M E N A C
JOURNALISM menacblog.wordpress.com // #1 - Sept. 2014
A LOOK AT PEACE JOURNALISM
WHAT IS CONFLICT REPORTING?
The Official Outcome Magazine
MENAC ’ s R e t h i n k i n g J o u r n a l i s m T r a i n i n g S e s s i o n
M E N A C
RETHINKING JOURNALISM FEATURES
menacblog.wordpress.com // #1 - Sept. 2014
05 | MEET THE FACILITATORS It takes a village to make a magazine. Meet the team whose editorial guidance helped produce the pieces in this first issue of Rethinking Journalism.
12 | NORMALITY IN THE MAKING As the German community struggles to assimilate and integrate the large influx of refugees and asylum seekers, a few grassroots initiatives strive to make a change.
31 | HOPING FOR A BETTER LIFE Hundreds of refugees are arriving on the shores of Italy from Africa. Some of them continue on to Germany and Berlin. But are Berliners ready to befriend them?
36 | WOUNDED IN THE WOMB “You cannot stop the circle of life just because war is happening.” Ena Haskovic shares the story surrounding her birth during the mid-90s Bosnian War.
ON THE COVER By Robert Fischle “Robert Fischle” / www.jugendfotos.de, CC-Lizenz (by-nc) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/deed.de
JOIN US ONLINE AT FACEBOOK.COM/MENACOMMITTEE & ON TWITTER @MENACOMMITTEE
RETHINKING JOURNALISM ORGANIZED BY EYP & MENAC EDITOR-IN-CHIEF JOYCE TAYLOR Joyce Taylor (@JoyousWorks) is an American writer and content producer. She is the founder of Joyous Works, a company that creates and produces content for small businesses, non-profits and NGOs. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism & Media Studies from Andrews University (USA), and a master’s degree in Media Studies and Sociology from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). Photo: @ European Union 2013 - EP
CREDITS MAGAZINE DEVELOPED BY JOYOUS WORKS. JOYOUSWORKS.COM INFO@JOYOUSWORKS.COM Editor-in-Chief: Joyce Taylor / Graphics Department: Joyous Works / Layout Editors: Broluthfi Abdrahman & Joyce Taylor / Photography: Gülsen D., Katarzyna Morton, Assaad Thebian / Training Coordinator: Anna Saraste / Facilitators: Pascale Müller, Assaad Thebian, Maria Wölfle / Peace Journalism Trainers: Vanessa Bassil & Gülsen D. Rethinking Journalism 2014 Team Members: Rebecca Bengtsson, Katarzyna Morton, Radka Pudilova, Lisa Zeller Special thanks to Youthpolicy.org who kindly supported this training with camera equipment, as well as to Linke Medienakademie who supported the training session with its facilities. DISCLAIMER: The European Youth Press does not necessarily support the values or statements expressed in the different articles of this magazine.
ABOUT RETHINKING JOURNALISM
ANNA SARASTE Rethinking Journalism 2014 Coordinator Anna Saraste is a Finnish Journalism university graduate who has spent half her life abroad. She has worked both as a reporter and news anchor for the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, and has directed two half-hour documentary films among other freelance work. Anna has been an active volunteer of the European Youth Press since 2012, and currently coordinates its Middle East and North Africa committee. Contact: email@example.com / www.youthpress.org
RETHINKING JOURNALISM A WORD BY PASCALE & MARIA OF MENAC, THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA COMMITTEE
ost people think of war when they hear the word ‘conflict’. They think of violence, of killing – like it is taking place in Syria, Iraq or Ukraine these days. But there is more to conflict than just war, even though media struggles to capture that. Most of what we know about conflicts both on a local and global scale, we get out of the news. Take the nationalist movements by the Scots, Catalans, Tibetans or Kurds, or the disputes over water resources in Latin America as examples. Media can shape our perception of a conflict by the words they choose. Take the struggle between Argentina and the United Kingdom over that small island in the Pacific called the Falklands – or Malvinas, depending on who is reporting on it. Media can also add to us not knowing about a conflict at all – like the one in Cochabamba, a city in Bolivia, over the privatization of water resources.
Considering how media influences our understanding of conflicts, conflict-sensitive reporting is important. This is why in September 2014, the European Youth Press’ Middle East and North Africa committee (menac) invited a select group of media makers to a workshop on conflict reporting. For seven days, young journalists from Latvia, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Lebanon, Austria, Algeria and Tunisia gathered in Berlin. In theoretical sessions they learned about conflict-sensitive reporting, how to avoid ethnocentric views and stereotypes, and to portray all nuances and dimensions of a conflict.
journey of a Chadian refugee through Sudan, Libya and many European countries, trying to find some dignity – the articles in this issue rotate around one topic: human beings and their common fears and threats just as well as on how they face them and make the most out of them.
This knowledge was implemented during a hands-on media production. The output of which is this magazine, “Rethinking Journalism.”
Journalism is about teamwork, about bringing ideas together, one of our team-members said during the workshop. We believe this is what the workshop “Rethinking Journalism” was doing – bringing our diverse participants together, getting them to work on ideas in multicultural teams and by that producing this magazine.
In this issue, our participants report on conflicts. From the story on Latvian separatists, to a photo essay on colonial remains in Berlin or the
“Rethinking Journalism” differs from traditional and most common conflict reporting. Instead of focusing on bullets and the numbers of death tolls, our participants concentrate on the human stories behind this big word: war. Or, they leave out war altogether, rather focusing on societal conflicts.
MEET THE EDITORIAL TEAM BEHIND THE TRAINING SESSION:
MARIA CAROLINE WÖLFLE
Pascale is a freelance journalist on MENA politics, women’s rights and Islamic terror. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and Political Science and studied at the Danish School of Journalism. Her published work includes pieces on the struggle of gay teenagers in Amman, tribal violence in southern Jordan and women in the Syrian civil war. Currently she fights the hopelessness of the German province in Reutlingen, where she lives and studies at the journalism school “Zeitenspiegel Reportageschule.”
Assaad Thebian is a freelance journalist and blogger from Beirut. He currently runs a media and research center project specialised in monitoring the Lebanese media sphere (www.lebmediamonitor. org). He is a digital media strategist and trainer, a certified Google Analytics and Advertisements, and winner of the ArabNet 2013 Creative Combat.
Maria holds an B.A. in Cultural Anthropology and Communication Science and an M.A. in Political Science. She has been working as a freelancer in Argentina and the MENA-region in recent years and specializes on the role of religion in conflicts and society.
THE SESSION BROUGHT TOGETHER 30 PARTICIPANTS FROM ALGERIA, AUSTRIA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, EGYPT, GERMANY, LEBANON, LITHUANIA, LATVIA AND TUNISIA. The training session was also organised as a cooperation with partner organisations in these countries: Jugendpresse Deutschland, Jugendpresse Österreich, FEJS Latvija, ONAuBiH, AJMEC Tunisia, and MAP - Media Association for Peace - Lebanon.
THE TRAINING SESSION
LOOK INTO THE MIRROR
BY ANNA SARASTE
t was already in 2012 that the Middle East and North Africa committee of the European Youth Press began to plan for the Rethinking Journalism project. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt had just taken place the year before, and movements falling anywhere from peaceful demonstrations to civil unrest and civil war were redefining many countries around the world. It was especially in the context of the Arab Spring that we wanted to create a project that focused on covering conflicts. Technological advances have made it increasingly easy for anyone to participate in the reporting process, and it has become more and more difficult for journalists to navigate their way through today’s information flow. It has become apparent that the definition not only of tools (How should I report on this event?), but also the reasons behind one’s working methods and philosophy (Why am I covering this event? Why am I covering it in this way and not in another way?), had to be examined and questioned to achieve a less biased and more accountable way of reporting conflict than what the trend is in mainstream media.
We looked for initiatives among media makers across the world that tried to deal responsibly with the icy slopes that constituted the ethics of conflict reporting. Within academic circles of the 1960s, Johan Galtung began discussing the concept of “Peace Journalism,” a type of reporting that sought more in-depth analysis to conflicts and offered peaceful solutions to them. For this concept, Galtung has received much criticism over the years by many other scholars, some calling it “Advocacy Journalism” and distancing themselves from an approach they deem much too geared towards activism. Critics reminded him and his followers time and again of the dangers of abandoning impartiality and objectivity as core journalistic values.
7 However, the self-reflective approach, as well as the conflict analysis tools offered by Peace Journalism, is viewed by most academics and journalists very positively even today. Later initiatives have taken them as core values for accountable and conscious conflict reporting. The academic field has seen several new terms being launched to define what conflict reporting is or should be about: ethical journalism, committed journalism, communication for peace or C4P… But what does it all mean for the individual journalist operating on the ground? One thing that could follow is for journalists to start asking themselves what impact certain kinds reporting could have. For instance, the basic notion of objectivity was dismissed as something that gave journalists the possibility to claim they didn’t take sides in their reporting for instance in conflict situations, since they were quoting both parties involved. However, many studies have shown that this kind of reporting often times further escalates the conflict. Both field journalists as well as academics have concluded many times that all news making and journalistic work involves choices and subjective limitations from the side of the journalist – thus, we can never be fully objective. After acknowledging our limitations, only then do the questions flood to mind: Why am I reporting on this? Why am I choosing these sources? What makes me a good or a bad journalist? This self-reflection is at its best and can lead to valuable realizations when it’s brought about in a dialogue with others. That’s why, as we defined the menac project two years ago, Rethinking Journalism served as a platform for exchange of viewpoints and opinions between the project’s participants. In addition, we had input from different academic approaches and journalists, listening to what they realized during the course of their work and what they believed their ethics should be based on. One of the event’s milestones was achieved when the participants produced guidelines on how to report on conflict, subdivided into five categories: basic journalistic principles, and guidelines for editorial and broadcast, gender issues, psycho-social well-being and security. Perhaps from these, other debates on conflict reporting can stem. For now, this is the response we culminated from the challenge to rethink the journalistic process in the area of conflict reporting. Rethinking Journalism brought together a group of 30 European, Middle Eastern and North African media makers. The variety of nationalities was crucial because conflicts shape all societies around the world, from issues within individual families and small communities to large-scale international ones. Conflicts are the only means of bringing about change. Conflict is also a positive force that challenges us to rethink, redistribute, reorganize and redefine. Vanessa Bassil, the founder and CEO of MAP – Media Association for Peace – Lebanon, writes more on analyzing conflicts (p 12). Anyone who accepts the challenge to rethink their conventions and habits is already on the way to be a more accountable, reliable, responsible, and ethical journalist or media maker. One look into the mirror can sometimes be enough to start an act of self-redefinition. In the end, all change begins within us.
THE WEEK IN PICTURES SEPTEMBER 14 -21, 2014
Rethinking Journalism group discussions.
Getting to know each other: Basma Elmahdy listens intently to Katarzyna Morton
How to eat a sandwich with Boro TodorovicÄ‡and Assaad Thebian
Radhouane Addala sits back and listens to the panel discussion
Participants walking near Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.
Jaafar Abdul Karim (Deutsche Welle); Simone Schlindwein (Tageszeitung), Rebecca Bengtsson (EYP), and Linda Walter (European University Viadrina)
Participants getting to know each other. Sed sed pharetra ligula, id posuere lorem Sed sed pharetra ligula, id posuere lorem
Sabine Berzina, Sally Eshun and Teresa Mayr smile for a pic.
