them to close the books and take to the streets. The first step for addressing the danger to critical thought as resulting from the danger to thought in general is to look at the danger not as external but as inherent to thinking itself. Indeed, the instrumentalization and consequent condemnation of all intellectual activity ultimately arise from thought itself, which essentially aspires to something that lies, so it seems, beyond itself. Thinking thus appears to be merely the way to reach actuality; the concept a mere vehicle to reality; the word only a medium for the image. Thinking and intellect in general, in their very existence, seem to signify the distance from and rupture with the actual unity of being, to constitute the temporary and pathological condition of dispute and problem. If indeed, as Aristotle said, “all humans wish to know”, common human knowledge says “don’t think too much”. One of the greatest and oldest “others” of thought, to which thinking is commanded to lead, and in which it is sentenced ultimately to perish, is action. How commonly and on how many levels of signification is doing understood, in fact, as the end of thinking. There is a deep complicity between understanding thought as a conduit to action and understanding thought as the enemy of action. The history of this complicity is the history of political thought in its relation to the polis itself, as the realm of human action. The thinker has been paradigmatically conceived, paradigmatically understood herself as the watchman, physician or consultant of the city, whose job is to ensure that it can do without her. This inherent threat posed by thinking to thinking must be addressed within thinking: how must thought exist such that it neither aspires to thoughtless action, nor self-preserves in actionless thought; is neither the servant of politics nor standing aloof? The dimension of reality in which this challenge should be addressed is the reality of thought as thinking, namely of thought itself in and as action, as the very active element of actuality (Wirklichkeit). In fact, thinking, as the generic concept for intellectual activity, has always, in various ways and topologies, not just been given a conceptual or ideal location, but generated actual places or sites in reality. The paradigmatic site of thinking is not the brain, as it is currently so popular to know, but the worldly place that is constituted and organized not by bio-physics, but rather by and for the activity of thought, namely the academy or the school. The existential question of thought is the question of the existence of the school as the site of thinking. The school is the primary site where thought Elad Lapidot

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comes into existence, where it acts – and where it is endangered and perishes. The measure for the current state of this danger is the distance of what is commonly called “school” or “academy” from actually being the site of thinking. Inversely, the “saving power” from the extinction of thinking in doing lies in the ability to think thinking itself as the paradigm of action – and so in the ability to think the site of thinking as the paradigm of the place for human action: to think the academy not as campus but as polis. The basic challenge of the academy, thus understood, is to institute intellectual activity, its activity of thinking and knowing, not just as preparatory for other activities, but as existing for its own sake: an academy whose students’ aspiration is not to graduate, but to continue it. The basic principle of the academy, as the site of thought, is accordingly not to find solutions, not to dissolve thinking in knowing, but to generate more thought. The academy must therefore avoid subjecting itself to the paradigm of reality as immediate, harmonious, unified and as such thoughtless existence. Rather, it should be the living paradigm of reality as thought in action, whose principle and element is dissent, difference, disagreement and polemics – not for the sake of but as the purpose of consensus. One model for this kind of academic institution is the modern rabbinic yeshiva, which exists at a great distance from the historical and contemporary polis and is seldom thought of as a potential source of inspiration for the contemporary academy as the site of intellectual activity. Nevertheless, the yeshiva is an academy founded on the epistemological principle of Talmud, which, beyond being the common designation for a historic textual corpus, is, as Sergey Dolgopolski called it, the “Art of Disagreement”. As such, Talmud is a name for thought in action. The Talmudic academy, the yeshiva, in particular in its modern Lithuanian model, as argued by Oded Schechter, is consequently a paradigmatic site of thinking, governed by the principle of machlokes (dissent, disagreement, polemics, controversy). It is now time for machlokes as the principle of a new institution of thought, of a new academy. The new academy shall be the site of thinking as the central place of political action, not on the margins, but as the center of the public sphere. It shall be public not despite but precisely by virtue of being academic: by enacting thought as the constitutive principle of the res publica. The Public Academy shall thus reconnect the intellectuals to the public, and reconnect the public to the intellectuals. It shall be a new type of institution, an academy for intellectual activism, which shall restore and reestablish the figure of the intellectuel engagé, the public intellectual. Constituted and governed by the principle of machlokes, the Public Aca219


demy shall depend on and generate epistemic plurality. The diversity of competing knowledge traditions brought to socio-political co-existence by the recent waves of immigration, a diversity which often disagrees with the established European canon and hence often felt as a threat to the European public sphere, shall become the very element of the Public Academyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s subsistence. In a world that stands on machlokes the clash of cultures shall not signify catastrophe but the gift of food for thought. â&#x2014;&#x2020;

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agnès rammant-peeters

www. artwithoutbars. be

Art Without Bars REINTEGRATING INMATES THROUGH ART

Art Without Bars is a non-profit association that has been active in Belgian prisons since 2000. It couples art exhibitions in prisons with workshops organized for inmates. In our view, art and culture can transform the system of punishment into an art school of a special kind. The organization was officially established in 2005. Since then, Art Without Bars organizes art exhibitions within the walls of the prison. We also organize exhibitions of detainees together with non-detained artists in museums, galleries, art centers, and public spaces in Belgium. Art Without Bars chrono-politically intervenes into the system of punishment and practices alternative methods of “reintegration“. Thanks to European legislation the basic rights of prisoners have improved significantly since 2013. Yet, we had good hopes for more humane treatment. But in many countries we see new prisons of mega-size being built. More money goes to infrastructure, less money remains for reintegration efforts. In Nordic countries alternative prisons show a move toward a better direction: they are constructed on a human scale displaying a co-housing architecture. Art Without Bars realized – in spite of the negative attitude by prison guards – several projects in prisons in Belgium and France.

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INMATE TATTOO

Tattoos have been important means of venting feelings in a seemingly indelible manner for a long time. Yet a taboo still dominates this practice in the penitentiary context. Among other difficulties, the rise in clandestine use of self-manufactured equipment for producing tattoos has contributed to the spread of HIV and hepatitis. In 2007, an agreement arose with the penitentiary government concerning a cooperation conducted over a full year between Art Without Bars and the inmates of Oudenaarde Prison with the result of an exhibition creating an open discussion concerning tattoo practices and body painting. Initially, inmates photographed each other’s tattoos. The existing restrictions were regarded as artistic challenges. Art School students participated actively in workshops, until the artist Mariette Michaud was able to photograph the rhythm? of the inmates themselves. An exhibition was realized, consisting of three parts: an interactive part with five groups of light-boxes, picturing the making-of accompanied by music, interviews and testimonies; a second part consisting of steel plates with close ups of tattoos and the painted bodies of inhabitants. Finally, a triptych was mounted in the visitor’s room. The project upgraded body art in the penitentiary scene, and put an end to the taboo of tattooing in prisons..

Inmate Tattoo, photograph by Mariette Michaud (prison Oudenaarde 2007)

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FATALITAS!, A PUBLICATION OF DRAWINGS FROM THE INTERBELLUM PERIOD

Inmate art – a recent term in the west – is art that has been made by people who have been placed in solitary confinement because of criminal activity. After his death on 24 January 1960, Dr. Jean Lacassagne, a champion of this specific art branch, almost fell into oblivion. He was born in Lyon (1886) as the son of the famous law doctor Alexandre Lacassagne, who introduced, as a dermatologist, the tattoo as a subject of study. Inspired by the sick-calls shared with his father to the hospitals and penitentiaries of his birth city, Jean’s publications (later as a dermatologist) largely concerned this subject. After his father’s death, Jean inherited a a folder decorated with tattoos, and even a coffee service decorated with tattoos. He was inspired by compassion and advised his inmate patients to continue with writing and drawing as a valve for their despair. In 2007 in the achives of Lyon, a manuscript by a M. Migron . was connected with drawings by the same hand. which turned up on the art market. Some drawings literally illustrated the text. The recurrent criminal acts of M. Migron, illustrated by himself, form the red wire through this book. We have chosen the work of several artists to illustrate the tale of Migron.

Drawing by the artist – inmate Raoul Alba (1930) represented in Fatalitas!

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ART STORY

The artist Anne-Mie Van Kerchoven was asked to select a series of masterpieces from art history. The new didactic tool was named the ARTPAD. It suits those already familiar with art as well as those who aren’t familiar with it yet. This big book with removable pages can also be used as an easel. The project Art Story started in October 2011, introducing the new toolinto the female prison of Sequedin (Lille). In 2012-2013, Art Story had the possibility to collaborate with Les Ecrivains Publics in the prison of Tournai. Alongside astonishing examples of prose and poetry, this collaboration resulted in a strong expression of visual arts. During the year 2014, the artist Baudouin Oosterlynck, the slam artist Seckou Ouologuem and the conceptual artist Zachary Susskind conducted interactive workshops at the prison of Andenne. An international group of specialists later evaluated both the ARTPAD and a series of workshops with the ARTPAD in different prisons. As a result of this evaluationthe ARTPAD was considered an instrument which facilitates the process of rehabilitation for those who use it in their art classes. Art Without Bars has promoted the new instrument and put it into practice in detention centers both in Belgium and in other countries (ARTPAD was published in Dutch, French and English). Moreover, Art Story was the topic of an exhibition entitled “To Dream Beyond Walls”, organized at the Catholic University of Louvain in May 2013. From November 2014 to March 2015, the ARTPADIENS, a nickname for the users of the ARTPAD, have held three consecutive exhibitions as curators and creators of works at the Museum Dhont-Dhaenens in Deurle.

