Striking Non-Citizen Of Rindermarkt- Analysis and Perspectives

Introduction

 

On the 22nd of June 2013, we started the “No Border, No Nation” non-citizen demonstration, at Karlsplatz in Munich. Yet, midway through the demonstration, we collectively decided to stop at Rindermarkt and 86 of us sat down on the street.

 

In our first statement we announced that in order to get our asylum claims accepted we had started a wet hunger strike (taking water but no food) and we gave the German government 3 days time to meet our demand.

After 3 days without any reaction from the government, we organised several meetings and in the end, based on our own reasoning, decided to take another step toward achieving equal rights with other human beings. During our own press conference on Thursday, the 25th of June, we announced that we were going on a dry hunger strike (no food, no water) and that the responsibility of our lives was now in the hands of the authorities and legislators.

 

After one day, the first reaction from the Bavarian government was a negotiation proposal between us, the dry hunger striking non-citizens (asylum-seekers) and them, the authorities. The negotiation that took place on Wednesday concluded without any result, so we continued our dry hunger strike to achieve our demand for equal rights.

 

On Saturday, the 29th of June, the 8th day of our hunger strike and at the same time the 5th day of our dry hunger strike, the second round of negotiations failed due to an even worse approach by the government than in the first round. In the end, on early Sunday morning, the 30th June, at 4:30 am, more than 300 riot police forces attacked our camp. The hunger strikers of the camp got evicted; some of us were sent to hospital, some to prison.

What happened in the 9 days at the Rindermarkt has been analyzed from various positions and views and in different ways in the media or in political circles. Now, we, as the subjects of non-citizen (asylum-seeker) struggles, want to analyze the Rindermarkt struggle from our own position and perspective in order to ensure transparency and account for the parts untold.

Rindermarkt - The result of what?


Analyzing an occurrence detached from its historical roots, its context and causes would only allow for an incomplete and insufficient analysis. The struggle at the Rindermarkt is no exception to this rule. Rindermarkt was the result of the life experiences we had gained in our countries of origin, the fruit of the ups and downs of the non-citizens (asylum-seekers) struggle of the last 17 months, the result of our collective wisdom and awareness. But above all, it was the result of our living conditions shaped by the discriminating laws of the German government, which is a position that we, the non-citizens (asylum-seekers), equally share.

 

On the 19th of March 2012, 10 non-citizens (asylum-seekers), in order to change their living conditions, started their wet hunger strike in a tent in Würzburg, with 10 concrete demands. After 17 days, through the negotiation with a delegation from the government and after receiving false promises from the delegation, they broke their hunger strike, yet continued their strike on the street. The government didn't stay committed to their own promises, so that, only a short while later, the protest spread to more cities, in the form of protest tents.

On the 8th of September all non-citizens from the tent actions gathered in Würzburg and started the Refugee Protest March to Berlin, in two ways: one on foot, the other one by bus. After 28 days the protest arrived in Berlin, the political capital of Germany.

 

The 9 days of hunger strike of 22 non-citizens (asylum-seekers) at the Brandenburger Tor in Berlin, led to the second round of negotiations with the government. The delegation from the government, again, successfully broke the hunger strike with false promises.

 

The first non-citizen congress on the first three days of March 2013 took place in Munich, giving non-citizens (asylum-seekers) the space to share their own analysis about their asylum-seeker position in society and the struggle of asylum-seekers, with other non-citizens. One of the results of the congress was the realization that changing the situation of us, asylum-seekers, would not be possible without legal residency. Legal residency implies the right to stay, freedom of movement, the right to work and study, the right to choose one’s living place, the right to choosing the food one eats – and hence, all in all, the right to choose our own destiny.


Then the big question arose: “what is to be done for achieving a secured life and having equal rights with others?” Self-organization, the building of networks in order to meet one another was the first step. In more than 70 meetings with the participation of non-citizens (asylum-seekers) who lived in more than 200 camps in Bavaria, the Rindermarkt struggle got organized. Rindermarkt was our own answer to the question that we ourselves had raised. So on the 22
nd of June, united as one, we started our collective protest at Rindermarkt.



How did the government confront the hunger strike at Rindermarkt?