Dhaker Youssef presents EYP members Katarzyna Morton and Maria Wรถlfle with a gift
Team members and participants of the 2014 Rethinking Journalism session
CONTRIBUTING TO PEACE A HOW-TO GUIDE FOR JOURNALISTS BY VANESSA BASSIL, FOUNDER & PRESIDENT OF THE MEDIA ASSOCIATION FOR PEACE (MAP). THESE WORDS ARE HER OWN.
journalists to be informed themselves, and understand In his book “Little Book of Conflict Transformation,” what they are reporting about. They play a positive role John Paul Lederach wrote that conflict was a gift. This when they portray conflicts in a constructive manner, positive approach of conflicts wasn’t developed until the by providing the whole picture, addressing the root second half of the twentieth century when Peace and causes, using de-sensationalized language, reporting on Conflict finally became recognized as an official field of all sides, and highlighting positive stories is a way for study. Understanding and analyzing conflicts has since journalists to contribute to peace. become both an academic and professional mission.– Scholars and practitioners have been trying to underThe model of Peace Journalism emphasizes the social stand conflicts dynamics and what effects they have on responsibility of journalists in conflict reporting. It individuals, societies and nations. They even suggest provides a solution-oriented manner of reporting on the term of “conflict transformation” instead of “conflict conflicts by using the insights of conflict analysis, and resolution” that looks at conflicts as an opportunity transformation provided by the relatively new peace in human relationships to create constructive change and conflict field. processes that reduce violence and increase justice. This is “BEING KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT Having knowledge about a starting point of building THE NATURE AND DYNAMICS conflicts prevents journalpeace. ists from focusing only on OF CONFLICT ALLOW JOURNALviolence when it occurs. By Unfortunately, it took humanISTS TO CONTRIBUTE TO A MORE knowing that conflict is a ity two world wars to finally process with different stagaddress peace and conflict PEACEFUL WORLD.” es, journalists can be aware scientifically. However, what’s of the fact that violence interesting is that conflicts are is only one of these stages. This said, it is important to no longer viewed synonymously with war, bloodshed distinguish conflict, war and violence: and massacre, but as a “relationship between two or more parties that have or think they have incompatible - Conflict is not violence, neither is it war. But conflict goals, interests and needs.” Conflicts are no more precould lead to war when opposing parties react to conflict sented as a negative phenomenon, but a positive natural violently. one that is also an opportunity to understand human behaviors and emotions. - Violence does not only mean war, as it is not only direct or physical. Violence could also be structural and Since the establishment of peace and conflict studies in the cultural. 1960’s, researchers have been interested in analyzing the role of media in conflicts and exploring the reasons behind - War is a violent conflict. Thus, reporting on conflict newsworthiness. But why should journalists care about undoes not necessarily mean reporting on wars. derstanding conflict if all they have to do is report the facts? Actually, the role of journalists is greater than just reporting the facts. The audience also has an expectation to understand why things are happening the way they are, not just knowing what happened. This is why there is a necessity to provide background information and context on conflicts in an accurate and credible frame. Reporting conflicts is a big responsibility that requires
In this sense, peace would not only be an absence of war – or what the father of peace research, Johan Galtung, refers to as negative peace. As Martin Luther King states, peace is also the presence of justice, or what’s known as “positive peace.” Constructive conflict coverage that addresses what
MEET THE TRAINERS GÜLSEN D. Gülsen is a media development trainer and coach, who studied International Relations and Arabic Language and Culture at the University of Amsterdam. She has lived in Cairo, Istanbul, Beirut, Amsterdam, Sarajevo, and now she is working with Syrian media activists.
PHOTO. » Participants focused on the training session by Gülsen D.
causes led to conflict and follows up the post-violence stage has the potential to create opportunities for the public to consider and value non-violent responses to conflict. Thus, Peace Journalism emphasizes on the importance of news selection, what is being reported on, how and its consequences on the public. In conclusion, a peace journalist would be aware of their role in portraying conflicts and the effects of the representations they make. The choices they make – the language and images they use, for example – dictate the public’s perceptions and actions vis-à-vis core issues. Being knowledgeable about the nature and dynamics of conflicts allow journalists to contribute to a more peaceful world.
Vanessa Bassil is a freelance journalist, peace activist and Peace Journalism trainer. She is the Founder and President of Media Association for Peace – MAP and the Country Coordinator of the International Peace Movement MasterPeace in Lebanon. MAP (www.mapmena.org) is the first NGO in Lebanon and the Middle East and North Africa region dedicated to work on Peace Journalism through training, advocacy, research and publication. MAP’s vision is to get to a media that play an essential role in peacebuilding especially in conflict and post-conflict areas while enhancing Human Rights, dialogue, reconciliation, development and social ustice in order to reach a more peaceful world.
DISCLAIMER: THE TRAINERS OF RETHINKING JOURNALISM TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE CONTENT OF THIS MAGAZINE.
3 CONFLICT ANALYSIS TOOLS FOR JOURNALISTS 1. Iceberg: The tip of the iceberg represents the visible effects of conflicts. However, the invisible factors are greater than the visible ones. They are found underneath the surface, where the biggest part of the iceberg lies. With conflict reporting, journalists need to get to the less obvious factors of conflicts and issues and bring them to the surface. 2. Onion of Needs: Like onions, conflicts have different layers. The external layer represents the positions stated by the conflicting sides: what they claim they want. The second reflects their interests: what they really want. The innermost layers carries the most important aspect of a conflict: the needs. This is where potential solutions and a common ground lie. 3. Conflict Tree: The three parts of a tree –the roots, trunk and seeds – represent the three aspects of a conflict: the visible effects of a conflict, its core problem, and its roots, embedded in the soil. When root causes are addressed in reporting, a peaceful solution is more likely to be attained.
IN BERLIN THE RECONCILIATION THAT NEVER TOOK PLACE
BERLIN IS FILLED WITH LANDMARKS ASSOCIATED WITH WWII AND THE BERLIN WALL ERA, BUT ONLY FEW TRACE BACK TO A DARK PERIOD IN GERMAN HISTORY: THE GERMAN COLONIALISATION OF SOUTH-WEST AND EAST AFRICA // WRITTEN BY INASA BIBIC, PHOTOS BY MOHAMMED ELSHAMY
f you take the subway to Wedding, one of Berlin’s most culturally diverse boroughs, you can easily find a remnant of Germany’s colonial past just a short distance from the underground station: Afrikanisches Viertel (“African Quarter”). The very name of the quarter offers a glimpse into the controversy of German colonialism. In the late 19th and early 20th century, African immigrants in Berlin were mostly sent to this area. Even 130 years after the first German colonizers settled on the Herero land in South-West Africa, the quarter contains street
names of former German colonies: Togostraße (“Togo Street”) and Kameruner Straße (“Cameroon Street”). One of the biggest streets in the area, Lüderitzstraße, bears the name of Adolf Lüderitz, a German merchant and colonizer who brought the first settlers to German South-West Africa and the Herero land. But, is the Afrikanisches Viertel, with all its spatial components, there to honor the legacy of African culture, or German colonial efforts that consequentially led to the death of over 80 percent of the prisoners contained during the Herero and Namaqua Genocide in 1904?
COLONIALISM Berlin is largely a historical city--from the German Imperial Era, to WWII and the separation of the city during the Cold War. Many of the historical topics that pertain to the city are still often addressed and discussed in the academic and public spheres of Berlin life. The reconciliation process that took place after WWII lasted for decades and, within the boundaries of the possibilities, it is fair to say that Germany has made many efforts to “redeem” itself for the atrocities committed in WWII. Nevertheless, the colonial question and the topic of the Herero and Namaqua Genocide (officially recognized as genocide only in 2004) still seems to remain a largely unspoken topic in Germany’s capital. Within the highly trafficked Mitte area, the U-bahn station Mohrenstraße (“Moor Street”) ignites offence. The term, a derogatory one from the 18th and 19th century period, was used in reference to dark-skinned servants, and it doesn’t end there. Promotional items of the German chocolate company Sarotti can still be found bearing a dark-skinned caricature, the Sarotti-Moor, created to brand the Sarotti products in 1918. Although German-African activists invested efforts into renaming the street (one of the idea offered was “Nelson Mandela Straße”), the “Moor Street” nomenclature remains, becoming a normalized reality along the U2 line. All of the above suggest that Berlin has yet another major historical reconciliatory challenge to address. But, will it happen any time soon?
PHOTO (P. 12) » Kameruner Straße (“Cameroon Street”)and Afrikanisches Straße (“African Street”) in Berlin
PHOTO 1. » (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP) “Dauerkolonie Togo” PHOTO 2. » Ghanian flag hangs from a window in the African Quarter PHOTO 3. » U-bahn station Mohrenstraße (“Moor Street”) ; U2 PHOTO 4. » Afrikanisches Viertel (“African Quarter”) PHOTO 5. » Togostraße (“Togo Street”)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Inasa Bibić (b. 1993) is originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but has been living in Berlin, Germany for the past two years where she studies Humanities, the Arts and Social Thought at Bard College. She is a campus photographer and blogger for Die Bärliner, the official student blog at her university.
NORMALITY IN THE MAKING
PHOTO. » The Center for Political Beauty’s fake website initiative, “Danke, Manuela Schwesige”
An einem seidenen Faden hängen. To hang by a silk thread. That historical German expression gets a whole new dimension within the lives of the refugees and asylum seekers from Syria and the areas hit by conflicts in the Middle East in recent years.
provide him, his three kids and his then-pregnant wife, a solace from the nascent bombings and killings. He had to first flee, by various terrestrial transportation methods, to Lebanon, then Egypt, then by an over packed ferry to Italy, before finally landing in Berlin.
Their existence in Germany, while physically safe, is often threatened by changing policies on returns to what the local federal government calls “safe countries.”
With his wife Nadine, and four children Ranaa (11), Zaina (10), Saif (8) and youngest, German-born Nabilah (3), Ameen Quddous has been living in what in Germany is called a Flüchtlingsheim, or refugee home, since early 2012.