“The Large Glass” by M. Duchamp reinterpreted during the workshop “arts plastiques” by ARTPAD-ians in the prison of Doornik (Belgium, summer 2012)

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TOP HATS

In Spring 2017 Art Without Bars introduced TOP HATS, a project conceived for convicted citizens who reside outside the prisons. Artistic workshops are organized especially for them every Tuesday. Groups of Top Hats will take turns every 6 months. The goal of this three-year lasting integration project is the creation of a shadow theatre. Through a promotional campaign set up by the final participants, a filmed version of the play will reach a larger cultural audience. Each group will present a part at the end of its term. Thus, a first viewing, namely a making-of, is pinned onto the program already for June 24, 2017. The project TOP HATS includes, amongst other things, body expression, visual arts and slam poetry. Renowned Belgian artists (De Maan Mechelen, Lemmens Institute Louvain, Carmien Michels, Sofie Verbrugghen, et al.) will animate the workshops while trainees of the LUCA School of Art (Campus Lemmens) engage with the participants in music. This project is led in collaboration with the Justice House of Louvain court house of Louvain?, the CGG Louvain and the Department of Criminology of the University of Leuven.

Top Hats Shadow Theater project (Leuven, 2017)

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jean-pierre rammant Art Practice and Art Research: high time to disrupt Science and Technology The French artist Orlan wrote «C’est que l’art doit changer le monde, et c’est là sa seule justification». The anthropologist Michel Saloff Coste (Lille University) supports the statement and adds: genius has its source in arts, the main source for creativity. STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics) is heavily promoted among youngsters, applauding the combination of cognitive, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills to facilitate transfer of knowledge. A critical attitude, thinking out-of-the-box, and passion are characteristic for contemporary Art Education. 23 of the world’s top 25 universities have a school of arts of some kind: an Art Center (M.I.T.), an Art Practice (Berkeley), an Art Department (Oxford, UK), or a Visual Art Center (Tshinghua, China). In Belgium, 54% of the children (up to the age of 12) follow an after-school art education (music, ballet, drawing class); yet in higher education (at an age over 18) less than 3% are registered at Art Schools. Yet the most talented humans were educated in science and the arts: Albert Einstein was a famous physicist and a gifted violin player, Pierre Boulez – the French composer – was a mathematician; as are the folksinger Art Garfunkel and the composer Philip Glass. The DANA Foundation in New York ordered a study of “Art Education and the Brain” at Johns Hopkins University. It came to the conclusion: art has an important positive impact on the human capacity to acquire knowledge (by IQ and memory) and to stay focused. Art is often disruptive, originating from a strong imagination, a confronting experience, a social engagement, a religious feeling or political movement. Art Education is an outstanding source for questioning what we know, interacting with others, and for creating things. The Art Labs (media, performance, fabrication, sound, …) support interdisciplinary research and innovation. 227


sotirios bahtsetzis Academia: A story about troubadours, castratos, and singing mice In 1979 psychoanalyst Michèle Montrelay proposed a seminar on male sexuality at Jacques Lacan’s institute at the University of Vincennes. It is widely recognised that Montrelay’s essays on femininity, published two years earlier under the title L’ombre et le nom, aim to somehow transcend Lacan’s phallocentrism. Lacan, however, forbade Montrelay to conduct the seminar, declaring that if women are not entirely governed by the phallic function, they won’t have anything to say about it. This story recounts, in quite an uncanny way, the foundation of Western academia, calling to mind the rather unhappy story of Peter Abelard, the medieval French scholastic philosopher, theologian and logician. Abelard was a preeminent figure of the Université de Paris, metonymically known as the Sorbonne, the second-oldest university in Europe after Bologna. His love affair with Héloïse d’Argenteuil, his student, resulted in a pregnancy that became legendary. It is well known that when Héloïse’s uncle found out about the incident, he arranged for a band of men to break into Abelard’s room one night and castrate him. The professor Abelard, now a castrato, has been the haunting figure of Western academia ever since. Even when, in 1969, Jacques Lacan developed his concept of the four discourses, which he called Master, University, Hysteric and Analyst. While claiming that the provision and worship of “objective” knowledge usually happens in the undisclosed service of some external master discourse (being that of the official religion, the state, the market etc.), he failed to inscribe himself into his scheme. Abelard and all professors along with him, including Lacan, have gradually become socially irrelevant as masters, as the only right granted to them is to sing in high pitch while delivering extremely complicated theoretical constructions in favour of the so-called intellectual establishments. A theory, much like an aria, Sotirios Bahtsetzis

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receives acknowledgment based on the performative, self-imposing and socially well-orchestrated attitude of the castrato-entrepreneur who iterates it. But at what cost? The anarchist philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend explains the fallacies of the dogmatic use of rules, as well as the ethical implications of every objective reasoning based on rigid dogmatism and a rationalist scientism. He writes: “Is it not possible that an objective approach that frowns upon personal connections between the entities examined will harm people, turn them into miserable, unfriendly, self-righteous mechanisms without charm or humour? ‘Is it not possible,’ asks Kierkegaard, ‘that my activity as an objective [or critico-rational] observer of nature will weaken my strength as a human being?’ I suspect the answer to many of these questions is affirmative and I believe that a reform of the sciences that makes them more anarchic and more subjective (in Kierkegaard’s sense) is urgently needed.”1 Maybe it is in Feyerabend’s work that the castrato Abelard meets Franz Kafka’s Josephine, the protagonist of the short novel Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse Folk. Josephine the talented singer who sings for the rest of the mice is alone in the mouse community, looked upon as different and somehow alien. She might also be, according to Lacan’s typology, a hysteric showing symptoms that embody resistance to the prevailing master discourse. She is “anarchistic” or “dadaistic”, just as Feyerabend himself is, a rarity among the mouse folk, and people soon forget her when she eventually disappears. Kafka’s parable refers to this difficult relation between the one who makes the difference (being an artist, a scholar, an inventor, or a therapist) and her audience. A highly-pitched language might also belong to the ones who sometimes challenge and oppose the master discourse, the hierarchisation of knowledge production, the concealment of heteronormative power relations, the exclusion of the socially alien and the not human enough. These are the forces which often operate in the name of an abstract academic universalism, which often simply conceals the master’s voice that directs such a claim.

1 Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method: Outline of an Anarchist Theory of Knowledge. London and New York: New Left Books, 1975, p. 154.

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In her essay We Refugees, (1943) philosopher Hannah Arendt acknowledges migrants as “the vanguard of their peoples” while arguing for the right of migrants to be politically active and participate in social practices. In the face of over 60 million people migrating today and given the current political situation in Europe with the rising of xenophobic, populist and identitarian political movements, it becomes imperative to invent new means of bringing people together in a society, without, however, homogenising them or subjecting them to class hierarchies, social stereotypes and identity politics of all kinds. When we see the migrant as the political subject of the 21st century we necessarily call into question established political principles while challenging notions such as global citizenship, a democratic way of living and collective self-mastery. How are all of us in Europe to learn and develop from this novel situation? How can we, the castrated professors who became dull schoolmasters and their submissive followers, learn from the migrant and crossbred Josephine and deliberately subvert through her “hysteric” stories the prevailing master discourse? How can we educate ourselves? For the French philosopher Michel Serres, all forms of pedagogy require painful yet exhilarating departures from home and encounters with Otherness. To be educated is to become a harlequin, to wear a coat of inimitable and unexpected, yet curious multiplicity: “A motley composite made of pieces, of rags or scraps of every size, in a thousand forms and different colors, of varying ages, from different sources, badly basted, inharmoniously juxtaposed, with no attention paid to proximity, mended according to circumstance, according to need, accident, and contingency – does it show a kind of world map, a map of the comedian’s travels, like a suitcase studded with stickers?“2 And when the harlequin is stripped down from all the layers of clothing a hermaphrodite, a mixed body, a naked androgyne is exposed, “a monster … a sphinx, beast and girl; centaur, male and horse; unicorn, chimera, composite and mixed body” (ibid., xvi). This body continuously faces the unmovable never changing power, which only declares obedience to its self, “Power does not move. When it does, it strides on a red carpet. Thus reason never discovers, beneath its feet, anything but its own rule.“ (ibid., xv)

