WIR MACHEN DAS in an open discussion event at the international literary festival berlin (ilb)

WIR MACHEN DAS organized an open discussion event during the international literary festival berlin (ilb), to highlight the questions that concern the newcomers here in Berlin.

von Lina Alhaddad

Foto: Privat
Svenja Leiber and Lina Al Haddad during the discussion. Photo: Private

Svenja Leiber smoothly facilitated the session which led to different an interesting discussion. She pointed out some important ideas about the old connections between Syria and Europe during her discussion with the specialist of Syrian archaeology, Bashar Shahin. Beginning with the origins of the name ‘Europe’ the discussion turned to the history of the alphabet to the present day. Bashar Shahin took us on a magical journey through the Syrian cities’ history, ancient history and the timeless morals that they hold.

The conversation then involved myself – psychologist from Syria and we talked about the effect of the refugee’s journey on individuals and how it could change the way that a person could perceive oneself. We also talked about the hijab, women, homeland and the stereotyping in media and how it could affect the way that we look at ourselves.

Is she wearing westernized outfits? Does she listen to techno music? And speaks English or German? Is she the un-hijabi woman? Is being a hijabi woman making her less open minded towards herself and the society and less integrated into the German community?

I don’t consider the discussion on the hijab issue as fruitful or constructive. The bilateral of hijab or non-hijab is deficient because it assumes the positivity on one side and denies the other.

Each one of us had his/her unique life journey, and it seems unfair to generalize one single result as the full result of this journey. It appears egocentric that one of us could assume the validity of their own point of view over others.

As a newcomer , you are always asked to introduce yourself and then you have to look deeply, searching for characteristics that represent you honestly without pretense. Many choose to start with nationality,- I was born in Syria – or the city – I’m from Damascus. And maybe gender – I’m a woman -, then the religion – I was raised in a muslim family. I’ve studied and lived in exile for many years, then I’m westernized!

I came to Germany with a study visa via airplane, then I’m an immigrant and not a refugee. But, aren’t we all refugees? Whether we’ve got the legal confirmation of that or not? Aren’t we the children of the war?

You might not be lucky sometimes, so you don’t get questioned about your self identification, but all you get are pre-characteristics waiting for you. Everything that we get from outside takes part of our natural right in identifying ourselves. The order of these characteristics changes from time to time. So, with which one should I start? Recently, I found myself starting with psychologin/psychologist. This is the first thing that I say about myself. What about you?

The questions varied then, a Syrian from the audience asked the Germans themselves about their experiences with asylum while other people discussed the importance of learning the German language to integrate into the new community and the natural right for newcomers of keeping their mother tongue along with German.

Translation: Ameenah A. Sawwan