When the war broke out in his native Syria three years ago, Ameen Quddous was a public relations consultant in his father’s contracting company in Homs. Then the long path to salvation began, a path to any salvation, which would
The six of them live in a room inside the home, but that too could be taken away from them. Being an illegal immigrant, Quddous tried to apply for asylum twice, but got rejected. The reasons
THE GERMAN COMMUNITY STRUGGLES IN MANY WAYS TO ASSIMILATE AND INTEGRATE THE LARGE INFLUX OF REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST AND OTHER CONFLICT AREAS. BUT A FEW HOMEGROWN, GRASSROOTS INITIATIVES MAY JUST MAKE A
are due to complicated set of laws, since he first arrived to Italy, then that country’s government should take full responsibility for him and his family. The prospects of being forced by the police to leave the country back to Italy are very probable, Quddous believes. “In any second, I can have six muscled SEK units, pulling me and my family out of the room,” Quddous says. “But I won’t give myself up easily to them, I will fight back with everything I have, all the dignity I carry.” Quddous’ biggest fear is being deported to Italy. According to him, the conditions in which the refugees live there are drastic and humiliating. “We don’t want to sleep in the streets,” he says. Quddous is currently attempting to start working. Initially, it was very difficult, because without residency papers, no one would or could hire him. However, a close friend has established an Islamic bank in Berlin, and has requested the government to provide Quddous with the approval to work. “This will make it easier for me to get asylum,” Quddous points out. It would also allow him to move out of his room, and into an apartment. While enduring the nail-biting process of the wait for an asylum, Quddous gets pocket money from the government for each member of his family. His kids are already attending a German school — another reason for him to fight to stay in Berlin. The kids are learning German and the youngest of
BY NEDIM HADROVIC & YARA NAHLE
them goes to a kindergarten. In the afternoon, the kids have a program inside the refugee camp, where a teacher comes to help them with their home works and organizes other activities like painting, and dancing and other games. Croatian-born Marija Šarić, the refugee home’s resident language teacher, explains that the afternoon school’s main goal is to apply all the mechanisms which guarantee the best integration of the kids inside the German society, such as speaking German all the time. Moreover, German kids visit the refugee home, but the administration prefers to take the kids outside rather than bring the visitors in. “We take the kids to festivals, picnics and sports events and have them participate in all kinds of activities,” Šarić says. “Things are not difficult for children; they already feel as part of the German community.” The kids are taken in field trips to festivals, picnics and sports events where they engage in all kinds of activities.
the German society. The Multicultural Café is one of them, and they host a “multicultural event” every other Sunday, in which refugees from the home meet with other local members of the community over free food and coffee. Jasmine Bertels, a 17-year-old activist, is one of the initiative’s founders. She and her fellow activists’ main incentive is “to take the refugees outside of their little rooms that feel like prison cells.” To make them feel like there is a world around them, a world that will eventually, she hopes; welcome them with arms wide open.
QUDDOUS WANTS HIM AND HIS CHILDREN TO INTEGRATE: “BUT I NEVER WANT THEM TO FORGET THE CULTURE THEY COME FROM.” AMEEN QUDDOUS
“The barrier between German and non-German children almost doesn’t exist,” Šarić adds. “This helps so much on the colloquial level; the kids are very confident and don’t feel inferior.”
The initiative’s main goal is to help the refugees mingle with Germans, but the event’s attendees are mainly the refugees. Bertels, however, explains that they are trying to promote this to, and include Germans more, by promoting the event through social media.
When the kids sit around the table in the afternoon school, Šarić explains, they speak with an amusing cadence about ordinary problems any other child has, like falling in love.
Quddous praises the Multicultural Café, as he plans to stay in Germany and become, for all intents and purposes, a German. The Café helps him achieve that. Quddous says he has never had any difficulty in integrating into the German society.
Various initiatives are being implemented, all aiming at engaging minorities and foreign groups in
“I know Berlin’s streets by heart now, I always go out and meet friends,” he says. “And I love Germans, they are the best people.”
“MANY OF THE MEDIA PEOPLE THAT COME, THEY COME IN WANTING A SALACIOUS STORY – THEY FOCUS ON THE KIDS. I DO NOT WANT THAT.” SUSAN HERMENAU What Quddous is doing is exhibiting, in its most perfect form, a process of integration into a new land, a land of calm and peace, which he says took him three years to find. Because, as Susan Hermenau, the coordinator of the Private Soziale Dienste: Private Social Service (PRISOD) refugee home in Berlin’s Pankow neighborhood, tells us, it’s “about humanizing them” to the community and through the media, providing a normality which these people rarely, if ever, are privy to when expelled and forced away from their homelands, the mothers and fathers that birthed them, the communities that shaped them. “The only thing we can do is provide a place where they can sit back down and have a cup of tea when the memories start flooding back in,” she says. It’s also very important not to call them refugees, as a nuanced approach to semantics--and the way in which their reintegration into society is seen by the people welcoming them--plays a huge role in the entire “normalization process”. What PRISOD and several other communities around Germany are doing is emphasizing a “with-them-notabout-them” approach to the entire process. The most integral part of this, then, is to show a common humanity with them, to sit down on the floor if they’re sitting down, to take off your
*FOR THE SAFETY OF THE SUBJECTS INVOLVED, THEIR NAMES HAVE BEEN SLIGHTLY MODIFIED FOR THIS ARTICLE.
shoes if they take them off.
“Because that is how a healthy multiculturalism is born, from the very baby steps,” the young German refugee community volunteers, most in their late teens and early twenties, tell us.
Furthermore, individuals involved with the initiative claim it’s Germany’s responsibility to be welcoming to all refugees, due to the federative republic’s nationalist-socialist past.
Not surprisingly, the largest amount of understanding has come from the people who share at least a small amount of the pain they do, people on the margins and people who have seen a collective death of their own identities.
Back at PRISOD, one of the people most involved in helping a lot of the refugees find their feet within the first few days and weeks is a Dejan, a 55-year-old Serbian Roma, who, because of his ethnic background, spent more than a decade living an unsure life within Germany’s social protection policy program. “A lot of these people haven’t even seen toilets, or light switches,” he says. “I take them by the hand, show them how to do things in a new environment.” One that he says he hopes will be a new permanent home for all of them.
One pair, 90 year-old Inge Lammel and 87-year-old Kurt Gutmann, both German Jews and survivors of the Holocaust, are leading an initiative and project that, through a tongue-in-cheek brand of artistic expression, seeks to incite the German government to do more about it’s intake of Syrian refugees, especially children. Their boldly-titled Center for Political Beauty created a completely legitimate-looking fake German government website with Syrian children holding up signs saying “Danke, Manuela Schwesig,” in reference to the country’s current Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. It’s appealing to the government’s, but more importantly, community-at-large’s wider conscience. Lammel, who had fled to and grew up in London and who now lives again in her native Berlin, said she was only able to survive the Holocaust precisely because she was saved as a child, as part of the
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Dejan, whom many of the kids and inhabitants of the home call Deki, points out that he helps them all, “because I want them to be sure they can integrate, they can become part of this society.” Dejan was never able to, because of, as he says, his Roma or “Gypsy” background. However, holding a wide-eyed Nabilah, Ameen Quddous tells us that he speaks German with his kids as much as he can, while balancing it with his native tongue. Despite being only three, Nabilah can hold a simple conversation in German with practically no accent at all. “She can speak better German than I can,” he says. “Isn’t that enough for a German future?”
Nedim Hadrovic (@hadrov) was born in Sarajevo, but has spent the majority of his life living and studying in the Far and Middle East. He is a Digital Media and Film graduate, an aspiring journalist, media expert and filmmaker. Yara Nahle is a student and journalist from Lebanon. Nahle writes for local media outlets.
GENDER: BETWEEN PERCEPTION & REALITY BY AYA CHEBBI & KATHARINA WALBERT While lyrics of the German anthem call for a “united Fatherland,” in other parts of the Mediterranean, many Arab countries are referred to as “the Motherland.” For decades, gender has been perceived differently where women and men are treated based on the influence of cultures, media and the marketing industry.
and marital rape. On the other hand, this very Code has settled discriminatory provisions. For instance, According to Article 58, judges can grant custody to either the mother or the father based on the best interests of the child, but prohibits the mother
“AS LONG AS THERE IS A LAW TO BE IMPLEMENTED AND RESPECTED, THEN IT’S A WAY TO PROTECT WOMEN.” ALIA AWADA
PHOTO. » Patrick Gruenhag at the Marsch fürs leben (“Walk for life”) counterdemonstration in Berlin
Tunisia, an Arab state, has been a leading country on women’s rights. Its laws have provided women a measure of equality largely absent among its neighboring countries. Here women have one of the most progressive Personal Status Codes: polygamy there is banned, and women have equal rights in marriage and divorce. The code also guarantees strict women rights in the criminalisation of domestic abuse
from gaining custody if she has remarried. No such restriction applies to fathers. Unequal inheritance and the total absence of shelters for homeless, battered and/or abused women are still one of Tunisia’s biggest issues where studies concluded found that at least one out of every three women were beaten by their husbands.
In Austria, things look quite different. There are approximately 30 women shelters located all over the country. Women who are in danger receive aid and protection from the state. Beyond that, Austria fosters strong gender-sensitive language discussions and initiatives. The Austrian anthem, for example, has been changed: The line which once referred to Austria’s “great sons,” was modified to now reflect Austria’s “sons and daughters.” Although there are laws protecting women, punishment for sexual harassment and rape are still low. According to § 201 StGB (Austria’s panel code), rape is prosecuted with a prison sentence between six months up and 10 years. In cases where the action is especially violent, or causes the death of the victim, the punishment can be raised up to 20 years in prison. However, perpetrators of sexual violence are often released after just a few years. Marital rape has been penalized in Austria since 2004, but refusal of sexual actions within marriage is still a reason for getting divorced. In addition to rape and sexual abuse, “every day-sexism” is problematic. Sexual harassment often happens in
public spaces and work environments. Although the topic is highly discussed, the harassment is not deterred. Almost every woman has been sexually harassed in some manner at least once in her life. Patrick Grunhag, a German gender-activist and member of Pinkstinks – a campaign that aims to challenge the heavily stereotyped roles of young children in media and marketing – thinks that Arab women are still fighting for the right to education and that “men have more power because of the religion.” He adds: “Women are punished when they are raped.” On the other side of the Mediterranean, Alia Awada, a Lebanese activist and co-founder of Fe-Male, believes that laws protect women in Europe: “As long as there is a law to be implemented and respected, then it’s a way to protect women.” She believes that women in the Arab region “have a very long way to achieve women’s rights.”
PHOTO. » Demonstration in support for the passing of the Domestic Violence law in the Lebanese parliament.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS Aya Chebbi (@aya_chebbi) is an award-winning Pan-African blogger, peace activist and women’s advocate. She blogs at aya-chebbi.blogspot.com. Katharina Walbert is a 19-year-old student of Journalism and Communication in Vienna, Austria. Walbert has done journalistic work for a various magazines and is currently a board member of Youth Press Austria.
The activists have also stated their perceptions regarding each other’s field of expertise. Alia had the chance to work with Oxfam on an inequality campaign in the UK, and deduced that women have a better life there, than they have in the Arabic countries. “There is no gender equality all over the world,” she says. “Not even among women themselves.” Patrick also believes that in Western Europe, feminists shouldn’t talk on behalf of women “if they want to wear the veil or not.” He adds: “We sh should be an open society that accepts other cultures as we claim. As feminists movements, we shall connect, listen and help other movements when they ‘want [us] to,’ show how it works in our society, but not ‘tell’ them what they ‘want.’”