2 Serres, Michel. The Troubadour of Knowledge. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1997, xv, xiv.

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This crossbreed-harlequin, much like the person who wishes to learn, must always risk a voyage from the familiar towards the strange and foreign. As Serres asserts, the hybrid plunges into the river’s current and swims. “No learning can avoid the voyage. ... The voyage of children, that is the naked meaning of the Greek word pedagogy. Learning launches wandering.“ (ibid., 8) And it is true that amidst this wandering a new educational ideal is revealed: the troubadour of knowledge. True learners are those trouvères, finders who will not succumb to the mediocrity of already existing methods, rules and paradigms, but will actually take the risk and restlessly explore the unexpected and unorthodox which is separated from the familiar and determined. How can we “find” when our whole educational system is based on reaching already predictable outcomes defined by pseudo-managerial rankings and evaluations? (Learning is not and cannot be a business.) How can true learning take place when our educational system is entirely structured to operate at the costs of those who don’t have a voice (Jacques Rancière), migrants, outcasts and the unprivileged? What kind of learning can take place if our educational system deliberately excludes the affective powers emanating from the body’s roots? What is this kind of education that forgets that science’s general truths always derive from poetry’s singular stories? True learning, Serres writes, takes place in the fluid middle of a crossing, that is, the crossing of fixed territories and stable identities while allowing for a chaosmotic (think of Félix Guattari) crossbreeding of learners and a destabilizing complexity of ideas to take place. The troubadour, the castrato even, may always entertain by singing in the presence of a king; a king, however, who will never know the true nature of that song, the longing for an eros. Learning is such an erotoalgic enterprise; such as the one heralded by Sappho and all other bards alike. The song of Josephine, the hysteric-harlequin, a hybrid of our origins, will always remind us – like a newborn child – of that divine foundation. ◆

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mriganka madhukaillya Assembly of desire REASSEMBLING THE COLLECTIVE

In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police take the place of pirates. â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces

Periferry is a project initiated by Desire Machine Collective in the year 2007. It is a trans-local initiative which looks at a critical uses of technology and collaborative experiments with local communities in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. It works as a laboratory for people engaged in cross disciplinary practice. The project focuses on the creation of a network space for negotiating the challenge of contemporary cultural production. It is located on a ferry on the river Brahmaputra. Periferry aims to promote experimentation in art, ecology, technology, media and science, and to create a public space and public domain, physical as well as virtual, for critical reflections. We were fascinated by Michel Foucault's 233


Madness and Civilization, where he saw in the ship of fools a symbol of the consciousness of sin and evil alive in the medieval mindset and imaginative landscapes of the Renaissance. In his introduction to Madness and Civilization, Barchilon writes of the ship of fools: "Renaissance men developed a delightful, yet horrible way of dealing with their mad denizens: they were put on a ship and entrusted to mariners because folly, water, and sea, as everyone then 'knew', had an affinity for each other.” Foucault describes the ship as the ultimate heterotopia, a fragment of space that contests or compensates for the spaces we usually live in. For Foucault, the ship is the ultimate heterotopic space for two reasons: it has been a great instrument of economic development, and has simultaneously been the greatest reservoir of human imagination. We see Periferry as a context-provider stretching the concept of artistic creation from making content to making context. Context provision comprises both Benjamin’s “exemplary character of production” and his “apparatus”. A context-provider does not speak for others, but “induces” others to speak for themselves by providing both the means, or tools, and the context in which they can speak and be heard.

PERFORMATIVE TRANSFER OF THE PROJECT PERIFERRY

How does one create a body that may answer adequately – both kinetically and perceptively – to movement, if movement is, in itself, the imperceptible? If movement-asthe-imperceptible is what leads the dancing body into becoming an endless series of formal dissolutions, how can one account for that which endures in dance? How does one make dance stay around, or create an economy of perception aimed specifically at its passing away? The choreographic is already the field defined by all of these questions. Thinking about the movement of bodies as a shift from an understanding of play as the condition of human freedom to one prioritizing labor as either the realization or alienation of embodied human potential. Latour describes the overarching project of the book at the outset of the chapter, “The question of the social emerges when the ties in which one is entangled begin to unravel; the social is further detected through the surprising movements from one association to the next; those movements can either be suspended or resumed; when they are prematurely suspended, the social as normally construed is bound together with already accepted participants called ‘social actors’ who are members of a ‘society’; when the movement toward collection is resumed, it traces the social as associations Mriganka Madhukaillya

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through many non-social entities which might become participants later; if pursued systematically, this tracking may end up in a shared definition of a common world, what I have called a collective, it may fail to be reassembled; and, lastly, sociology is best defined as the discipline where participants explicitly engage in the reassembling of the collective.”1

PROJECT AIMS

Proposal The proposal explores fissures that exist despite the profound effects of globalization, where the individual and collective dreams which are not in line with the larger globalized pursuit, do not have any space. This project looks at space that is non-functional; it temporarily provokes and engages with dreams and utopias. The exploration is posited in a belief as Karl Mannheim has argued thus, “The complete disappearance of the utopian element from human thought and action would mean that human nature and human development would take on a totally new character.” He concluded, “With the relinquishment of utopias, man would lose his will to shape history, and therewith his ability to change it.”2 This project explores the desire not to lose the desire, to retain the ability to see that things could be different. The Utopia Proposal seeks to create a cartography. It is a remapping of public desires and utopias in the local. It clearly does not have an end result, a program or a plan. It works only at the level of trying to understand the “here and now”. It has been argued that any utopian project contains the seeds of its own destruction, yet the “the quest itself ” is still an imaginative precondition for achievable change in the here and now. There is a complexity and the paradox inherent in the search for the perfect world, and the ways in which the notion of utopia challenges the boundaries of human imagination. Utopia is not an impossible place, it is a place that can conceivably exist – and, in the teller’s view, a place that should exist. The discourse of Desire Machine Collective is based on understanding and challenging the relations between power, nature and society. The idea is to create both in thought and practice a critical future by going beyond representation. Our current engagement is to study the disruption or interruption of “organic flows”.

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Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social, Oxford University Press 2007, p. 247.

2 Mannheim, Karl, Ideology and Utopia: Collected Works of Karl Mannheim, Vol. 1, Routledge 1997, p.236.

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Flow and flux are seen as the only constants, be it of goods, ideas or people and when there is a disruption of flow, it provides multiple points of entry. Practice as Pedagogy Anything that teaches us something emits signs, and every act of learning is an interpretation of those signs or hieroglyphs. Using the example of learning how to swim, Deleuze points out that in practice we manage to deal with the challenge of keeping afloat only by grasping certain movements as signs. It is pointless to imitate the movements of the swimming instructor without understanding them as signs one has to decode and recompose in oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own struggle with the water. SCHOOL OF EVERYDAY: CON (TEXT + TENT + TEMPORARY)

The School of Everyday selects a location and sets up a temporary tent there with a view to create some content that is relevant to that place. The participants can decide what is important to that particular location and site. The activity of the school can vary in forms: from conversations and site-related discussions to book readings or film screenings. The intervention is temporary in nature but documents what occured there. The location plays an important part for the form the school will take. The participants are free to modify the nature of the school. The public space in the Indian context is extremely permeable and undefined. This project tries to explore the limits of the public through actual intervention on the site. It will stage the School of Everyday in different locations such as a fields, river banks, road sides, derelict houses, buildings in construction etc. in an attempt to reclaim public spaces and examine their limits. The project does have a staged and performative aspect to it and seeks to get a response and reaction from various quarters of the society: the lay public, the city administration, the police, etc. The project is extremely process based and will be documented extensively. There will also be a pod-cast published for each intervention. In the preface to his first, seminal work Difference and Repetition, Gilles Deleuze articulates the challenges of pedagogy in a vivid, precise fashion. He claims that everything that teaches us something emits signs, and every act of learning is an interpretation of those signs or hieroglyphs. Using the Mriganka Madhukaillya

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example of learning how to swim, he points out that in practice we manage to deal with the challenge of keeping afloat only by grasping certain movements as signs. It is pointless to imitate the movements of the swimming instructor without understanding them as signs that one has to decode and recompose in one’s own struggle with the water. So the project looks at the creation of content in a particular context and hence examines the notion of the contemporary and its relation to everyday by temporarily reclaiming a public space it strives; and to revisit and regenerate its context. In order to develop temporary tools based on the context, the School of Everyday will move on a nomadic trail around the city reclaiming spaces and inviting people to initiate a school based on simple encounters. The final outcome will be extensively archived and documented in different forms. The medium sized cities in South Asia are growing and evolving at a rapid pace without any planning whatsoever. There is a constant flow of people from smaller towns and villages to the cities. A number of these cities are experiencing total erasure of any sense of cultural or architectural continuance. What is being built seems devoid of any reference to the past. This break from the past may in some cases be a conscious or subconscious attempt at forgetting, since in many cases the spaces in question have suffered violent histories. There is also a movement from place to non-place, “the ambivalent space that has none of the familiar attributes of place - for instance, it incites no sense of belonging; (iv) the oblivion and aberration of memory”. 3 Through this project we attempt to create content that has a direct relevance to the context of the place we are located in. Evoking personal or public memory of the place is emphasized. This in an environment where space is no longer geography – it is electronics. Paraphrasing Paul Virilio, a territory without temporality is not a territory, only the illusion of territory. This deregulation of distance causess time-distance to replace space distance. The creative output and the manner in which the school was assembled and dismantled will be shared in a publication. The potential of such an approach to teaching and learning is huge. As soon as a notion of learning is decoupled from the possession of knowledge, as

3 Buchanan, Ian, A Dictionary of Critical Theory, 1st Edition, Oxford University Press 2010, Marc Augé, p. 30

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soon as difference is liberated from identity, repetition from reproduction (or resistance from representation), we may encounter what is at stake in today’s debate about education. The project can be set up at various locations. Each will have a site specific character to unearth locality and create debates around access of knowledge and its production.