First step: using their old methods for breaking the hunger strike

The first reaction from the government came on Tuesday, the 4th day of the hunger strike and the first day of the dry hunger strike. Mrs. Haderthauer (CSU), social minister of Bavaria, publishing one press release, asked for a round table between a delegation of the Bavarian government and us, dry hunger striking non-citizens. There are some points in the press release of Mrs. Haderthauer, which reveal the general policies of the government. In this press release she states: “so far this method (the round table) could calm down the situation.”

Clearly she refers to the last two rounds of negotiation in Würzburg and Berlin, in which the government’s delegation, by giving false promises, misusing the physical weakness of the hunger striking non-citizens, and by taking advantage of the language difficulties of non-citizens, forced us to take immediate decisions during the negotiations. Without sufficient experience to deal with the political games of professional politicians who used the existing fears of hunger striking people and their concerns about their own futures, the government delegation was always able to break the hunger strike without any gain for the hunger strikers.

Thus, the government showed us clearly that, once again, its default approach is to erase the whole question instead of finding answers and solutions. After the publication of the Social Minister's press release, we started convening our own meetings to see whether we could find any reasons for joining this negotiation and if so, how and with what strategy we would approach it. Collectively, after discussing on this topic and sharing our experiences of the last two rounds of negotiations, we decided to send a messenger to the negotiation in order to deliver our statement and demand to the delegation and receive their offers. We all agreed on this solution (having a messenger) in order for us to stay away from the physical and psychological pressure of the government, and in order to be able to take decisions on probable offers of the delegation. Being committed to the idea of collectivity, subjectivity and subject-position, the messenger was not allowed to take any decisions, voice her_his personal political inputs or even act as the speaker. Of course at this level, political trust in the messenger, for being sure that s_he would be committed to these principles, was required. In a meeting on Tuesday evening in the tent, we decided collectively that Ashkan Khorasani, who is a former asylum-seeker, would participate in the negotiations as our messenger.

On Wednesday, the messenger was sent to the negotiations with a list of all dry hunger-striking non-citizens. On top of the list one sentence stated our only demand. The negotiation took place between our messenger and the government’s delegation, which was a group of 15 people from the government of Upper Bavaria, members of the 'Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge', the Social Ministry, the 'Jugendamt', the City of Munich, the Police, and the President of Upper Bavaria as moderator of the negotiation.

The delegation was ridiculing the dry hunger strike by not organizing an acceptable translation from German into English (and back) for the messenger, by contributing to an atmosphere in which it was not possible to have a dialogue, by using suppression techniques such as interrupting or shouting. In the end, by not accepting the position of our messenger, the delegation tried their best to break the hunger strike without any result for the non-citizens.

The delegation brought an offering package on the table that included: firstly, reviewing the asylum cases of all dry hunger striking people during the next two weeks, of course without any promises and, secondly, having medical support and getting "better" tents. Both of these two offers were conditional on the promise of dry hunger striking non-citizens to start the intake of water.

The messenger, during the meeting, contacted us in the tent and informed us about the package. After a short meeting in the tent, we found that this package was so far away from our demands that we passed the collective decision to continue with our dry hunger strike. In the negotiation, the moderator of the meeting, the President of Upper Bavaria Mr. Hillenbrand (CSU) said: “you people, living under non-democratic structures, don’t acknowledge our democracy here in Germany”. Mrs Meier (SPD), Social Referent of Munich said: “this meeting is not going anywhere because the messenger and the position of dry hunger striking non-citizen is too political.” (For more details about this negotiation, check the video of the press conference which, sadly, the mainstream media, violating the inviolable principle of Free Access To Information, never published a thing of it). In the end, the negotiation failed, without any positive outcome for us.

Second step: erasing the question in the political and dominant media discourse

Our resistance to the false promises of the authorities, by continuing our dry hunger strike, was a political defeat for the Bavarian government. Suddenly old and tested methods did not work out. Hence, now was the time to employ «new methods», using fake human rights slogans. Such «new methods» can be grouped as follows:

2-1. The law binds the government and our «impossible» demand

The common points voiced in interviews or press releases from authority positions was to attack the basis of our demand, alleging a contradiction between our demands and the law in Germany. The government announced several times that the demands of dry hunger striking asylum-seekers were rejected merely because they did not fit the constitution.