PHOTO. » Demonstration of solidarity for Rula Yaacoub, a woman killed by her husband
Sexual harassment, gender-insensitive language, the representation of women in the media, and sexism in advertisement are common struggles to mention a few. In Western Europe, products for children are overtly gender stereotyped. “There are two different types of nachos, a spicy one for boys and milder softer one for girls,” Patrick describes. “We also have BEEF Magazine, which is targeting men based on the prejudice that only men are interested in barbecues,” he adds. Patrick also criticizes casting shows like “Germany’s Next Top Model” broadcasted on Austrian and German networks that “show girls that they have to use make up and wear high heels to be considered beautiful and popular.” The ad and media industries try to shape the ideal woman looks, be it in weight or looks. Alia is fighting gender stereotypes through television programs, talk shows and commercials in Lebanon as well. “We are still using images of women on TV that we’ve been using for 40 years now,” she confirms. One of her organization’s advocacy projects was
an online campaign raising awareness on these stereotypes in the media. Alia clearly states the danger in the use of “sexually violent” images as a “joke” on TV. Overtime, violence against women becomes normalized and emphasized in society and in people’s mindset. Interestingly, Alia and Patrick both mention the same example of a female portrayal by the marketing industry used to sell cars, by which beautiful women are always placed next to. “Even when a woman is in power, the media discusses her fashion rather than her leadership,” Alia concluded. It’s important to note that gender fight is also not only the fight of women, but men too. Activists like Patrick are necessary for gender representation. However, it’s also up to the media as opinion formers as well. People from the West and the Arab region need to connect and break gender stereotypes to change their false perceptions.
NIRIT BIALER IS THE FOUNDER OF HABAIT, AN INITIATIVE THAT BRINGS GERMANS AND ISRAELIS TOGETHER. THROUGH THESE CULTURAL HAPPENINGS SHE WANTS TO HEAL THE WOUND OF HISTORY BETWEEN THE TWO PEOPLES.
t an inconspicuous café in Taubenstraße, Nirit Bialer, a curly and darkhaired woman of medium height, talks about her project, Habait. It is supported by eight other people and aims to introduce the Israeli culture to the citizens of Berlin. The word habait is Hebrew for “home.” And that is what Nirit Bialer wants to do: She wants to create a meeting point where people feel comfortable and at ease, despite the on-goings in politics. “Those events are nothing political at all,” she says, “it is purely for culture and socializing.” Many young Israeli artists see Berlin as an attractive city in Europe. According to the Israeli embassy in Berlin, there are about ten to fifteen thousand Israelis in the city, but it is difficult to detect the exact number. “Many have German, French or Polish passports,” confirms Bialer. This is possible because descendants of
persecuted minorities in the Nazi regime are often eligible for European citizenship – as it is the case in Germany. Many are surprised that young Israelis are so attracted by Berlin. Yair Lapid, Finance Minister of Israel, induced a wild discussion by accusing the young emigrants that “they are willing to throw away the only Jewish country just because Berlin is more comfortable.” New Berlin Israeli inhabitants range from ambitious tech entrepreneurs to well-known artists. “Berlin is a hip location and an amazing place for artists who want to concentrate on their work because they don’t have to worry about the money as much as they would in other big European cities.” states Bialer. Indeed, Berlin is still a relatively cheap city to live in, despite gentrification and it being a capital. Nirit Bialer’s inchoate but flourishing project is a cultural meeting spot for everyone.
GROUND BY SALLY ESHUN
PHOTO. » Nirit Bialer, Founder of Habait. Taken by Joachim Wagner
Bialer emphasises on the “cultural” aspect of her project, and she insists that it is seen as such. “It is very important to me that everyone is aware of the fact that it is nothing political.” What at first seems like obstinate escapism makes sense in the end. To many, Israel is just a synonym for political conflicts and religion and an antonym for peace and a normal life. This impression is also influenced by media.
ON ABOUT THE AUTHORS Sally Eshun (@sall_e) writes for an online magazine in her hometown and serves as editor-in-chief of a youth magazine. Thanks to the training, “I’ve gained more knowledge about conflict-sensitivity and am a lot closer to comprehending what journalism is really about.”
On the other hand, Bialer is aware of the ubiquitous tension in her home country: “Of course it influences your everyday life and your work. It’s inevitable.” One of Habait’s highlights is a Tel Aviv style beach right next to the Spree River in Germany. It was canceled due to the internecine conflict during the summer. “It didn’t seem righ right to celebrate while there [was] a battle going on.” In the end, even a beach party is able to deliver a political message. Again, Bialer is trying to avoid that. It is challenging not to talk about the recent events that occurred a couple of months ago. The demonstrations that accompanied the conflict brought up the question of a new wave of anti-Semitism in Europe. It ranges from the anti-Semitic flag in a foot-
ball stadium, to the attack of a synagogue in a German city. Even Dieter Graumann, chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that this period is, “the worst since the Nazi-Era.” Also, Nirit Bialer sees this situation as worrisome. “It is quite tense. You have to be aware of where you go. The recent incidents show that Jews have to be careful in certain areas.” She is talking about the man who was beaten in a Berlin district in July; the perpetrators identified him by his Kippah, the hemispherical cap typically worn by men of the Jewish faith. Bialer is a bit uncomfortable talking about this. She created her project to prevent just that – having a conversation about Israeli culture and tumbling into a discussion about politics. We manage to come back to Habait. Interestingly enough, the organization has no set facilities. Their events are held at different locations every time. “We have gotten offers, one from the Jewish community of Berlin.” However, Bialer declined the offer because she felt like that would be another barrier for Germans to come closer to Jewish culture. “They would have to think about what to wear in a synagogue and it would make them insecure.”
JEWS AND MUSLIMS: LOOKING FOR COMMON GROUND IN BERLIN ARE GERMANY’S MUSLIMS SURFING ON A “NEW WAVE OF ANTI-SEMITISM?” IN BERLIN, SOME JEWS AND MUSLIMS FIGHT SIDE BY SIDE AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM AND ISLAMOPHOBIA TO PROVE THAT BOTH FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION ARE BASED ON PREJUDICES AND ARE AVOIDABLE. BY KATHRIN FALTERMEIER & EMMANUEL HADDAD
» Worshippers praying on the the street next to the Mevlana Mosque
The new anti-Semitism does not originate solely with the typical white-supremacist neo-Nazi,” warns Jochen Bittner, political editor for Die Zeit, a weekly newspaper. “The ugly truth that many in Europe don’t want to confront is that much of the anti-Jewish animus originates with European people of Muslim background,” he writes Tuesday September 16 in the New York
Two days before, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and President Joachim Gauck with representatives from all German political parties rallied the Central Council of Jews to shout “Stand-up! Never again anti-Semitism!” in the streets of Berlin. They denounced what the Central Council’s president Dieter Graumann considers the “worst period for Jews since Nazism,” referring to “the outrageous
» Part of the Mevlana Mosque destroyed by fire on August 12, 2014. There have been 12 politically motivated attacks on mosques in Germany between January and August alone.
“TERRORISTS DO NOT SPEAK IN THE NAME OF ISLAM.” AIMAN MAZYEK
and synagogues.” Anti-Semitic slogans have been heard in many pro-Palestinian’s demonstrations across Europe, after the military operation Protective Edge launched the 8th of July by Israel in Gaza, in which 2,104 Palestinian (1,473 civilians) died according to the United Nations, against five civilians and 66 soldiers on the side of Israel.
A FACET OF ISLAM’S RADICALIZATION In Germany, the political denunciation of these incidents has proven faster and louder than anywhere else. Sipping a cup of coffee in the sober office of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Deidre Berger, director of the organization created in 1998, reminds the permanent efforts made by Germany to attract Jews, after the trauma of the Shoah. “After the fall of Berlin’s wall, Helmut Kohl launched a program to facilitate the installation of Jews who left Russia to live in Germany. Every year, 15,000 to 20,000 Jews were moving to Germany!” Today, Germany’s Jewish community is the third largest of Europe. “This is why AJC raised a voice of concern in the name of the Jewish community to the German authorities. We don’t talk of the new wave of anti-Semitism, because such events have been occurring since the second Intifada in 2000.”
THERE IS NO MUSLIM ANTI-SEMITISM “A new anti-Semitism? We can more talk about the same old prejudices, used in a new context,” nuances Anne Goldenbogen, member of the Kreuzberg Initiative against anti-Semitism (KIGA). Co-founded in 2003 by Aycan Demirel, a Berliner with Turkish origins. Anne, who does not go to the Synagogue, stresses that, “there is no Muslim anti-Semitism. We don’t want to deny the recent acts of violence against Jews. But pointing out Muslims as the supporters of a new anti-Semitism is dangerous for two reasons. First, it would pretend that the “old wave of anti-Semitism” disappeared. Second, it could deepen the feeling of Islamophobia.”
» Worshippers praying on the the street next to the Mevlana Mosque
A BRIDGE BETWEEN MUSLIMS AND JEWS Friday September 19, the traffic noise of Kreuzberg is muffled by the melancholic voice of the muezzin. Derviş Hizarci, an activist against anti-Semitism from Turkish origins who collaborates among others with AJC, is attending a singular prayer below the bridge of Berlin’s subway, in Kottbusser Tor’s square. Since a part of Mevlana mosque was burnt on August 11, no renovation has begun. The believers decided to pray in the street to denounce it, but also to stand up against the rise of the Islamic State. “We want to make clear that terrorists do not speak in the name of Islam,” said earlier the chairperson of the Central Muslim Council, Aiman Mazyek, who underlined that “Germany doesn’t exactly have a great relationship when it comes to Muslims.” Derviş Hizarciis satisfied by the message spread: “The event was a success. There was a representative of the Protestant church, Jews and Muslims altogether to denounce extremism and call to dialogue.” For this 31-yearold teacher who considers himself a “bridge between the Jewish and the Muslim community” in Berlin, dialogue is the key word. This is how it all began for him, nine years ago, when he got to know a Jewish woman who became his friend. While he reminds standing “firmly against constructing parallels between anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” he fights against prejudices in both communities. Anne Goldenbaum regrets that there was no common event organized by the Jewish and the Muslim councils in Germany. But Derviş, who rubs shoulders with both communities, thinks time has not come… yet. “At the moment, we can’t really realize any initiatives together because we would not [support them],” he says, pointing out the heart of Kreuzberg, the area residents call affectionately Kotti. “Israeli flags? We don’t raise them here in Kreuzberg. Not yet.” But, Derviş remains optimistic. For him, it’s about a step-to-step process of coming together and standing with each other, to becoming--in the ideal case--friends. “Eating together and sharing other simple experiences is important. It makes it much more difficult to backslide into old patterns of thinking,” he smiles.
JEWS DENOUNCING ISLAMOPHONIA.... In Israel, Uri Jacobi Keller spent four months in prison for denial of his military service. Today, he posts posters
» Anne Goldenbogen, left, with another member of the Kreuzberg Initiative (KIgA)
against Islamophobia around Berlin. For one year, Uri has volunteered with the Salaam-Schalom initiative founded by a group of Muslim, Jewish and other of activists in the neighborhood of Neukölln. It was established late 2013 as a reaction to public statements made by the Berliner Rabbi Daniel Alter. Victim of a hate-related attack, Rabbi Daniel Alter wanted to mark Neukölln as a “no-go area” for Jews, due to the high rate of Muslim population in the area. Salaam-Schalom would rather promote Neukölln as a no-go area for racism and ethnic hatred. “Neukölln is an area where immigrants moved to because it was cheap. Nobody came here to live in an Utopia side-byside,” stresses Uri Jacobi Keller, one of these young activists struggling for solidarity and a peaceful coexistence. Nevertheless, “there are prejudices between communities, but no hostility,” he adds. We are not a peace-making organization because we don’t need to bring the different communities together. There is no reason for Israelis and Palestinians to be hostile.” The 30-year-old Israeli hasn’t felt aggression here since leaving Jerusalem two years ago: “I was going around [speaking] Hebrew–nothing happened!”