POST SCRIPT

...but amid hiatuses and ruptures, breakdowns and failures, stalling and short circuits, distances and fragmentations, within a sum that never succeeds in bringing its various parts together so as to form a whole. That is because the breaks in the process are productive, and are reassemblies in and of themselves. Tracing the specific type of community formation, viz, the confessional nation that became the vehicle of capitalist competitiveness in Europe after the 16th and 17th centuries, and subsequently, in the rest of the world, the assembly tries to posit a choreographed encounters between individuals and collectives/communities to discuss the possibility of the reassembling of the coming community. The present day is defined by the intersection of three global changes : the rise of non-western powers, the crisis of environmental sustainability, and the loss of authoritative sources.

The proposed assembly is posited around to explore groups, organizations, networks and vulnerable communities in Asia as well as allied forces across the globe – NGOS, inter-governmental and trans-national organizations, scientists, religious groups, publicists and other activists – who are making an effort to bring the issues of climate change, resource conservation and responsible use of the commons to global awareness. By raising the profile of circulatory histories to their true role and identifying those groups and networks who are still – or have more recently become – committed to the inviolability or sacrality of the common goods, we can try to overcome the disastrous consequences of a national sovereignty paradigm and collectively tackle the crisis of an unsustainable planet.

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Scene 1. Apparatus of capture: Between South and Southeast Asia The notion of existence involves the notion of an environment of existences and of types of existences. Any one instance of existence involves other existences, connected with and yet beyond it. This notion of the environment introduces the notion of the 'more and less', and that of multiplicity. Scene 2. Choreography of present How does one create a body that can respond adequately – both kinetically and perceptively – to movement, if movement is, in itself, the imperceptible? If movement-asthe-imperceptible is what leads the dancing body into becoming an endless series of formal dissolutions, how can one account for that which endures in dance? How does one make dance stay around, or create an economy of perception aimed specifically at its passing away? Scene 3. His ( story) of the future The Future is not what it used to be. –Theodor Nelson

We have been living through boom times for the word future. Even before the escalating storms of the early 21st century, our cultures and industries collaborated in a remarkable proliferation of words and images about this impossible object. In recent years, the very thought of future has been spectacularized in extraordinary ways. Whether in visions of progress or apocalypse, our media have been overflooded with anticipations of things to come, with utopias, dystopias, stories of time travel and artificial intelligence, with accounts of acceleration and progress, of doom and imminent destruction, with scenarios, predictions, prophecies, and manifestos. Since the rise of the digital economy, even the benighted “science” of futurology has come back into style.

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mathilde ter heijne & jenny marketou WHAT IS A COMMONS?

Conversation in Athens, 28.04.2017

Jenny, when you told me that you teach art in the commons, I was very happy. The system in which I am teaching, the Kunsthochschule in the University in Kassel, is still quite organized towards the different medias. There is a sculpture and painting class and the performance class is probably the closest one can get to the commons. Can you explain how you came to this subject of art in the commons and created the pedagogical model? First I consider myself an involved international artist. My teaching is an activity, which is an extension of my work. I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist although I had a very formal art education at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York working in video, photography, socially engaged projects, and critical thinking. When I was studying for my MFA in New York – it was during the time of the AIDS epidemic – the feminist movement, the protests of the guerrilla girls who like the artists of the 60’s and 70’s were targeting the Whitney Museum, asking, “How many women artists are there in the collection of museum?” which prompt an interrogation of simmering inequalities within the museum system. So very soon it became evident to me that as a contemporary art practitioner I should look inward – to consider my work in relationship to issues of power, privilege, and representation.I became very involved in the commons, and in the collective aspect of making art. My first project was actually a community project 241

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which is a published book titled The Great Longing; The Greek of Astoria,1 which combines my photographs with short personal stories that I was able to record from first generation Greek Immigrants community who made their home in Astoria, Queens in New York. I remember when I started teaching, at Cooper Union School of Art in New York, a very special school because it was the only school in the US where students didn’t have to pay, that the teaching has always been based on methods of alternative education and on ideas that bring art into life and life into art. Ideas as such can become confusing for the students especially in New York where the art market and the commercial aspect of art are so important. It can be difficult to incorporate them into a curriculum when you have art students who want to make it in the art market. Jenny

Mathilde

Of course I am speaking from my American experience but I would love to learn more aboutyour current work, and about other concerns and ideas on your work and teaching. I’m a different generation than you, so of course when I went to art school at the end of the 80’s, the 60’s and 70’s thoughts were not in people’s cultural memories in the same way anymore. My first art school gave me a very traditional training, and then right away I went on to a Master degree that was very much market and art object oriented. Feminism was institutionalized into an academic discourse and was not discussed in any of these schools. The Master degree was meant for artists who had a studio practice and a market generated already. I was much younger than most other participants and came from a traditional school; so I was very much interested in the discussions about the process of making art and what art could mean in society. It was a very big shock for me to see that many of the students and teachers weren’t that interested in sociological questions. Suddenly, it was all about careers, networking, and art as an object (for sale). I was really amazed to see what I cared about – process – was now reduced to market value. I was young (23) and I immediately had to deal with these power mechanisms of the art world, and saw clearly the power some people hold in deciding value. I saw how easily people could get drawn into that world (and not on your own terms) when you’re young. It has been a struggle to manage a balance between exposure and production, and it has also been a struggle for me to go back into the process of what art really means in

1 Marketou, Jenny, Sten Astoria, Nea Yorke/The Great Longing, The Greeks of Astoria. Greek/ English, Kedros Publisher 1987.

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a society. What does it mean to be an artist, and on top of that a Western artist; what does it mean to be a non-western artist? How can we speak of and make a global art? These questions for me were linked automatically to the subject of identity. Why am I and who am I? What part of me do I want to keep, and what part do I want to reject? I became very involved in feminist theory, mechanisms of in-, and exclusion and how to undo hierarchical structures and historical narratives. I also became very taken with the idea of how to empower the group or the collective, how to empower ourselves, how to empower the others, and which kind of strategies can we employ? How are we going to reach the others and how can art play a role in this? For me art is also connected to life. Itis something that cannot be defined clearly and needs to be negotiated. It can take a materialist form, it can also be something that brings and binds people together. I agree with you that art is a process, a continuous change of taking and giving. I believe there are no hard lines between my artistic practice, my research, my writing, or my social activism. I strongly believe that part of being an artist is to respond to the social, political and cultural history of the sites I engage, gathering materials, people, actions, objects, information, and geography to reconstruct â&#x20AC;&#x153;the landscapeâ&#x20AC;? generated by its inherent conflicts, questioning the strategies of power imposed upon them. For the last four years, I have organized annual, weeklong gatherings and workshops and round table discussions to explore knowledge connected to spatial experience and to the commons through commoning. I would say that I define myself as an initiator. I often collaborate with multiple institutions as well as with many individuals so that the full realization of my artwork occurs when others adopt and perpetuate it. So when we talk about pedagogy, I am very interested how to engage the class with collective and critical practices. Yes, a complex question. Already when I think about what students are taught in art history class, I tend to tell them that they should make their own art history as opposed to accepting what they are taught. I think is important for them to recognize when they come across certain thought processes and to question them. It is quite difficult to get rid of rigid art historical narratives. It is easier to tell a story of what art is and then let students experiment within these boundaries. It is more difficult to leave things open ended for the students.