At first we have to say, using the law as a tool, for giving or taking away legitimacy from people's demand, is a dirty political game. Non-citizen (asylum-seeker) protests, at least in the last 17 months, targeted all of these laws that are based upon discrimination. This mentality to measure everything with the law ignores that non-citizens in the Refugee Protest March to Berlin in September 2012, had already announced in their statement: "We won’t respect the laws which do not respect our humanity"

Here it is important to mention that not having the right to work or right to education, that having 'Residenzpflicht', deportation, mandatory living in asylum-seeker camps, food packages and so on, are all based on laws in Germany. The German government even legally stole at least 90€ from each asylum-seeker per month. But let us imagine that we recognize the law and want to act under the discriminating laws which are based on profit and capital. The government is lying that having legal residency is not in the hand of the government and that legislators have to handle it. In Germany’s asylum law there are different options given to minister-presidents who, with agreement of the Ministry of Interior, can give legal residency. There are are many instances in the last 10 years where such legal residency was granted.

2-2. Medical support; one day as offer for breaking the hunger strike, the day after a law to implement

In the media, the instrument that turns the government into the ‘good one’ of this story is that the government was portrayed as not having anything else to do before the election, apart from rescuing us, dry hunger striking non-citizens (asylum-seeker)! The issue of medical support was brought on the table by the government in the first round of the negotiations as an offer to stop the dry hunger strike. When the negotiations failed, bringing up the issue of medical support helped to turn the government into a benevolent actor, and, at the same time, it was a tool to put pressure on us. The first unanswered question is that if our health and beside that, medical support for us, is important and a duty of the government, why, in the very first step, did they make it conditional for us to stop the dry hunger strike?

The second unanswered question is that if our health is the concern of the government, why does the government fail to do anything to change the situation which keeps our lives in asylum-seeker camps, forces thousands of us to commit suicide (state murder) and deport us against our will to unsafe places? Aren’t we those human beings, as non-citizens (asylum-seekers), who are just surviving under these inhuman conditions which are based on discriminating laws, while our destinies dried up in the ink of your judges’ pens? You decide where we live, you decide our range of movement; even the brand of our clothes and our food is already selected by you. Now, how dare you trying to dictate a "rescue program" to us?

Interestingly, before the government started caring about our health, on the second day of the hunger strike, we ourselves established a medical working group in which volunteering doctors participated. Maybe we can clarify our position concerning this "rescueing mission": we already proved in the last 17 months that in our struggle, for liberating ourselves and other non-citizens, we don’t need big brothers; we don't need to be pitied or be saved. Our decisions for continuing our struggle are just based on our collective knowledge and awareness.

2-3. The Government's political manoeuvres on position, personality and approach of the messenger

In some of the lines above we clarified already our decision to create the position of the messenger. There is no doubt that we had and have political trust in the messenger who we selected and we, most certainly, clarified his duties, responsibilities and positions.

At first we have to say that questioning the position as such, the messenger himself and his positions that he announced, is in total disrespect to the collective knowledge and awareness of us hunger striking non-citizens (asylum-seekers). The government and media portrayed us as weak objects that are in the hands of a monster, without any independent will so that a person is required to lead us, or that we are foolish enough to be cheated upon. These approaches do not show any respect to us as active subjects of this struggle, our political awareness which is coming from our life experiences and, in the end, it disrespect our collective decisions. Of course we do not see this approach from the government, as a mere coincidence.

This taking away of subject-position from us hunger striking non-citizens and reducing the whole protest to one person, finally erased our collective protest from the media to become a confrontation between the government and one individual person (the messenger). Now erasing the whole issue, the demand of us hunger striking non-citizens, became the easiest task for the government to accomplish.

Spreading rumors about the role of the messenger in our decision making processes, the messenger’s alleged denial to allow doctors to enter the camp, and the impossibility of communication with us due to the messenger’s approach, were all serving the government’s strategy to attack our political structure.

This time the government faced a new formation from us in the negotiation, their old methods did not work out. The formation (having a messenger) gave us the space to get distance from direct pressures of the negotiation meetings and take decisions while already being under the pressure of conducting the dry hunger strike.