.... AND MUSLIMS AGAINST ANTI-SEMITISM Among the estimated 15,000 Israelis living in Berlin, a ma-
» Worshippers praying on the the street next to the Mevlana Mosque
jor part chose to live in Kreuzberg or Neukölln, like any young people attracted to the hipster side of the German capital. Most of them do not wear the Kippah. But for Derviş, external signs do matter. “Would they be as tranquil strolling around in Kreuzberg with side locks and a Kippah?” he wonders. Uri doesn’t even identify as a Jew, he says, pointing out that, “if someone was going with an Israeli flag, people would get annoyed; I would get annoyed. I am not Zionist.”
» Uri Jacobi Keller, member of the Salaam-Shalom initiative
ABOUT THE AUTHORS Kathrin Faltermeier, based in Tunis, has worked as a journalist in Senegal and Editorial Assistant for the European online magazine, Cafébabel. She hold an M.A. degree in International Political Journalism from Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence. Emmanuel has been a freelance journalist for three years and has been reporting from areas of conflict and political unrest for the past two. His work has been published in numerous media outlets.
For Derviş, both members of the Jewish and the Muslim communities are victims of generalizations: “Jews are identified with the politics of Israel and Muslims are mixed up with extremists from the Islamic State. Thus, they should defend each other against these prejudices,” he says. Still, he is annoyed when he hears paroles like, “We are the new Jews!” pronounced by some members of the Muslim community. “Anti-Semitism is unique in its abomination and its inhumanity,” he says after five years working in Berlin’s Jewish Museum as a guide who presented the common roots between Judaism and Islam. “In the end,” he concludes, “as a member of the Muslim community, it is very selfish not to protest against anti-Semitism.”
LATVIAN SEPARATISTS: THE UNTOLD STORY
PHOTO. » Beness Aijo. Credit: Kasjauns.lv
lmost 25 years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union and various states to have yet to gain their independence, including Latvia. However, some people still feel nostalgic for the old times where socialism was declared as a state system with one ruling party. Take Beness Aijois for example, a citizen of Latvia who, besides other organizations, is a member of the officially unregistered radical National Bolshevik party, The Other Russia. The 29-year-old’s nostalgia for socialism has already led to two trials. According to Latvian National News Agency (LETA), in November 2005, Riga Regional Court sentenced him to nine months imprisonment. The punish-
ment was later replaced with a fine of 9600 Lats (€13,660 Euros). In May of this year, Aijo was charged on the same offense, after being detained in Latvian airport following a deportation from Ukraine. With escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, the relationship between Latvia and Russia is growing more and more tense. According to LETA, Latvian National Armed Forces stated that up until September, 173 Russian military planes have approached Latvian airspace this year, including: 67 fighter jets, 45 reconnaissance planes, 16 transport planes, eight command planes and four bombers. Recently, Russian President Viladimir Putin told Ukrainian President Poroshenko
BENESS AIJO, A LATVIAN COMMUNIST, STRIVES TO PROTECT RUSSIAN SPEAKERS IN LATVIA AND ACHIEVE SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR ALL. MEANWHILE, HE HAS BEEN CHARGED FOR TRYING TO ORGANIZE A VIOLENT OVERTHROW OF LATVIAN GOVERNMENT. BY SABINE BERZINA, GUNITA GAILANE, AND MASSINISSA BENLAKEHAL
that Russian military forces could enter Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw and Bucharest in two hours, according to the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung. While some people in the Baltic region are growing increasingly wary by the day, others are becoming proactive. Security Police of Latvia has confirmed that there are at least three men from Latvia fighting on the rebel side in Ukraine. As the former minister of Latvian Defense and member of European Parliament, Artis Pabriks, describes, “there is a massive military asymmetry in the Baltic region. Despite the fact that we are a part of NATO, our side of the border is considerably less armed, and only so for defense, while the side of Russia is armed for military offensive actions.” He continues: “Neighboring countries are supposed to be friendly and collaborate, but, at the same time, aggressive military actions in Ukraine, aggressive statements about the Baltics, and increasing military actions [close
to] Latvian borders lowers our trust.” In the middle of it all, Beness Aijo claims that his goals are only to protect Russian speakers in Latvia and achieve social justice for all. He told us in a phone interview, that he became publicly active in 2002 for different social and economic reasons. “At that time I came across the fact that after the collapse of the Soviet Union the post-soviet countries including Latvia were economically degraded. Unemployment was rising, there was a steady increase of prices and people could not find jobs in their professions. Many manufacturing companies and factories – some of them located in Rezekne (where a majority of the residents are Russian-speaking) – were closed.” At that time he was reading theoretical books on socialism by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Lenin. Aijo also complains of Latvia’s high rates of alcohol consumption and rising numbers of suicide. These claims were debuted by World Health Organization reports, as well as Ernst & Young and Oxford Economics research indicating that the Latvia will be the fastest growing economy in the Euro Zone until 2018 with Latvia’s GDP (gross domestic product) growing by 4.1 percent this year, followed by a 5.2 percent growth next year and another percent in 2016.
PHOTO. » Artis Parbiks, Former Minister Latvian of Defense. Credit: Kasjauns.lv
Due to these thoughts, Beness Aijo joined a society called Victory. During the conversation Aijo stated that Latvian rightwing parties were inciting national hatred between Latvians and Russians living in Latvia. He sees that 700,000 inhabitants are being deprived citizenship and a right to vote. Aijo also refers to the 2004 Education Reform that forced schools to give at least 60 percent of the courses in Latvian. “Russian schools then protested against the move. Now there is a plan to fully adapt the Latvian language in schools. Thanks to our [the Victory organization’s] pressure, based on teachers’ insights, now 40 percent of subjects can be taught either in Russian or bilingually,” says Aijo proudly.
“NEIGHBORING COUNTRIES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE FRIENDLY AND COLLABORATE.” ARTIS PABRIKS
While working in United Kingdom as a construction worker, Aijo became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, actively participating in the activities of the group. “The party looked at adding Crimea to Russia positively and of course supported the liberation forces of People’s Republic of Donbass,” says Aijo adding that different conferences devoted to this topic were hosted at his party’s headquarters. He was “morally supported” by the party when he decided to respond to Other Russia’s leader Eduard Lemonov’s call to go and help Crimea to stop possible outbreaks of violence.”
30 PHOTO. » Beness Aijo. Credit: Kasjauns.lv
ABOUT THE AUTHORS Sabine Berzina is a 20-year-old journalism student from Latvia. Based between Algeria and Tunis, Massinissa Benlakehal is a North African freelance journalist whose articles and photographs focus on various issues such as local development and African migrants phenomenon. Gunita Gailane contributed to this piece.
He explains that he went to Ukraine with other Belarusian and Russian members of Other Russia and joined the volunteer forces of the rebels. Because of these activities, Latvian Citizenship and Migration Affairs proposed an inspection to withdraw his Latvian citizenship. According to Latvian-Ukrainian newspaper Korespondent.net, Aijo joined Crimean “self-defense forces” at the end of March and was actively participating in the pro-Russian demonstrations in the East Ukraine. Donetsk region governor Sergei Taruta has said that Aijo will be arrested and deported. Aijo said that he received multiple requests from Donetsk to go back and get involved in the political process and upon decided to go back, he was caught. “Ukrainian authorities accused me of going to Donetsk and supporting the leftist pro-Russian organizations and I was deported to Latvia,” Aijo summarizes. When asked if it is possible that Aijo could mobilize other communist ideology adherents in Latvia, Pabriks says that Latvia is a free, democratic country and that everyone has the right to take an interest in different philosophies and ideas. However, “the fact that Beness Aijo works with rebels in Ukraine and Crimea and what he advocates for shows that he is trying to turn his thoughts in actions that contradict the general interest of society of Latvia.” He continues: “If he is not a terrorist, than terrorists definitely sympathize with him.”
Aijo claims that for all the trips taken and activities held, he was paid for himself and no financial aid was involved from any third parties. “I worked for several years in England, I lived in a small room in a communal apartment, and I saved money to go to Ukraine,” states Aijo.
When asked about the reasons why people like Beness Aijo decide they should turn to more radical means, Pabriks says that media in Latvia “is not strong enough to stand in opposition to the propaganda of lies organized by a totalitarian country.” He adds: “Older people with no knowledge of Latvian language are particularly vulnerable, because they can only watch Russian news broadcasts.” Pabricks says that in order to change this situation, the European Union must have a vision for development of all of Europe. “We must be able to strengthen our unity. In Latvia, we have strengthened our system of education, so the younger generations recognizes the values,” he concludes.
By Agnija Kazuša, Mathias Birsens, Dhaker Youssef
ARE BERLINERS READY FOR THE REFUGEES WHO’VE ARRIVED IN GERMANY?
HOPE FOR A BETTER LIFE H
undreds of refugees from Africa are arriving on the coast of Italy on a daily basis to look for a better life in Europe. Some of them continue their journey onto Germany, and some even end up in Berlin. Among these refugees are young men like Amdy from Senegal and Sherif from Chad, who only had the pavements of the capital to sleep on for three months. When Sherif’s
Italian visa expired, he came to Berlin, as it seemed to offer more opportunities, and was subsequently made a refugee. These are only two stories of many more refugees who are pleading to Berlin to grant them a better life. While Berliners are pondering if they are ready to do that and whose duty it is, refugees are struggling to fulfil their basic needs: accommodation, food and hopefully a legal status that would
allow them to look for a job. THE OCCUPIED SCHOOL Amdy and other refugees reside at the Gerhart-Hauptmann school in the district of Berlin-Kreuzberg, where an administrative drama has been unfolding for almost a year. Refugees occupied the school after it was closed down in December of 2012,
32 COVER PHOTO » Amdy from Senegal PHOTO CREDITS: Mathias Birsen
of following refugee protests all over Germany. In the summer of 2014, the majority of the 250 refugees were displaced to other refugee homes in Berlin when the local government declared that it was renovating the school to become a proper refugee home. Forty-five refugees, however, refused to leave the school. They all demanded asylum and a work permit in Germany. “Unfortunately, these demands cannot be fulfilled by the district because they are granted by the federal government of Germany,” says Sascha Langenbach, spokesperson of the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. Langenbach adds that politics on a national level is lacking answers to the aggravating problem of refugees arriving in Europe, especially Berlin. Sherif seems to have a bigger issue that might create a barrier between him and his legal status in Germany. He was working in the construction industry in Libya until the civil war erupted in early 2011. When the situation became too dangerous, he decided to flee the country. Together with 260 other refugees, he spent two days on a small boat crossing the Mediterranean Sea towards European shores. Somewhere mid-journey, the engine of the vessel shut down for an hour. Just as they were about to reach the coast of Lampedusa, they were spotted by a helicopter and arrested by the Italian police. Sherif spent 19 days in detention before being sent to Pisa for one year. The first six months in Pisa were horrible as he was receiving no money, he was then given €75 Euros a month before the camp was closed six months later and he was kicked out. That’s when Sherif came to Berlin, hoping for a better life. Today, after a year and eight months in the city, his situation does not look promising, especially without a legal status. “There is no hope, no future, no place to live, and no money,” Sherif says. Amdy shares his hopelessness too: “If this situation continues, we will be forced to commit crime to survive, robbery or selling drugs are the first options.”