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I wonder how we could possibly teach art without referencing the history of art, which is full of exclusions. Exactly, this is the problem. To redefine what art can be, you have to be much more informed about all its possibilities. I believe when we are talking about contemporary methods of pedagogy we should probably stop depending so much on what we learned or what the art school has taught us. I think that the biggest problem in contemporary art is that still, and I say this because I had the great pleasure teaching at Cooper Union and most recently at Cal Arts in Los Angeles – both very important art schools with an amazing history of artists – to my surprise their curriculum is still based on the traditional methods of studio practice. Yes, I have the same experience. This confusion led me to teach about group processes, so students can practice working together, and can try to experiment with other forms of authorship. So I invite people who can speak about communication strategies, or talk about role-playing. The students learn how to collaborate by simply doing collaborations with all types of people. Simply by practicing these things the students get the sense that, yes, collaboration is in their own interest but also in the interest of the other sitting next to them. Students become aware of their multiplicity. I feel that this already makes a difference because they stop seeing themselves as fighters for their own practice. If I do projects with other schools and other classes, I notice a difference between my students. Students from other classes are used to fight for themselves and their own careers – be like this genius artist. I should point out that in United States because there is always the race to catch up with what is going to be the “next thing” recently many art schools are offering courses on socially engaged art and workshops on activism … Even in those cases I noticed that the course is focused on theory and critique, the course is less about a hands on approach. While I was teaching my course Commons /Uncommon As Critical Practice at Cal Arts, the year before there were only two professors who were teaching socially engaged art at the art Dept. I also recall many artists and students were doing a lot of projects in the LA which were processed by visiting and observing jails. Aftwerwards they were trying to translate those experiences into installations , objects and paraphenelia about what they saw, but they never created anything which would have impact on changing the jail system or the condition of prisoners. There is the problem for me. It resembles as if going to the zoo to observe the animals inside their cages, I find this a very problematic way of looking at the other. So when I was teaching my Mathilde ter Heijne & Jenny Marketou

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course Commons as a Creative and Critical Practice the idea was how we could work with the commons, with a community, and how to create tools or situations with the goal to make a positive change with our art practice. It seems that those projects were made about the prisoners but not with the prisoners. So there was no extension of the art project into the real world. Only something of the real world was taken and reproduced. That is why I think that the participatory art strategy is an interesting one even if it is very difficult and problematic. If you use it as a way to research how to involve people outside of an art community into the making of art, there can be a something found that draws people in, makes them engaged with their situation, and opens them up. Art can also create a new community by the fact that you make something together; and this togetherness is the power that art has: it is the power of a temporary feeling of belonging and sharing. But in socially engaged projects I think it is most important to talk about seeing one another on eye level. We were talking about this before, about how important it is to create this situation where people have the same value. The moment you do projects about for instance the prisoners, the prisoners should therefore be able to partly act as authors as well. I think participation has been one of the biggest issues to address. Claire Bishop in her book Artificial Hells has been very critical about participatory artwork, first of all putting into question how we involve the other in an empathetic manner. Something that has an impact or that lasts beyond the fact that we are doing an exhibition or an event together. And secondly, which I consider very important, is how do we evaluate something like this, when and where it is successful or not successful and how do we formalize something that also depends on precarious and unforeseen conditions. However, in spite of all the problems of collectivity and participation I should say that over the last three years I have been doing a lot of research to produce my video works and at the same time I am creating situations and spaces through actions. Assemblies, workshops etc where I bring people together. I am very interested in the performative, esthetic, political action; To work, to be together – creating ephemeral commons. I found very helpful formalizing those projects to start with a very strong conceptual framework and focus on what I want to examine, practice, research or even transform. It is interesting, and I agree with you that you need to have a very clear framework – but I think it has to be clear in this that participants have an autonomous voice. They should be given space that they can express their own voices without the artist already projecting what she or he wants onto them. Before that – even – I would start with the question: what does the 245

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other need? So I think again if you want to create a participatory situation, it needs to be on eye level, and it needs to be a situation where both can gain. It goes wrong when I, the artist, or artist group, am the only one who gains. That is absolutely not participatory in my opinion; so I need to know from the other, what the other needs, expects, wants and wishes. Even if I cannot know this, to know and to ask them upfront is already a much more fair game. And then I can also communicate my ideas, my hopes, what I can offer them as artist. By having these things said, for instance, I feel a good starting point for a collaborative project is the creation of a (conceptual) framework on the base of this equal attitude, in which people can take a section of the work they want to do, or get the experience they need to have. This framework needs also to go hand in hand with an artistical question. Of course the question is if an audience apart of the participants will ever understand or see the artwork or what comes out of it. It is great Claire Bishop formulated some of those problematic sides of these projects to make us aware. I personally am happy I have learned about communications strategies such as Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication that teaches us how to be empathic and fair. By trying to overthrow a given hierarchical order, sometimes people were so busy trying to set new rules and regulations and thinking about new society models that they forgot to look at the way they spoke to another person and with this they were still unconsciously reproducing methods of oppression and control. Ok, we can have a horizontal organization but if there is not a base of communicating on eye level this still goes wrong. There are so many aspects that need to be considered in these participatory projects. That’s maybe why it’s not so easy to teach that form of art. One keeps on (re)searching the right way to do them… Jenny

Doing research has to do with exactly what you said. The research allows you to communicate with the other that you want to work with. Research allows you to discover a common non-hierarchical language. But it is very different when you do your own project as an artist, and very different when you teach a class about participation and the commons within the existing pedagogy system at major art schools. On one hand you try to teach and help your students to get involved in a community or collective project but on the other hand the student goes to the history class and learns about those artists and art practices that they believe will make them rich and famous. I believe the academic art system should re-structure and re-evaluate their curriculums and methods of pedagogy. Yes, I can be a painter and I can be a sculptor but I can also be an artists who instead of objects creates ideas, situations and ephemeral threshold into the commons. There are many MFA and PhD art programs nowadays that offer the possibility Mathilde ter Heijne & Jenny Marketou

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to combine practice with theory but still the commercial art system is not interested in this kind of works. So the question still remains; how can we make changes into the existing art system? Mathilde I would be interested to hear more about your experience in the classroom; and what are the impacts that you have seen in your students? What I have seen in my six years of teaching are groups of students getting together and forming this collaborative structure and dividing permeable roles. They started to create art projects and were professionalizing themselves as a group. I’ve been talking about this with them and their chances post-graduation. The structure of for instance the group ACD&C is like one of these conceptual frameworks we talked about before. All participants choose their own role – from more practical work, to theoretical, to the networking – and of course they do a bit also of what the other is doing, but by helping and supporting another as a collective, they are much stronger going out if they are able to hold onto the structure they have now. They have formed that group a couple of years ago, so I am not sure what will happen when they move out of the school system entirely. Again, I see a conflict here. From one side, we realize that in order for artists to be successful, they have to be shown and accepted in galleries. On the other hand socially engaged art supposedly stands as a critique against the institutions, against corporations, against the gallery system. So the question that it raises is how can we speak about socially engaged art when we want to be part of Documenta, International Biennales? I hate to use the word agency, but how can we claim agency when at the same time in order to survive as artists we have to be adopted and supported from the mainstream institutions? So it is in the end a political agenda. Exactly, and this is what is very interesting to me because one of the most important aspects of pedagogy is how we can accept the fact of the new aesthetics of politics and the politics of aesthetics. What kind of aesthetics and philosophy is “political art creating”? Currently, I am working with young adolescent students at three different schools in Athens for my upcoming project. It is interesting to see – because the students are not in an art school, how naturally they understand collaboration and participation. It comes naturally. This morning we imagined that we were at a city hall and in one an hour we were able to create through signs, emotions and declarations a collective public body that it would take days to do it with my art students. It was really amazing to me. 247

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It is also about our own attitudes as teachers and if and how we are working together on a curriculum. I thought that I could invite my colleagues to talk about how we actually communicate with each other. If we would be better, we could actually communicate about a curriculum in which students and the question what art can be stands in the middle. Now sometimes our egos stand in the middle. So it needs a new kind of attitude definitely. In my opinion we are caught up on what is going to be the end product of our work... We talk about the commons but the commons is a precarious and always changing situation. You can never talk about the commons with an end product because commons especially in our current political and cultural conditions are always in flux. We live under the stress with such diverse and hybrid notions of identity, racism, home, economies, labour, so art cannot be defined as the end result….and we have to see… …that art is a process and we need to see the process as something that you can creatively structure and adapt. Definitely.

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vasyl cherepanyn

http:// vcrc. org.ua

The Politics Of Knowledge OR WHY THE OWL OF MINERVA SHOULD TAKE ITS FLIGHT WITH THE FALLING OF THE DUSK

The questions of reflection, knowledge and critical analysis arise as priorities for contemporary societies, including the Ukrainian one today – especially after the Maidan revolution and during the Russian-Ukrainian war. As a university teacher and cultural activist I am first of all confident in a key principle to which one must remain faithful to – that society has invented the places of knowledge (universities, educational and cultural institutions) as topoi, where it can comprehend and analyze its own foundations. These places in the social structure provide a crucial and extremely important possibility to think, criticize and debate about the grounds that the society itself is based on, tracing and proposing alternatives and different variants of social development. Therefore, knowledge is not a luxury but a responsibility, it is neither a privilege nor a commodity but a tool for social change, a method of rethinking and transforming those a priori substructures that we are built on. Lack of proper reflection and critical analysis leads to a rupture between "theory" and "practice", in which knowledge turns into theoretical hallucinosis and political practice – into vulgar cynicism. Humanities, critical theory and socially engaged knowledge are anti-isolationist in principle, because they enable the manifestation of the universal – that is universitas, the university itself. This position is universal for all specialties or modes of action "doing" something. As Gadamer noticed, the humanities are not the discipline to be studied to be but rather are then those who study them. Studying humanities that is humanitas, the human as such; we study their development is and thus the development of human capabilities, what every one of us can be. 251