Therefore, taking away the legitimacy of the messenger and applying pressure and demanding to reach us directly, were desperate tactics employed by the government. The government did not come up with new methods to break the hunger strike and thus tried to direct the situation to the level where old methods would become effective again.

2-4. The government made us understand: If you don't break your hunger strike, we will break your arms and legs.

 

If we review the newspapers from Wednesday, the 26th of June, the same day that the first negotiations failed, the interviews with authorities, rather than trying to find a solution or actually ‘rescuing us’, smelled more like tear gas and batons. Just some examples: on Thursday evening, the 27th of June, in a non-official meeting in presence of Mr. Hillenbrand, Mrs. Meier and our messenger, the police vice president of Munich, Mr. Kopp clarified that, if no cooperation from the messenger took place, the eviction of the camp, even with the use of violence, is on the table as an option. On Friday, the 28th of June, the mayor of Munich, Mr. Ude (SPD) said in an interview: “An eviction of the camp needs a legal ground, such we don’t have yet”.

After this, on Saturday, the 29th ofJune, the Minister-President of Bavaria Mr. Seehofer (CSU), the Social Minister of Bavaria Mrs. Haderthauer and the Minister of Interior Mr. Herrmann (CSU) had a meeting in Munich which they called “The Crisis meeting”. After their meeting they announced in a press conference that there were no offers for hunger striking non-citizens (asylum-seekers). From this meeting, two professional politicians, Mr. Vogel (SPD) and Mr. Glück (CSU) had been sent for the second round of negotiations. We decided to let them come inside the camp and hold a negotiation meeting with the messenger.So, the second negotiation took place and the approach of the government got worse compared to the first negotiation. In the beginning the delegation clarified that, they don’t have any political and practical power to change or offer anything. They said that they were here only because of their personal emotions and humanitarian feelings, in order to stop the dry hunger strike.

 

Once we stopped the dry hunger strike, they would only give serious advices to the government about our demand, without any promises. Our messenger left the meeting during the break and came back to the tents, passing this information on to us. During our own meeting which was brief, we couldn’t find any political relation between giving advice to the government and stopping the dry hunger strike. Generally, why didn’t their serious advice for the government, which were actually based on their personal «emotions and humanitarian feelings», reach the government until that very moment? If their serious advice is as effective and the delegation is as much humanitarian as they claim to be, why did they not make use of their “power of advice” without trying to make us end our strike? There is another video of another press conference which mainstream media didn’t publish. So we found out that it is a political game of the government and we decided to continue our dry hunger strike until we achieve our demand, which is having legal residency.

 

Sunday, at 5am, another ‘delegation’ of 300 hundred people, was sent by the government to the camp to pass the clear message from the government: We will crush you! Please find the video of the eviction here

 

Conclusion

 

Once again, the Bavarian government and above it, the German government, showed everybody that, for the moment, they can’t counteract the disadvantages of their medieval laws. They will use any tool available to eliminate the protesters. It’s a clear contradiction that 300 riot police were trying to «rescue» us by beating us nearly to death as we were on the 6th day of our dry hunger strike. All of us got beaten, forced to get to the ambulance and even imprisoned without any medical support in prison.(see how German government tried to rescue us(7)) All of us were pressured to sign false confessions against the messenger, they even offered legal residency to some of us in case of our cooperation.

 

Hereby we announce:

1- In complete physical and mental consciousness, based on our political experience, we decided to go on a collective hunger strike on the 22nd of June at the Rindermarkt of Munich. No individual, group or organization, in any part of our decision making process in our struggle, was able to force us to engage in practices contrary to our principles and procedures.

 

2- Any act of political revenge by the government, against anyone of us, will be met with an appropriate answer from us as one group.

3- Regardless of all the attempts of the government to erase the whole issue, even with recourse to inhuman methods, we, the striking non-citizens who conducted a hunger strike in Munich regard our issue as unresolved and unanswered by the government. We announce that our answer to the non-citizen (asylum-seeker) condition will be a non-citizens (asylum-seekers) collective struggle until we achieve equal rights.


4- Legal residency is the right of all non-citizens (asylum-seekers) and we are willing to make it come true (our press conference, 10 hours after the eviction of the camp(8)).

Hunger Striking Non-Citizens (asylum-seekers) from Rindermarkt-Munich