TO FEAR OR TO HELP? This is what Beatrice Toth, a 30-year-old mother in Berlin, is afraid of. “They are very aggressive. I have a daughter, and it’s not safe for her,” she declares referring to the refugees. However, not everyone in the population shares this sceptical attitude towards the new inhabitants of Berlin. Uli Kerzinger, a 58-year-old secretary at the Bundesrat, is more positive. She thinks that Germany has to help not only the existing refugees, but as a rich country, it is capable of receiving even more refugees. “I think it’s a moral obligation,” she states, adding that she already knows good examples in society. “There is a village in Germany that worked together to help a Syrian family with nine children and provided them with a house to live in,” Kerzinger says. She has thought of helping refugees by collecting clothes in her apartment. Unfortunately, neither empathy nor donations will
» A demonstration in front of Bundesrat on September 19 protesting a federal law declaring Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia safe states
» Sherif holding an offer to fort free medical support provided to refugees
lead to a permanent solution in this case. Thomas Bauer* is more careful about the support that should be made. “We should support them, but not with money.” He sees education as the key. “If we make it easier for the refugees to immigrate to Germany, we will soon be over-flooded,” Thomas says. Since 2011, the number of asylum-seekers acknowledged as refugees has constantly risen. The total number of applicants seeking asylum in Germany has more than doubled since 2011. There were approximately 45,000 then. Just until August of this year, nearly 100,000 people applied for asylum in Germany, coming mostly from Syria, Eritrea and Serbia, according to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
SAFE STATES AS A SOLUTION? The script to the refugee drama is not writing its last chapters in Berlin, nor its first. The “refugee-issue” in Germany and the rest of Europe has historically caused lots of uncertainty on personal, national and European levels. Refugees are striving for a legal status, equal life and job opportunities, whereas the German society is struggling to find legal solutions in addition to responding to certain basic needs for refugees and asylum seekers. Like Langenbach, the local municipalities are passing the blame on to the national government. Even though many parts of the population support the refugees in their struggle for more rights, the government
THE PLIGHT OF REFUGEES
» Sherif speaking with Agnija and Dhaker at the refugee information centre at Oranienplatz
tries to restrict their ability to access or stay in Germany. The recent change of the asylum law, declaring Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Serbian Republic and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as “safe states,” is one example of this attempt to limit the access of refugees into Germany. In response, nearly one hundred supporters and refugees demonstrated in front of the Bundesrat (German government) against this law, which allows Germany to send, for example, Roma people back to a country where they face prosecution and discrimination. » Amdy’s signed a letter inviting local government to talk to refugees in the school about their future.
“THE EU IS PARTLY RESPONSIBLE. THERE HAS TO BE A POSSIBILITY TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE IN THEIR [NATIONS].” KARIN JOCKUSCH
Martina Mauer, representative of the Refugee Council, says that the situation won’t change and the people from the so-called “safe states” will continue coming to Germany as long as they don’t have a perspective in their home countries. A large section of the German population argues that improving the “home country” is one solution. Karin Jockusch, a 58-year-old resident of Hamburg says: “The EU is partly responsible. There has to be a possibility to live a good life in their home.”
THOUGHTS ON TH SITUATION? “JUST LIKE IN THE TIMES OF THE BERLIN WALL, TODAY THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE FROM OTHER COUNTRIES THAT WE ARE NOT LETTING IN.” ULI KERZINGER
ABOUT THE AUTHORS Mathias Birsen (@M3irsens) is studying Middle Eastern Studies in Hamburg. He works as a journalist for the German Press Agency, DPA and others as a journalist and photographer. Agnija Kazusa (@Agnijaa) is a freelance journalist, blogger and youth worker. She is currently involved in several writing projects, her blog Traveltotellthetale.com being one of them. Dhaker Youssef, 24, graduated last year with a degree in English business. He has participated in many projects concerning journalism, and is active in the Tunisian youth organisation AJMEC.
» Uli Kerzinger
PLIGHT OF THE REFUGEES » The entrance of the Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule in Berlin-Kreuzberg. It is locked and guarded by several watchmen.
“THEY ARE VERY AGGRESSIVE. I HAVE A DAUGHTER AND IT’S NOT GOOD FOR HER,” SAYS BEATRICE TOTH WHO LIVES NEAR THE REFUGEE HOME.
Steffen Seibert, the spokesperson of the federal government in Germany, thinks so too, stating – when asked on the topic of a tragic incident off shore Lampedusa in 2013 – that the German state already accepts an appropriate amount of refugees in relation to its size and population in Europe. He added that Germany already accepted 65,000 refugees the year before; a lot more than Italy, which accepted only 15,000 refugees in the year 2012. He also emphasised the need to improve the living conditions in the home countries of the refugees. Concerning whose responsibility it is to deal with the growing problem of refugees coming to Europe, he stated that questions of European refugee policy have to be solved at the European level. So believes Beatrice. “There is a problem with the distribution of refugees in Europe,” she says, and is convinced that the problem needs a European-wide solution. Langenbach too adds that politics on a national level is lacking answers to the aggravating problem of refugees arriving in Europe, especially Berlin. Even if Europe does decide to give a hand, Amdy and Sherif might have to wait long to receive a concrete solution. If granted an opportunity to stay, Amdy, who currently sells bread to other refugees at the school, would like to open an African restaurant or start a theatre in the school. Langenbach explains that the
district cannot finance these projects due to a spending freeze: the conflict around the school has caused such high costs that the district exceeded its annual budget in September. Sherif, who hoped to find a job sin manufacturing, hospitality or construction, is forced to wander from
» Beatrice Toth
a place to place uncertain of his accommodation, as well as his future. And Berlin seems to do the same: wondering on which shoulders the problem should lie.
*NAME HAS BEEN CHANGED TO PROTECT THE IDENTITY OF THE SUBJECT.
THE BOSNIAN WAR
WOUNDED IN THE WOMB YOU CAN’T STOP THE CIRCLE OF LIFE BECAUSE WAR IS HAPPENING. BY ENA HASKOVIC´ It was May 26, 1995, another typical day of war in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Most men were on the battlefields and their women waited for them at home, just like every day since the war began. This was also true for the Hasković family living in the Dzemala Bijedica Str. 34. On this morning they were awaken by the sound of bombing. Nothing unusual after three years of war, but even though so much time had passed, they did not get used to that sound. It caused rushes of emotions every time, of fear and sadness.
PHOTO. » Ena being held by her sister, Hana Hasković
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ena Hasković (@EnaHWYTH) is a Pharmacy student from Sarajevo. Because of her love with writing, she works as an activist and journalist in a non-governmental organisation, “Omladinska novinska asocijacija u Bosni i Hercegovini.”
war in 1992, Hana was too young to understand everything that was going on around her. But she wasn’t alone. Snezana and Mirsad were expecting another child; Snezana was nine months pregnant. “Being pregnant or having a child in war circumstances is very hard. But you can’t stop the circle of life only because the war is happening.
“... SUDDENLY WE HEARD A TERRIBLE SOUND. EVERYTHING HAPPENED SO FAST.” SNEZANA HASKOVIC´
The family had just had some breakfast, the same as every morning: “It was probably beans because we ate it almost every day and we were so sick of it,” recalls Snezana Hasković today with a kind of smile on her face. Her husband, Mirsad Hasković, went to bring some water from a nearby pipe since they had no running water at the house, and Snezana remained to take care of their daughter, Hana. She was almost three years old. Born right at the beginning of the
And the kids were our reason to wake up every morning and survive,” says Snezana. While waiting for her husband, Snezana began doing the laundry while listening to the radio as she did every time when they had electricity, which was rarely the case. During the broadcast, it was announced that the bombardment was going to cease. “It was a sunny day, so I was happy we could go out,” recalls Snezana. “I prepared Hana, combed her hair and dressed her up nicely. I always
37 my husband. At this moment, the only good thing was that Hana ended up without a scratch.”
PHOTO. » Ena’s birthday in the headlines of the newspaper “Oslobodjenje.”
wanted her to look like a young lady. It was pretty hard, because we usually had no money. But there were many kids in the neighborhood, so when someone had something that could not fit their child any more, they just gave it to the younger kids.” After waiting for two hours in the line at the local pipe, Mirsad returned with the fresh water home and they family left their apartment. “We were standing in front of the staircases. I was holding Hana’s hand and talking with her and Mirsad went only few meters in front of us. We had some vegetables growing there so he wanted to check their situation,” says Snezana and laughs. “We had to grow it there because there was a huge lack of food in the city.” “As we were standing, suddenly we heard that horrible sound: The sound of a grenade coming. Everything happened so fast. We did not even have time to process the sound we heard and maybe to get back to the flat,” recalls Snezana.
The grenade fell in front of the family, on a playground where Hana played very often. Mirsad got wounded. “I can not describe to you my feelings,” says Snezana: “Screaming, Hana’s scared face, my husband crying and the blood on his shirt. I will never forget that. I was in such a shock. And I still am. But I managed to come to my husband and help him and take care about Hana. I don’t know who was more scared: She or me.”
saw holes on Snezana’s shirt. She was wounded too. “I was in such a shock after seeing my husband wounded that I did not even feel the pain. Probably because of the adrenalin and I didn’t even look anywhere else than at my husband and daughter. I just wanted make sure that they were fine,” she says. “Fortunately our neighbors were there with me. The biggest support during the war I felt from my family and friends of course.”
Many of the neighbors heard the explosion of the bomb and saw the family through their windows and came out to the yard. Someone called the ambulance. The doctors arrived soon after and took Mirsad to the hospital. The rest of the people brought water and helped Snezana and her child up the stairs to their flat.
She was taken to the hospital and waited almost 24 hours in the hallway because it was the safest there: “We were set up in the hallway because the bombing was still going on and it was the safest place, because if bomb hits the building, rooms would be destroyed first. And most of the rooms were already destroyed. Windows were all broken but with glued nylon on them. I was in the pain all the time. But there were many injured people and very few doctors, so everybody was waiting in the line. All the time in hospital I just worried about my unborn child, Hana and
They started playing with Hana to distract her from the situation and tried to calm down Snezana: “I think my blood pressure went over 200,” she said. While calming her down, one of the neighbors accidentally
The calm of the shock eventually wore off. “The agony started again because I did not know was my baby alive at all. I was wounded the same as my husband. All over the stomach were shell splinters. The doctors were telling me to wait because the equipment was occupied. And I was just scared. After such a long time waiting, I asked eventually one of the doctors when would they take care of me,” she says. Unaware that Snezana was pregnant as well as wounded, the doctor was surprised and horrified upon learning of her state. “He started cussing at the other staff and took care of me immediately,” says Snezana with obvious tears in her eyes: “But while I was waiting, there were other pregnant women so we chatted a bit. We were talking about the names for the babies and it was easier to forget about the pain.” At 10:10 a.m. on May 27, Snezana delivered a healthy baby girl and named her Ena: “I can not describe to you my happiness when I heard my baby crying. It was the best music to my ears in the last nine months.” The doctors had declared Ena healthy, but she was injured. As Snezana was wounded along her stomach, a little peace of grenade went through and ended up in Ena’s shoulder. “Everybody in the hospital was aware of how lucky we were. Ena was really small and in the fetal position in my stomach. So the [shrapnel] was really near the head. She got really lucky.” The Hasković’s kept the piece of grenade removed from Ena’s shoulder. Besides that, only scars remain to remind them of what happened that day in 1995. “I can not describe you the emotions I have tasted from getting wounded, to delivering a healthy child: Fear, stress, shock and finally happiness. All of us were so excited about the birth of the new family member.” The following day, May 28, the national newspaper, Oslobodjenje, published an article about Ena, sating that she was the only baby wounded in the war before birth who survived it. This is how I made my first headline; that baby was me. Here I am, 19 years later, so proud of my parents and sister. And I do feel special because I am the perfect example of how innocent people are often victims without any reason. “You are my fighter Ena,” my mum often says to me. “You were so small and yet so brave.”