We are facing the challenge of transformation of the existing public sphere into the field of for collective reflection in order to promote social change. This field of common thought and action could change our lexicon used today for understanding of the current political problems. Places of knowledge in this sense are continuing the Maidan revolution in the direction which was lacking from the revolution itself lacked. Having, being literally, small maidans, platforms for public reflection by intellectual and artistic means. Thinking and reflecting are in the of urgent need in the Ukrainian context today, which is especially important in the times of current counter-revolution or, rather, two counter-revolutions, between which we have found ourselves trapped now. The first one is external, in the form of Russian military intervention and occupation of Ukrainian territories, and the second one is internal and no less dangerous – and it involves corruption, oligarchy, lack of justice, political assassinations, far-right populism and the expansion of everyday violence that which eventually are just destroying society. Ukraine needs the Enlightenment – political and aesthetic, sexual and intellectual. Learning and reflection reflecting are the best tasks to undertake in the post-revolutionary time, as they are the most effective antidote to the counter-revolution, even in the form of war. Critical reflection is anti-violence and the primary means against spreading violence. The lack of critical reflection creates a vacuum in society a void that is filled with political populism and violence. Language of violence and physical violence come to replace reflection, overshadow its critical stance and attack, precisely because they are incompatible with each other. Critical reflection cuts off the channel of violence, redirecting it to other socially constructive runways. In this regard, paper and pen is much more radical weapon than Kalashnikov guns, tanks and armored vehicles taken together. Ukrainian society today is in an extremely traumatized condition, and it is not just one trauma but a historical complex, layering layered from of both past and recent traumas. The trauma of the Soviet repressions, the trauma of wild capitalist 'transition' period that has produced oligarchy, the trauma of permanent absence of social and legal justice, the trauma of revolutionary violence, the trauma of war, all of them remain not worked through, unresolved and not properly articulated, but overlap and superimpose on each other. In this situation, society is being kept as their hostage; its sensitivity is roughening together with its constantly increasing rejection of all new while new cases of violence and death arise.

Vasyl Cherepanyn

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Reflection is a way to overcome this social regression. Violent traumas require articulation, analysis, and comprehension, rather than censoring and tabooing. Because the repression of collective traumas of related to memory results in the revenge of that memory in all new forms of social destruction that we observe already today. The repressive politics of memory lays the groundwork for conflicts that will tear social fabric to pieces in the future, widening the funnel of violence and pulling the whole society in it. Thus, it is becoming harder and harder to come to its senses and to its own memory. That is why we need to analyze and critically reflect on our past and recent social and political experience. We need to work through what we have lived through – without repression or negation, but with full awareness of our responsibility.  This task, paraphrasing the purpose of psychoanalysis defined by Freud, can be formulated as follows: where violent Id was, reflective Ego should be. It is a long, hard but necessary work that we need to carry out in order to get out of the current deadlock of violence because there is just no other way out of there. Violence destroys social and political, intellectual and artistic spaces. In order to exist, they should be radically separated from violence, a priori excluding it, because thinking and truth do not tolerate fear and threat. Freedom from fear and violence is the basis for critical reflection. And without reflection we will have only populist reflexes; without reflection we will not have politics but social physics; without reflection we will not be a society but a Dogville community. That is the fundamental political task of the famous owl of Minerva – it should take its flight with the falling of the dusk. Because if it does not, if there is no such reflective a posteriori, we will still remain, as Hegel put it, in the night of the world. Her flight is a guarantee of the coming of a new day. As the old joke about Lenin tells, when he was leaving to somewhere, his wife thought he was going to his mistress, while his mistress believed that he stayed with his wife. But in reality he was leaving to practice "Learning, learning, learning". Therefore, "Learn, learn and once again, learn!" This slogan is relevant to the Ukraine’s situation, today more than ever. ◆

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Partners

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The performance Independent Movement took place on April 28, 2017 at the Square in Front of the Archeological Museum, Athens. The choreography was based on improvised movements by children participating in workshops at the community center Khora, Athens between April 25 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 27, 2017. Perform Interdependency was organized by Tanja Schomaker and Mathilde ter Heijne, Kunsthochschule Kassel.

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kunsthochschule kassel MATHILDE TER HEIJNE, TANJA SCHOMAKER

Most students of our class at the Kunsthochschule in Kassel deal with different artistic media, focusing on participatory and collaborative practices, performance, installation, and new media. The critical questions of reality with a focus on the construction of gender in society and cultural history is the content of the teaching program. In addition, we understand our class as a temporary community, which is created by all members in a collegial and responsible manner. The different semesters are characterized by a main topic. We assume that independent work and parallel work on (class) projects is possible.

The production of finished art works is not the top priority, but rather the development and reflection of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s own artistic practice in the context of contemporary art, its contexts and protagonists. Research, reading, screenings, series of events, guests, workshops, excursions, exhibitions, portfolio/ publications, the Rundgang/open studios and co-operation projects are part of the artistic training. In addition, we would like to enable our students to realize their own collaborative projects and to use the context of art/academia to exchange ideas with students and teachers from different disciplines.

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PERFORM INTERDEPENDENCY

Perform Interdependency is a co-operation between Kunsthochschule Kassel (School of Art and Design Kassel), Athens School of Fine Arts, and Zurich University of the Arts.1 Interdependency means: to learn from one another, to take care of each other, to cultivate human exchange and participation; to change perspectives; to be in touch with people, equality, (self-) authorization, to overcome differences, policies of everyday life, performative strategies, collaboration and transformation. We come into being as subjects by virtue of the norms of sociability and relatedness to others. We want to think about our relationship in a radical way. For us, our connectivity is not specifically a linear process of development, as it is a process in which we are all relational and interdependent beings. ‘We do not simply move ourselves, but are ourselves moved by what is outside us, by others, but also by whatever ‘outside’ resides in us. For instance, we are moved by others in ways that disconcert, displace, and dispossess us;’ 2 By constructing relationality and interdependency as a primordial level of subjectivization, we make a distinction to the concept of a sovereign subject. We would like to create an alternative to the self-sufficiency of the neoliberal subject. One can say that interdependency is fundamentally injurious and enabling for the subject. In a conversation with the feminist social anthropologist Athena Athanasiou, Judith Butler mentions that the idea of interdependency establishes a principle of equality and connectedness: ‘I think that this interdependency, especially when it manifests in the form of extra-electoral upsurges of the popular will, articulates an alternative to both liberal and neoliberal forms of individualism as well as to unjust and accelerating form of inequality.’ 3

1 The co-operation project Perform Interdependency took place from summer semester 2016 to summer semester 2017 between Kunsthochschule Kassel (Mathilde ter Heijne and Tanja Schomaker), Athens School of Fine Arts (Yannis Kondaratos and Zafos Xagoraris), BA Arts & Media at Zurich University of the Arts (Stefanie Knobel and Elke Bippus). 2 Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou: Dispossession: The Performative in the Political, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013, p. 3. 3

Ibid, p. 107. 258


Based on a local research in Athens and Kassel, students from the three different schools developed experimental projects, dealing with participation, collaboration and exchange. They conceived actions and performances for the public space on Omonia Square, in front of the National Archaeological Museum and in the area of Exarcheia. Some groups are working with partners within the local context like Circuits and Currents, Green Park, LaPlataforma and Khora in Athens. In Kassel the project extend from Weinbergs bunker and Frühstückspavillon (breakfast pavilion) to the Kulturbahnhof (main station) and KMMN at Interim. During the long term project we are performing interdependency by getting involved with each other, with local initiatives, the public and the audience. ◆

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Public Programs of the Documenta 14 â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Parliament of Bodies PAUL B. PRECIADO

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Photo: Arnisa Zeqo

by Lala Meredith Vula

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asfa — athens school of fine arts ELECTIVE AFFINITIES by Arnisa Zeqo

Elective Affinities is a yearlong education program within the context of the collaboration between ASFA and documenta 14. The program, which began in October 2016, consists of regular meetings in which documenta 14 artists and team members as well as contributors to the magazine South as a State of Mind engage with the students in seminars, working sessions, public talks, and readings. Together they identify various patterns, affinities, and threads running through the different elements of documenta 14. Drawing on the ideas of Oskar and Zofia Hansen, the program attempts to address education as an “open form,” a space that cultivates spontaneous gestures and occurrences that “awake the desire of existence,” as described in Oskar Hansen’s Open Form Manifesto of 1959. Taking place at regular intervals, the encounters work from various starting points, such as the performativity of the self, borderline economies, the history of gesture, diaries, libraries and textiles, scores, living currencies, and political imagination – as well as oracular histories as representing the convergence of various forms of artistic narrative. In the elective affinities that drive chemical reactions, different elements interact and merge at different tempos. Similar attractions are intrinsic to the development of art and collective production. The program takes the form of weekly, in-depth sessions with enrolled students in which artistic ideas and methodologies are discussed and developed with guest artists and writers of documenta 14. The weekly sessions culminate in monthly clusters of seminars involving intensified projects and discussions as well as public presentations.

