Indefinite Strike from all German State Funded Cultural Work - Wed 18 Oct 2023
In solidarity with my Palestinian siblings, and all anti-colonial struggles worldwide, I announce my individual and indefinite strike from all German state-funded cultural work in Berlin, in Germany or internationally.
My decision comes first and foremost as a response to the Berlin government's violent denial of the right of all people to protest and grieve the injustices taking place in Gaza, the criminalisation of all nonviolent solidarity actions and words (such as waving the Palestinian flag, use of Palestinian symbols, or the verbalisation of the words "Free Palestine"), the criminalisation of the free expression of students at schools, and the use of police brutality to oppress, intimidate, and silence nonviolent protests.
Furthermore, it comes as a reaction to the complicity of Berlin’s cultural institutions due to their silence in denouncing this racist discrimination.
Today, however, following the bombing of the Baptist Hospital in Gaza and the killing of over 800 civilians on Tuesday, 17 October, whilst Chancellor Scholz was shaking hands with Netanyahu declaring Germany's unwavering support for Israel, everything has become all the more obscene.
Despite having been a victim of aggressive racial profiling by Berlin police within three months of my arrival in 2019, I have long respected Berlin's and Germany's historical sensitivities in exchange for my feeling of safety and freedom of expression, for my ability to engage and connect with Berlin's invaluable local and international community, to learn and be challenged by its intellectual discourses, to unlearn and actualise as a person within this community that prides itself on its anti-patriarchal, anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, trans and queer allyship and much more.
As a British citizen and legal resident of Berlin I recognise my position of privilege in being able to take this decision. I also recognise that I have benefited financially and professionally from my engagement over the years. But as of today, I refuse to continue my participation as long as it is conditioned upon my, my neighbours' and my colleagues' subjugation and silencing during these times of ethnic-cleansing and genocidal war mongering by a settler-colonial, apartheid state and its 75-year long context.
I cannot continue to be complicit with this stark white supremacy, nor continue to be a BIPoC token for Berlin's cultural sector, nor uphold the mask of Berlin's supposed status as a free and forward-thinking international city. A mask that has fallen from the face of the capital’s cultural and political institutions this week.
On Wednesday, 11 October, a protest in support of Palestinian liberation was banned, followed by the criminalisation of the presence of the Palestinian flag and the verbalisation of the words "Free Palestine" in public spaces.
Dozens of peaceful protestors who arrived regardless were kettled and lined up for criminal processing and mugshots in open air at Hermannplatz, Neukölln.
The following day, Thursday, 12 October, an anti-colonial protest marking Indigenous Peoples Day outside the German Foreign Office in Berlin welcomed the presence of Palestinian voices alongside those from Guatemala and Aotearoa. It was violently interrupted by Berlin police multiple times, who intimidated and arrested anyone who verbalised "Free Palestine" throughout the peaceful gathering.
The same happened yet again on Sunday, 15 October, at Potsdamer Platz when a pro-Palestinian protest was authorised, only to be banned minutes before it began. Berlin police once again returned to intimidate and violently arrest participants who attended.
On Monday, 16 October, Berlin's education department granted school administrators the authority to police students, ban Palestinian symbols such as flags and keffiyeh scarves, and most importantly the authority to prohibit and confiscate students' mobile phones.
Throughout the past week Berlin police have been actively patrolling, intimidating and arresting fellow Arabic speakers in the area of Sonnenallee, Neukölln; a predominantly migrant neighbourhood in the city that is home to the biggest Palestinian diaspora in Europe.
In addition, colleagues have shared with me multiple instances of intimidation, targeted defamation and threats of withdrawal of funding for cultural projects, specifically because members of these projects expressed their support for the Palestinian people.
This criminalisation of our bodies, voices and symbols of Palestinian anti-colonial resistance, especially when it is selective and targeted towards BIPoC communities, is unacceptable.
The criminalisation of all forms of nonviolent resistance in allyship with the anti-colonial Palestinian struggle is unacceptable. The use of our names, voices, bodies, art, labour, intellect and presence to BIPoC-wash Berlin's and the German state’s cultural image while we are violently denied the space to protest and grieve is unacceptable.
Furthermore, the Berlin cultural sector's blinkered denial of the fascism taking over the European continent, the glaring white and white-adjacent supremacy that their responses to the ongoing massacre of Palestinians have unveiled, and their complicit silence towards our subjugation are all unacceptable.
The Palestinian flag, the hatta/keffiyeh and the slogan "Free Palestine" are symbols of cultural identity and nonviolent resistance to settler-colonial apartheid.
Equating them with anything else is disingenuous, morally corrupt and historically blindsided.
This city and this country cannot criminalise and mute our voices and still expect our cultural work to continue its active resonance. Mine will most definitely not.
Myself and my colleagues were already silenced, and have all participated in compromises and workarounds for years. Today we are being criminalised for nonviolent actions by Berlin's government, but tomorrow we will all collectively suffer the consequences.
Unless confronted, this crisis will lead to nothing but the emboldening and empowering of right-wing fascism, Islamophobia, Islamic extremism and more death. We saw this happen after 9/11 and the illegal invasions and destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq over 20 years ago. We cannot allow it to happen again. Just as we cannot allow the perpetuation of ethnic cleansing and genocide to continue in Palestine live in front of our eyes.
I will be willing to re-engage as soon as the Berlin government allows peaceful protests in support of Palestinian liberation, decriminalises the expression of solidarity in using Palestinian symbols and slogans, revokes the policing of students and holds the police accountable for their violent enactment of these discriminatory policies.
Berlin's cultural institutions need to rise to the challenge of confronting their hypocrisy, double standards and tokenism. They need to commit to their own racial reckoning by dismantling the white supremacy at their core and at the core of their society, governance and policing. They need to urgently stand up in the face of this political dehumanisation and call for its end.
Until then, I reiterate that I will be cancelling all my upcoming state-sponsored engagements and striking in Germany indefinitely.
I hope this will make a difference and that I will be joined in speaking and acting out by any of my fellow cultural workers in Berlin, and internationally, who can. In particular, I hope this will push Berlin's cultural institutions to reflect on their positions and act on them.
We must pressure all governments to enforce a ceasefire and immediate unhindered humanitarian aid for Gaza now!
Out of principle and under the shadows of the offensive interrogation of any forms of solidarity with Palestine, I refuse to engage or provide any justification for my position or my decision. The truth and reality of the ongoing catastrophe in Palestine is well-evidenced and in full public accessibility, just as is the violence of Berlin's police.
I reiterate my solidarity and support with and for all anti-colonial, anti-racist and anti-discrimination struggles across the world, and today specifically with my Palestinian siblings and their families who are being massacred in Gaza, terrorised and killed in the West Bank and criminalised across the diaspora.
None of us is free until we are all free. Free Palestine.
Dr. Khyam Allami