MEDIA AND CONFLICTS
WAR AND CONFLICTS: HOW THE MEDIA SELECTS BREAKING NEWS AND WHY WE ARE HAVING PROBLEMS RELATING WITH THEM. BY HELENE TIMM
“Nigerian Islamists kill 36 in attacks on northeast town”; “Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says he is prepared to support fight against Islamic State, but military is not only answer”; “Boko Haram in talks over release of more than 200 kidnapped girls”; “Woman injured during March gas explosion and building collapse in East Harlem”; “Mediators of conflict in South Sudan say there is renewed fighting there between government and rebel troops”.
When looking at the news you are also trying to stay close to the audience, in their interests as well as in a geographical way.” Journalism is fulfilling its job in covering the events and is focusing on what seems to have a higher priority than another topic. But still, if it’s more important that we relate to the topic, why does it feel like the gap between us, the audience, and them, the news subjects, increases? “If events take place close to our homes we care more about them,” states Marr. “When thinking of Ebola, people want to know more about it because they’re afraid it is coming to Germany as well, even though it is not even close.”
These are the breaking news headlines on an ordinary day in Germany. For young journalists like us, war is far away in time and in distance. Compared to our colleagues from places like Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia or Bosnia and Herzegovina, we do not know the smell of One of the reasons it can be boiled down to is ignorance as war. We’ve never had bullets fly by our heads or have we often fail to consider ever been chased by the police. troubles that are far We report about conflicts in other “THE ONLY ZONE WE LIVE IN IS away. Not only are we parts of the world, and our worst fears are generally that we might OUR COMFORT ZONE, AND SOME afraid of unknown diseases, we are also afraid, not find an apartment for uniOF US HAVE A HARD TIME GETof things like our money versity. If anything, we’ve heard being invested in Euro stories from our grandparents TING OUT OF IT.” rescue funds, or our about World War II, but have own soldiers entering mostly never lived in war zones Afghanistan. However, ourselves. The only zone we live these personal worries contribute to a feeling of distance in is our comfort zone, and some of us have a hard and antipathy instead of closeness and solidarity. time getting out of it. We often do not feel affected by the news. While we see the sheer number of conflicts increasing, they are happening some place else. Maybe HUMANIZINE WAR AND CONFLICT we are just too wealthy, too ignorant and too far away to But, what if we actually knew the stories of the people engage with the constant stream of news on violence. behind the events of these countries? Would we continue to just mind our own business? No, because by portraying different narratives, stories shift to a personal level that STAYING CLOSE TO THE AUDIENCE we can feel related to. Is there not a connection between To understand why war and conflict seems so distant, we us and the people seeking independence and change say in need to look at the way they are presented to us in the the Northern African Countries, for example? To take part media, and who better to ask than a journalist already in politics or collectively decide what happens in their refacing the question, “What is the breaking news today?” gion is a universal ideal people all over the world strive for. on a daily basis. Eric Marr, news anchor at “Heute Plus” on the German TV channel ZDF and part of the news Another way to avoid failures of comprehension would department team at Morgen Magazin, says that relevance be to hear personal stories. If journalists are able to look is one of the most important aspects when choosing the upon these tales from different perspectives and consult breaking news. “There are topics that pop up daily. Right various opinions, the conflict appears in all of its diversity now this would be Ebola or IS in Iraq. You just cannot and complexity. We would stop simply categorizing into avoid them and there is always something new to them.
MEDIA AND CONFLICTS
victims and perpetrators and understand the conflict better by knowing of their different backgrounds.
AMBIVALENT POWER OF PICTURES When focusing on TV like ZDF, the visual part surely has the biggest impact on the viewer and it should not be underestimated. The choice of the pictures can change or reduce the texts appeal. We all find ourselves starring at the film footage presented to us. We are questioning whether these people are still humans and do not understand the point of all the violence. There is a clear result of this, although we are all globally connected through modern technology, distance is created by it. “That’s why you have to be conscious of your responsibility when choosing videos,” says Marr marks which is why he tries to not show things that would be morally questionable in his work. Especially in times of global conflict, this moral sensibility is in demand. When looking for appropriate pictures we should cover all aspects of life such as the homes and workplaces as well as battlefields from all ethnic groups. This way the focus is not only on starving children – more likely to create sympathy in the audience – but on the environment as well so as to put that starvation into context. Although the media should cover events in pictures, there needs to be a sensibility to not show people brutally murdered such as was the case with the murder of American journalist James Foley. If empathy is the goal, then people should not be shown in imagery that dehumanizes them.
SHOWING MORE THAN ONE VIEW. When presenting more than two contesting parties are shown, the conflict can no longer be seen in a narrow way. We are Very often tempted to believe that there is only one truth and that violence needs to be part of a conflict. Media needs to keep the balance between the sides, as well as an overview, instead of falling into stereotyping. The audience willbe able to follow the media’s journey and understand the complexity of the topic.
PHOTO. » Eric Marr, news anchor of German TV’s “Heute Plus” on channel ZDF. Credit: Eric Marr
LOOKING FOR SOLUTIONS INSTEAD OF SPREADING HOPELESSNESS. If the media is already spreading hopelessness and violent attitudes, some conflicts, such as the one between Israelis and Palestinians, will not be solved. Often time journalists justify their style of reporting by claiming that people need tragedies and horror and afterwards feeling good about themselves. So in order to make progress, we have to look for the backgrounds, dig deeper and encourage peace by focusing on it. Media is a tool to make us feel closer to the current issues and create in us an interest to understand their backgrounds. No there aren’t always good stories to tell, but there aren’t only bad ones either. So to include at least one uplifting story should be a principle for many media makers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Helene Timm enjoys being engaged in varying projects with many different people. While she greatly appreciates journalism, she does not like how the media focuses on the downfalls of the world instead of searching for peaceful solutions to fix them. She sees media as an opportunity for herself and everyone else to change the worldviews.
DISTANT, YET CLOSE: THE STRUGGLE TO HELP FROM ABROAD THE YAZIDI COMMUNITY IN GERMANY NEEDS MORE EFFICIENT AID FROM THE GOVERNMENT. IN THEIR DESPAIR THEY TURN TO PRIVATE INITIATIVES TO SAVE THEIR PEOPLE IN IRAQ FROM THE ISLAMIC STATE, STARVATION AND DEATH. // BY ANNE STEINBACH
» The “shelter” claimed by some members of the Yazidi community found at one of the refugee camps. Credit: Songül Tolan
ictures of Yazidis fleeing their homes are dominating the media. Hunger, starvation and the constant fear of being killed by the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) make the lives of Yazidis in North Iraq unbearable. Songül Tolan, a Turkish Yazidi currently living in Berlin, struggles with the news. “I do not even have the courage anymore to turn on the television and look at the images as they make me cry constantly. These children look similar to my nephews and cousins,” says Tolan, when seeingYazidi boys and girls that have been – and are still – chased by fighters of IS who have now reached the refugee camps. These are pictures of genocide, of men that have been killed, of kids that are starving, and of women that have been raped. Tolan is one of many Yazidis, whose parents came to Germany as guest workers from Turkey between 1969 and 1970. She is now an active press speaker of the Central Council of Yazidis in Germany. “These photos arouse brutish instincts. They make me want to go there and help the members of my community,” says Tolan.
» A Yazidi family, fled from IS and now living in the refugee camps in North Iraq. Credit: Songül Tolan
“THE YAZIDIS COULD BE CONSIDERED FOSSILS OF HISTORY. THAT IS HOW OLD OUR CULTURE AND RELIGION IS.” CHAUKEDDIN ISSA
» Chaukeddin Issa: Certified Geologist translator, and active member of the Central Council of Yazidis in Germany
SMALL COMMUNITY: 100,000 YEZIDIS IN GERMANY I am having coffee with Chaukeddin Issa in the living room of his flat in Kreuzberg, an area of Berlin famous for its Muslim community. His wife “makes the best coffee,” he says and I surely agree. He then tells me that the Yazidis could be considered fossils of history. “That is how old our culture and religion is,” he follows. Issa came to Germany in the 1970s. He’d been accepted to study at Freie Universität Berlin, where he graduated as qualified Geologist. “I am the first Yazidi who graduated from university,” Issa explains. “I am here, working as [a] translator, writer, poet – I do have to thank Germany for all these things, all these opportunities I received and was able to use to accomplish my life here. These are things we Yazidis normally do not get,” Issa explains. Still, they form a minority among the Kurdish community in other parts of the world. The Yazidis, considered “devil worshippers” by IS, are being prosecuted and humiliated for their beliefs. They believe in one god and seven angels, arrange their communities by castes, and pass down their religion from generation-to-generation through
“IF YOU HAVE ONE BOTTLE OF WATER AND ONE BREAD PER DAY IN 45 DEGREE WEATHER, YOU SUFFER.” SONGÜL TOLAN
» Along with his family, this Yazidi baby found shelter from the Islamic State at the refugee camp in North Iraq. Credit: Songül Tolan
word-of-mouth and instead of via written means. One hundred thousand Yazidis live in Germany, mostly in the Northern areas and in North Rhine Westphalia. Both, Issa and Tolan, have spent their lives in Germany, only following the images of Yazidis fleeing the Sinjar Mountains on television. They are two of the 1.5 million Yazidis that live around the world, and of the roughly 500 Yazidis living in Berlin, leading lives that could not be more different than the ones his community members currently face in refugee camps or the ones of those trying to escape the IS terrorists through the Sinjar mountains. Despite being confident with the lives they are living in Germany and of being proud of their achievements, Issa and Tolan do not support the humanitarian aid of their home country.