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The ongoing publication South as a State of Mind becomes a focal point for a joint reading practice. During the program, there are several points of encounter with the Parliament of Bodies and its Societies. A common theme of the Elective Affinities as a whole is the way in which artistic works come to life. How can we make an artwork together? What are some of the ways in which the production of art, the understanding of art, and challenging of the current political imagination can become entangled with one another? The program takes part on the premises of the Athens School of Fine Arts in the Piraeus Annex. The classrooms used for the two semesters of Elective Affinities are located in the Postgraduate Studies Building designed by studio 66 (first semester) and in the so-called â&#x20AC;&#x153;old libraryâ&#x20AC;? (in the second semester) which is designed together with Aristide Antonas. A hybrid space developed by documenta 14 and the ASFA, the library acts as a studio and salon for the students frequenting the program as well as a public interface hosting local and international students. The garden of the Athens School of Fine Arts also hosts some meetings and serves as a site for exchanging knowledge and practices. We often meet there on warm days for the observation of nature, discussions, and sessions with curators and artists. Public presentations take place in different locations. â&#x2014;&#x2020;

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luca school of arts

www. luca-arts. be

LUCA is the largest higher education institute of the Arts in Belgium with campuses spread over Brussels and the Flanders Region. A staff of over 600 professional teachers and artists stimulate the 3.400 students to acquire expertise & competence in different forms of art such as music, stage art, audiovisual and visual arts, product design, interior design, graphic design and more. LUCA’s research is associated with several research groups at the KU Leuven (Leuven University) in order to create interdisciplinary innovations between art and science. Research projects with a more themed or social focus often involve partners from the artistic field, including museums and music venues, art cinemas and multimedia companies. Furthermore, other social sectors are increasingly calling on artists’ and designers’ knowledge and skills. LUCA believes in the added value of artistic and design-based research for the development and practice of the arts themselves, but also in the relation between the sciences and society, in the broadest sense, due to the strong imaginative and experimental potential that is inherent to this research. Four main research units address topics such as Image, Inter-Actions, Inter-Media and Music & Drama. Bachelor & master studies are offered in Fine Arts, Photography, Film, TV, Graphic Design, Textile Design, Animation film, Communication and Multimedia Design, Gaming, Instrument/Voice, Composition, Conducting, Music Teaching, Music Therapy and Jazz. A special Master in the framework of Erasmus Mundus is offered on Documentary Film Directing. ◆

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Photo credit: http://hyperwerk.ch/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2015/08/ManuelWuest-01-Kopie-1496x1012.jpg

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hyperwerk

www. hyperwerk. ch

Institute for Postindustrial Design, Academy of Art and Design, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Nortwestern Switzerland (FHNW), is an experimental learning laboratory responding with creative practices and theory to the ongoing transformation of society. Purpose of the study is to develop a versatile competence that brings specific interests and individual talents to optimal use. This is supported by interdisciplinary, creative freedom, flexibility, initiative and teamwork. â&#x2014;&#x2020;

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Vilelmini Vilma Andrioti is a political choreographer and activist. She studied Sociology, Dance, Drama; and her master's research focuses on choreography and performance and founded adult and children's theatre groups. As a visiting lecturer at Sasha Waltz, she offered original insights into the field of “The body as a vehicle to activism”, focusing on refugee issues. As an artistic director, she choreographed and directed in support of refugees: Open Border Parade;Safe Passage; No Mirror; Bordello of Borders. Vilelmini coordinated a squat for 1 600 refugees in Piraeus. Sotirios Bahtsetzis received his PhD in Art History from the Technical University of Berlin. He teaches at the American College of Greece. Besides art historical articles on installation art; theory of space, visual studies and methodology of art history; gender studies and phenomenology, he contributes art theoretical articles to periodicals, such as E-flux Journal and South Magazine. Gudrun Barenbrock works with large-scale multi-channel installations, often in crossmedia collaboration with musicians and sound artists. She holds an MFA and Meisterschüler certificate from Kunstakademie Münster. Teachings include Wimbledon School of Art, Universidad El Bosque, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Kunstakademie Münster. Shows include 8-Bruecken International Electronic Festival, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Bogotá, Kunstmuseum Celle, Polderlicht Amsterdam, Glow Eindhoven, Sichtlicht Projection Biannual. Vasyl Cherepanyn is a director of the Visual Culture Research Center (Kyiv, Ukraine), teaches at the Cultural Studies Department of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and is the editor of Political Critique magazine (Ukrainian edition). Since its inception, VCRC is a self-organised initiative that aims to create a productive environment for the inter-

action between engaged knowledge, critical art, and grass-roots politics. VCRC’s claim is to react to the needs and problems of the local context from the universal emancipatory perspective. P.D. Dr Luca Di Blasi is University Lecturer in Philosophy at the Universität Bern, where he habilitated in 2015. He is also associated member of the ICI Berlin. Di Blasi has published widely on the topic of philosophy of religion, including Der Geist in der Revolte: Der Gnostizismus und seine Wiederkehr in der Postmoderne (2002) and Cybermystik (editor, 2006). His last publications include Der weiße Mann: Ein Anti-Manifest (2013), The Scandal of Self-Contradiction: Pasolini’s Multistable Geographies, Subjectivities, and Traditions, (co-editor, 2012), and Wendy Brown, Rainer Forst, The Power of Tolerance. A Debate, (co-editor, 2014). Katja Ehrhardt, born and raised in Germany, completed an M.A. specializing in Performance Theory in Anthropology and Modern and Classical Indology at the University of Heidelberg. She lived, studied, and worked in the United States, Japan, India, Bermuda, Thailand, Nepal, Malaysia, Israel, and Hong Kong. In Germany, she worked in research, international arts management and curation i.a. at the University of Heidelberg, at Pruess & Ochs Gallery Berlin (Asian Fine Arts), at the German Academic Exchange (DAAD), at the House of World Cultures Berlin, and at the Goethe Institute. In Athens, she built up, organized, and managed the cultural program at the Athens Centre for University programs from abroad, working together with cultural institutions and embassies in Athens. Before working with Athens, she coordinated and cocurated the cultural program of the Asia-Pacific Weeks at the Senate Chancellery Berlin and the House of World Cultures Berlin. She is the co-founder of AthenSYN, an initiative to foster the artistic collaboration with Greece with focus on German-Greek cultural exchange.

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PARTICIPANTS Noah Fischer works in the studio/streets/museums/stage. Long focused on a clash between the economic realities of debt, class division and financialiation with the luxury spaces and economies of art, he is the initiating member of Occupy Museums and a core member of G.U.L.F/Gulf Labor. His work also encompasses a long-term theatrical collaboration with Berlin-based andcompany&Co. His solo as well as his collaborative work is variously seen both with and without invitation at museums internationally including Occupy Museums’ recent project Debtfair at the Whitney Biennial. Manaf Halbouni studied sculpture at the University of Fine Arts Damascus and at the Academy of Fine Arts Dresden. His work was shown at Lift Festival, Royal Court Theater London, Museum of Fine Arts Leipzig, Galerie Holger John Dresden, ART.FAIR Köln/BLOOOM, MKK, Städtische Galerie Iserlohn, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin, Victoria & Albert Museum London, Shoreditch town Hall London, 56th Venice Biennale Venezia, Societaetstheater Dresden, SYRIE CRIS-ACTION: Artistes en creation, Insitut du monde arabe Paris/France. Leopold Helbich, born 1990 in Vienna and currently living in Athens, is a writer and director whose work ranges across philosophy, new-media theatre, and film. He received his BA from the Zurich University of the Arts where he studied Theatre and Media Art Theory and he holds an MA in Modern European Philsophy from Kingston University. Leopold is co-founder of the Swiss arts and activism collective NEUE DRINGLICHKEIT and member of the the new-media & performative arts platform DIGITAL. Georgia Kotretsos, visual artist and researcher, holds an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the Durban Institute of Technology, in KwaZulu Natal. She co-founded the five-year art project Boots Contemporary Art Space St. Louis, MO, and

founded BootPrint, biannual journal made by and for artists. Her work has been presented at Onassis Art Center NV, the Asian Society NY; the 4th Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art; Tinguely Museum Basel, La Kunsthalle Mulhouse; Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art Thessaloniki, at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, etc. Brandon LaBelle is an artist, writer and theorist working with sound culture, voice, and questions of agency. He develops and presents artistic projects and performances within a range of international contexts, often working collaboratively and in public. Recent works include Oficina de Autonomia, Ybakatu, Curitiba (2017),  The Hobo Subject, Gallery Forum, Zagreb (2016), and The Living School, South London Gallery (2016). He is the author of Lexicon of the Mouth (2014), Diary of an Imagi-nary Egyptian (2012), Acoustic Territories (2010) and Background Noise (2006). He lives in Berlin. Elad Lapidot is a lecturer and researcher in philosophy and Talmud at the Freie Universität, Humboldt Universität, Universität der Künste and Zentrum Jüdische Studien in Berlin. His current work concerns the relation betwen politics and epistemology. He has published on continental philosophy, philosophy of language and translation, political philosophy, Jewish and rabbinic thought, hermeneutics and theology. Mriganka Madhukaillya is an artist and filmmaker, member of Desire Machine Collective. He is professor of film and new media at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India. Since 2004, Mriganka Madhukaillya collaborates with Sonal Jain as Desire Machine Collective which employs film, video, photography, space and multimedia installation. Mriganka Madhukaillya is an initiator of Periferry, a floating educational project on the river Brahmaputra, also known as Yarlung Tsangpo in Tibet.

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Jenny Marketou is a Greek born interdisciplinary artist, art educator and cultural producer based in New York City. She has taught at Cooper Union School of Art in New York, currently she is a visiting artist at the School of Fine Arts (ASFA) in Athens, Greece. Marketou’s work has been widely exhibited at Artium Museum, Spain; Museum Tinguely in Basel; 1st International Biennial of Art of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia; Kumu Art Museum; 4th and 5th Athens Biennial; ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany; New Museum, New York; Biennial of Seville; Reina Sofia Museum Madrid; National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) in Athens; Biennial of Sao Paolo in Brazil, Manifesta International European Biennial. Lindsay Parkhowell was educated at Bard College Berlin, a liberal arts university without majors or disciplines. He is the secretary of Propaganda and Poetics for the Avtonomi Akadimia. His first chapbook of poetry, Driftwood, will be published in 2017. Pirate Cinema Unlike New Cinema, which is opposed to Old Cinema, Alternative Cinema, which is opposed to Mainstream Cinema, Political Cinema, which is opposed to Unpolitical Cinema, French Cinema, which is opposed to American Cinema, or Digital Cinema, which is opposed to nothing at all, Pirate Cinema is opposed to Proprietary Cinema. Pirate Cinema exists since 2004 in Berlin, and occasionally elsewhere. Paul B. Preciado is a philosopher, curator, and transgender activist, and one of the leading thinkers in the field of gender and sexual politics. An Honors Graduate and Fulbright Fellow, he earned an M.A. in Philosophy and Gender Theory at the New School for Social Research in New York, where he studied with Agnes Heller and Jacques Derrida. He holds a PhD in Philosophy and Theory of Architecture from Princeton University. His first book, Contra-Sexual Manifesto became a key re-

ference for European queer and transgender activism. Paul B. Preciado is Curator of Public Programs of the documenta 14. Agnès Rammant-Peeters Doctor of Egyptology, Chair of the Association, Art without Bars. During the 90ies, Mrs. Rammant-Peeters was deeply engaged with the post Perestrojka art scene and ran a legendary gallery, Art Kiosk, in Brussels. Art Without Bars is one of her restless initiatives bringing art to the world and inventing new environments for its enfolding. Jean-Pierre Rammant, Dr. ir. Co-founder and director of Inter Partes Mediation. Associate professor M.I.T. (USA, 1977), professor at Leuven University College (1978-1981). Founder & managing director of SCIA (Scientific Application Group) (1974-2014). Chairman of LUCA School of Arts with campuses in Gent, Brussels, Leuven, Genk / board member at K U Leuven (University Leuven). Mehul Sangham is a product designer and system architect for both startups and established organizations. He holds a masters degree in Inclusive Innovation (GSB, UCT) and is a Bertha Scholar at The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation. Mehul currently serves as Technology Director at The Rules, a global collective of activists that focus on culture change as the principle means for system transformation. Sebastian Bayse Schäfer is a sound artist and art director. He studied Communication Design and earned an M.A. in Sound Studies at UdK Berlin. He gained the title of associate Professor at the Avtonomi Akadimia with his 2016 lecture on ‘Sound Wars’ at the Athens Biennale. He is timetravelling since 2050, mingling the revolution and synthesizers. Also he is responsible for the layout of this book. Tanja Schomaker completed cultural studies at the Universität Hildesheim, while study-

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PARTICIPANTS ing fine arts at the Kunsthochschule Hannover and UdK Berlin. With Arthur Berlin she realized educational programs for several art institutions. Since 2011 she is working at the Kunsthochschule Kassel. Joulia Strauss (the political activist supercat shaman artist in Athens) stands for a chord of artistic media, resonating in a deep bond with philosophy, technology and activism. Strauss has founded and organizes Avtonomi Akadimia, a socio-cybernetic sculpture for an education after the master discourse. Joulia Strauss makes political drawings, sculptures, and performances. These were recently presented at the Fourth Moscow Biennale, Tate Modern, London, ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe. Simultaneously with this publication, in collaboration with Peter Berz, Peter Weibel and Friedrich Kittler, Joulia Strauss has edited a book “Gods and Writing around the Mediterranean“, Wilhelm Fink Verlag / Brill Publishers. Mathilde ter Heijne is a Berlin-based Dutch artist primarily working within the mediums of video, performance, and installation practices. She studied in Maastricht at the Stadsacademie (1988-1992), in Amsterdam at the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten (1992-1994), and since 2011 has been a professor of Visual Art, Performance, and Installation at Kunsthochschule Kassel. Ter Heijne's research based practice is founded in intersectional feminism. She shows an activist and yet similarly radical approach to art-making as a participatory process. For ter Heijne, ritual and ceremony are structures for artistic observation and potential emancipation. Ritual, historically, is where woman has both lost and gained her power.

spatial and socio-political context, re-relating it to the probing of the limits of the medium being used. Her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions internationally. A recent body of works centers around technology/ biology and favors the haptic and poetic as a critical investigation against the nature/culture divide especially in times of systemic violence and power-structures. Liwaa Yazji is a filmmaker, poet, playwright, scenarist and translator. She is Board member of the Syrian cultural organization EttijahatIndependent Culture. She published her first play Here in the Parkin 2012, her poetry book In Peace, we leave Homein 2014, and a translation of Edward Bond's Savedinto Arabic in 2014. Her play Goatsis set to premiere at The Royal Court Theatre in March 2016, and her play Q&Qpremiered at the Birth Festival at The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester in 2016. Her first documentary Haunted(2014) premiered at FID Marseilles and received the AlWaha Bronze award at GIGAF festival, Tunis. Arnisa Zeqo is an art historian  based in Athens. In 2011 she co-founded rongwrong, a space for art and theory in Amsterdam.  Recently she was curator in residence at Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College where focused on works of art at the edge of the performative. There she wrote the conceptual essay 'Let's Spit on Szeemann'. Zeqo is part of the team of Documenta 14 in Athens as coordinator of education. She initiated the Society of Friends of Ulises Carrion within the Parlament of Bodies.

Susanne M. Winterling's practice is nurtured by collective background and studies in philosophy (focus on artificial intelligence and ecofeminism). Information is considered in its

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Organisers AthenSYN is a group of curators, cultural workers and artists, promoting the international cultural exchange with Greece. Founded by curator and art historian Sotirios Bahtsetzis and cultural scientist Katja Ehrhardt, the AthenSYN initiative is aiming to enhance international cultural relations with Greece as a counterweight to the tense political and economic communication with its international partners. Our goals are long-term cooperations between Greek and international cultural and educational institutions through partnerships, exchange, and the initiation, implementation and support of joint projects, with a focus on the German-Greek exchange. By establishing contact networks and an infrastructure, AthenSYN wants to function as a central coordination point and an information platform to reach a wider audience and deepen mutual understanding among cultures. We create forum for dialogue, which provides room for a critical discussion of European cultural development. http://www.athensyn.com Avtonomi Akadimia is an non-disciplinary Academy in Athens founded in November 2015 by the visual artist Joulia Strauss. For artists, philosophers, scientists and political activists from Berlin, Athens and many other places, the Academy provides an opportunity to held seminars in the Public Garden of Akadimia Platonos. At the site where Plato taught and where the word Academy originated as a name of an educational institution, the patriarchic concept of militarized nationstates, the prefascist division of society into elites with its separation into disciplines and the exclusion of art from the polis – in other words, the entire European “civilization” – has been re-thought. http://avtonomi-akadimia.net

Collaborators The Allianz Cultural Foundation is a non-profit organization of public interest that supports and initiates cross-border, transdisciplinary cultural and educational projects in Europe and the Mediterranean region. https://kulturstiftung.allianz.de/en

Supporters Creative Europe is the European Commission's framework programme for support to the culture and audiovisual sectors. https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/creative-europe/

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ATHENS

Mohammad Abu Hajar Ismail Alsafo Georgia Kotretsos Abed Nasralla

Suhel Ahmad

Sotirios Bahtsetzis

Luca Di Blasi

Sameer Ahmed

Junaid Baloch

Katja Ehrhardt

Noah Fischer

Brandon LaBelle

Elad Lapidot

Click Ngwere

Jean-Pierre Rammant

◆ ◆

Tanja Schomaker

Manaf Halbouni

Joulia Strauss

Ariam Um al Wafa

Pirate Cinema

Rachel Clarke

Leopold Helbich

Mriganka Madhukaillya

Agnès Rammant-Peeters ◆

Ahmad Alkhatieb

Vasyl Cherepanyn

Lindsay Parkhowell ◆

Jenny Marketou

Paul B. Preciado

Mehul Sangham

Mathilde ter Heijne

Liwaa Yazji

Arnisa Zeqo

futura

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Organized by

In collaboration with

Partners of Universitas

Partners of the School of Everything

With kind support of

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Profile for Joulia Strauss

Krytyka Polityczna Athens  

Krytyka Polityczna Athens  

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