YEZIDIS ABANDONED IN NORTH IRAQ In a recent press release the Central Council of Yazidis in Germany indicated that there are 430,000 displaced Yazidis scattered in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Between 50,000 to 100,000 have just fled the mountains of Sinjar to reach refugee camps in Arbil and Dohuk. According to the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (ARD), Around 20 people have already died in a small refugee camp in Zakho. And the bad news fails to end. Questions upon questions are dominating discussion about the hijacked Yazidis fleeing their homes and living under humiliating conditions. “Why did the Peshmerga leave us alone?” asks Issa. This is one of the major questions that currently depress many Yazidis living in Germany. The Peshmerga, a group of Kurdish fighters, were aligned with the task of protecting the Yazidis, a religious community that, according to their beliefs, only uses weapons in absolute self-defense. On August 3, 2014, Peshmerga soldiers, in a surprising move retreated from the Sinjar region and fled without warning or evacuating the civilian population. They later stated that the move was necessary because a lack weapons prevented them from properly defending themselves. As a result IS terrorists stormed the towns and villages of Yazidis without resistance. Over 200,000 Yazidis had to flee: a large majority retreated
into the mountains where many died of starvation and thirst. Others were massacred. “A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar,” declared Nickolay Mladenov, UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) chief and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, on August 3. Only a few days later, international media was speaking of genocide. “This is treason. A treason of the Peshmerga, a group of people that could have protected us from this large number of dead community members,” says Issa.
INSUFFICIENT HUMANITARIAN AID Discussions between German politicians, especially between German Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, about the Yazidi crisis have been on-going since August. The previous concentration on humanitarian aid dispatched was weaponry that quickly delivered to Kurdish soldiers. So far, it has been the United States that has stabilized the situation of the Yazidis in North Iraq. Germany, however, still remains in the process of discussions on how to deal with the thousands of Yazidis who have been killed already. “We are relieved about the realisation of the corridor enabling the Yazidis that still alive in the Sinjar Mountains to receive food, water and help,” explains Tolan. “Still, hardly any of the humanitarian aid reaches the Yazidis,” she continues. Germany alone has spent about €25 million Euros on humanitarian » A young Yazidi resident of the the refugee camp. Credit: Songül Tolan
» Many children and their families travel long distances by car and foot to escape their home regions now claimed by the Islamic State. Credit: Songül Tolan
aid in the area. But Issa says that according to sources at the Central Councli of Yazidis in Germany, “only 10 percent of the total aid reaches the ones in need.”
an economic power, a large one.” The pair remains in constant touch with German politicians and companies updating them on the situation to improve it.
He even goes one step further in underlining that, “the humanitarian aid that has been given by Germany so far is nothing. Twenty-five million Euros is too little for a country like Germany. One-hundred million Euros would be more appropriate and this does not have to be in monetary terms per so – it can be tents, foods, medication, water and other material things that help the people there.” He also reports on the conditions of the camps the Yazidi refugees fled to: “Children with no clothes run around in unfinished buildings.”
AFFECTED BY THE SITUATION OF THEIR PEOPLE
“If you have one bottle of water and one bread per day in an area [with] 45 degree weather, you suffer,” Tolan outlines. She refers to the situation in the refugee camps, where Yazidis live after having fled their homes. Issa and Tolan agree on more consistent help being sent to help the Yazidis in the area: “German soldiers do not belong there. But, Germany needs to notice that these people, this minority, the early church of the orient and those Yazidis, that are 5000 years old, are in danger. The duty of every single democrat in the world is to protect this minority – and Germany belongs to this group.” However, they do not agree with the way Germany is assisting Yezidis in Iraq: “If I, as a German, support people in China, in Ukraine or wherever, then I also have to help Yazidis in Iraq, Syria or Turkey. We have to support human rights all over the globe – in an active and effective manner. And in that way, Germany should take over the leading role. Germany is
With thousands of refugees living in remote areas in the Northern part of Iraq, access to food, water, and any means of communication becomes scarce. Hardly ever does information about the conditions of refugees in these areas reach anyone. Yazidis like Tolan and Issa, around the world, work together to keep the connection to their community members up. It was this continued connection how Issa ended up saving 45 Yezidis hiding in a small place 20 kilometers from a nearby village. An anonymous call – together with modern GPS systems – helped US soldiers to track down the Yazidis and helped them escape from their den. “The chief of the Central Council for Yazidis in Germany saw the group of 45 men, women and children walking into the refugee camp. These are the stories that keep the hope alive,” says Issa. Yet again, it was the Yazidi community working from Germany that helped their community members without the help of the economic power state itself.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Anne Steinbach (@annewhereTravel) is a Journalism and Media graduate from the Erasmus Mundus Master. She currently works as a travel and culture blogger for an online magazine. Songül Tolan works for the Central Council for Yezidis in Germany.
LANGUAGE: WORTH THE FIGHT OR A WASTE OF TIME? BY IRINA SCHEITZ
n January 2012, two lines were edited in the Austrian’s national anthem. The original text, written in 1946, was altered, and the line “homeland of great sons” was modified to include daughters as well. This change was the result of long debates on the right to change historical documents and pieces of literature, as well as distort of the original metric rhythm. Despite these concerns, public discourse in particular questioned the need for the change and whether there weren’t more important issues to be dealt with.
Green Party, condemned it. Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), and former Austrian minister for Women Affairs, posted a sarcastic comment on Facebook with the lyrics of the new anthem with a caption stating it to be “a little learning aid” for Gabalier. The post resulted in a “sh*t-storm” [sic] on her Facebook page that even included death treats
“IF I WANT TO CHANGE SOMETHING, I AM OBLIDGED TO USE THE FEMALE VERSION. THIS I DEMAND AND EXPECT.” MECHTHILD KOREUBER
PHOTO. » Suffragettes in 1910. Credit: Restore out Anthem, www.restoreouranthem.ca
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Irina Scheitz studied Publicity and Communication Science, and Social and Cultural Anthropology. She is currently doing her master’s research on peacebuilding in Northern Ireland. Irina considers herself a humanist rather than feminist, and blog on social issues.
These debates escalated in June 2014 after Austrian folk singer Andreas Gabalier’s performance at the Formula One Grand Prix in Spielberg. He decided to sing the old version of the anthem instead. Gabalier defended the decision saying it was because he was taught the version in school at the age of eight. Like a majority of his fans, some organizations, like the Austrian Right Wing party Freiheitliche Partei Österreich, supported the decision. Carmen Gartelgruber, Spokesperson for FPÖ’s Women Affairs, went on to state that they denounced the “bite reflex of Left-Leftists [sic] ‘Emanzen’ (a German term designated for feminists).” Other feminist organisations, and Austria’s
COPING WITH “FEMINIST” The anthem is just a small part of a larger discussion on highlighting female presence in the German language, but it exposes the high level of aggression harbored towards topic deemed trivial. Austrian society holds different point of views regarding the current feminist agenda. Some care nothing for it and are passive, some regard it as very important and are defensive. Others yet feel feminist actions are annoying and unnecessary. The same division is happening with feminist cases worldwide. Moreover, many women reject being labelled as feminists because it is seen as something extreme and negative.
and consciously, and that sensitivity about these issues should be raised because of. However, Leonidakis differentiates between written and spoken language and admits that it isn’t always easy to put this belief into practice. “Language doesn’t change over night […] and we should not judge, we have to accept how people are speaking, otherwise you’ll just receive rejection.” Sofia emphasised that we are still living in a patriarchal society and that in order to achieve equality for everyone, women and transgender individuals need to fight for their rights. “We don’t get it for free. We always had to fight for what we have now. Sometimes it is a bit uncomfortable, sometimes it is dangerous, but this should not prevent us from fighting.”
PHOTO. » Bathroom sign addressed to women is gender-neurtalized. Helene, a 19-year-old student of Cultural Studies from Germany, stated that she doesn’t like the “image feminism has right now, nor the stereotypes that come with it.” Yara, a 20-year-old activist from Lebanon, continued on this vein, adding that feminism is “considered as something bad everywhere in the world.” Other women expressed that there is a stereotyping about feminists where they are seen as “harsh women that hate men. Sabine, 20, from Latvia, says feminist agenda isn’t supported at all in her home country. While speaking with her about the issue, she showed me a twitter message a feminist blogger from Latvia received that essentially asked why a beautiful woman like said blogger was, “dealing with such stuff.” He suggested she leave it to the “ugly girls,” which according to Sabine roughly sums up the reception of feminist women in Latvia. Although, they avoid the label, all of them agree that the feminist movement is still important. While women in Arab countries fight for their self-determination, young women in Europe fight for professional equality and against being reduced to their looks. Basma, a 26-year-old journalist and trainer from Egypt, said it took her years to realise that she was a feminist – early on at that – and now accepts it proudly.
EXAGGERATION AND DISCRIMINATION AGAINST MEN Why is feminism and its activists being perceived this way? Where does all this rejection come from? And at what point did feminism go wrong? These questions
were posed to males from different backgrounds and each had varying reactions. *Mathias, a 26 year-old history student from Austria, stated that he felt that gender discussions were being too pushy. “I feel like every sentence is turned into a political issue.” However, Mathias does admit that language actually has great influence on our thinking, but feels frustrated with all the exaggeration of certain topics. “I think the goals of feminism, such as legal and social equality, have been achieved,” he adds. The student believes that it is men who should be asking for their rights now since in the last two decades, they have been discriminated against, especially when it comes to child custody and gaining employment.
Mechthild Koreuber, spokesperson at the Free University Berlin, stresses the importance of gender-neutral language because norms and moral concepts are expressed in language. “If I want to change something, I am obliged to use the female version. This is my demand and expectation.” Language has the potential to raise awareness of discriminating structures and therefore one has to work with language to transform culturally society. A concrete example is the lack of women in technical professions that result from the failure to address women and encourage them to choose these jobs. Whenever we think of actions in our everyday life, language is involved. “German is so manifold and versatile, why should we not use this opportunity?” Koreuber asks. Patrick Grunhag, a member of the Green Youth and Youth Press Berlin, agrees with Koreuber and Leonidakis on the importance of gender-sensitive language, stating that it irritates him when women refer to themselves and their profession with the male version. “This doesn’t make sense at all.”
Other men had different points of view. Boro, a 21-year old journalist and NGO activist from Bosnia, has been engaging in feminist topics since the age of 12. He thinks gender equality has to happen at every level, including language. Boro’s colleague Haris, who also frequently works on feminist issues in Bosnia, warns of extreme feminist-terrorism movements in which one would feel like it is was a crime being a man. “They should deal with the big problems, not with the tiny ones,” Haris exclaimed, adding that feminist movements should be addressing urgent issues like domestic violence more than gender-sensitive language.
Aya, a feminist blogger from Tunisia, thinks that culture – especially traditions and language – are key for change of society. She complained that Tunisia once used to be very progressive in women’s rights, but that recent years have passed without improvements. For her, gender-sensitive language is very important. Even though she knows about a lot of concrete human rights violations of women in the Arab region, she is convinced symbolic acts matter: “During the Arab Revolution we felt that it was the point to change, and we went on the street to have the constitution changed in order to have a legal document saying that men and women are equal.”
LESS JUDGING, MORE ACCEPTANCE
So are feminists over-exaggerating the importance of gender-neutral language? Well it depends on your society, your education, your experiences and a lot of other factors. However, one thing is clear: it is certainly a right that they have got to keep fighting for.
Sofia Leonidakis, member of the German political party Die Linke (“The Left”) and a participant in a mentorship programme for women, stresses the point that language shapes our identity, psychologically
BROUGHT TO YOU BY MENAC
The mission of menac is to work to enhance the voices of young journalists and media-makers across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, to promote intercultural dialogue and to promote the development of a better contextualization of the respective regions.