During my ethnographic cycling project around Scandinavia this summer, I met C., an Iranian political refugee who also is a documentary maker. After being jailed because of his activities in Iran, he left for Istanbul where he applied for the Refugees Immigration UN Program and he is now resident of Denmark.
I was curious to get an insider point of view about the way anti-migrant media are portraying refugees, calling them rapists, since the Refugees crisis had become a theme for political elections. I thought it was interesting to get access to the unofficial story of someone who went into the camps, in this times of political elections in Europe and US. I asked C. if he would agree with reporting our talk and having his views presented on my blog. He consented.
The way C. feels with how media and polls portray refugees as rapists was quite unexpected. Although I thought he would immediately deny this caricatural portrayal, he seemed quite okay with it. From what he’d seen in the camps, the rape problem was true. He said that men do rape girls. He reported it happened to him several times while going to the camps for visiting that girls spontaneously offer sex services in exchange for material goods, favors or protection.
C. didn’t seem to feel resentment about being called a rapist by media as he is himself a refugee. I wonder if the rapists term only applies to Syrian refugees or if there is a segmentation among categories. Then he explained, really calmly, that he understood Danish were scared about him.
Saying it frankly, the rhetoric is pure racism and C. Is tolerant, but I can’t figure out how to be comprehensive of repressive politics of representation that normalizes the criminalization of immigrants.
Of course, C. was conscious that media and politics use the pro or anti-migrants rhetorics for electoral aims but he didn’t mind, considering maybe that nothing is to be done with that, which is pretty true. I wondered what meaning to give furtherly to the action of the people that are involved into telling the stories and educating in the context of media manipulation.
The anti-migrants as well as the pro-migrants are both racists denying status to refugees and objectifying them to get voters. Encouraging stigmatization for political or commercial purposes (weapons traffic, oil and data access) have nothing to see with humanitarianism, it’s political manipulation. The blatent revisionism of dictatures or rebel groups stories that justify the killing millions of innocent souls shouldn’t lead to any kind of understanding from our mediocracies.
C. knew well about that after he was jailed for his political ideas in his country. The violence of power was a common ground on which I guess we agreed. I have been exposed to gender and racist violence while travelling for work in the UK after a man verbally physically and sexually attacked me with nationalist motives. Intelligentsia encouraged…
I have been exposed to many acts of xenofobia while travelling in Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the US or studying or working in Canada where I had to hear that scorching «Go back to your country» (I come from a multicultural family that travelled Europe so it is pretty sure I have ancestors in many countries and I always find this absurd).
Transient populations are at risk with abuse, especially women and kids. Not because they’re weaker but because sedentary populations see them as weak.
I have never been jailed but I know the feeling of being unchained or asphyxiated by abusive categorizations. I am jailed with stigma.
C. keeps hope in the belief that education might help, not me. I have ceased to believe in our models of society. Am I the only one to be staggered by the destiny of women and kids condemned to remain in captivity with the treath and reality of rape? By the degree of social acceptation that these rhetorics have contributed to reach in our societies assessing facts with dishumanized pictures and putting barriers between communities?
It is sadly a fact that political parties need voices for elections but with representations and policies that damage women’s rights as well as their physical and psychological integrity – as shown by multiple reports from Amnesty International, women’s rights watchdogs and child advocates organizations worlwide – politics consciously amplify the stigma against persons that have absolute no way to escape categorizations nor the symbolical or material access to representations while living in the camps, in order to raise benefits, gain popularity and occupy the center stage. It is unhealthy and pervert.
My white western education might have an influence on my sensitivity (I recognize that living in a dictature might leave you quite desensitized by multiple abuses) but I am also part of a target community as a woman and my experience while travelling makes me feel that members of the stigmatized communities cooperating willingly or not with dominant power contribute to the extension of the violence against women and kids.
Portraying refugees as rapists that have to be educated by moral western institutions is a colonialist rhetoric from the power and is indeed a threat for the oppressed communities fighting for their rights and freedom, trying to emancipate from the logics of domination and subjugation. I believe that the zero tolerance to human’s bodies persecution is the only answer.
This conversation with C. led me to reflect further on the responsabilities of our governments into the problems that society encounters today. Many people are actually worrying that our western politics are dominated by amorality and cynism.
Why to be critical about religious politics and not about the morality of our western policies that encourage fascism, dictatures and violence with their sophisticated apparatus causing social chaos?
Is that wiseness as C. said?
I might be an irreductible hothead but it better sounds to me like collaboration with an abusive fascist State. Foucault explains in L’Ordre du discours (1971) that education is one procedure of exclusion that pertains to a political system reproducing limits and contraints.
How to make sense from the nonsense was what I thought while listening to C.
The mind control deviances from the global power over vulnerable persons do send mixed signals. Their attemps in washing people’s brains with the threat of sending them back into their countrie or categorizing them are modern forms of censure, torture and coercion (refugees are not authorized to take part into politics…). It forces people into cooperation.
The responsability is on global leaders.
Later that day, after C. invited me to stay in his house as it was late, C. said that if we have slept in the same bed, he wouldn’t be sure he could control himself. I was kind of afraid. I came to think that the media rhetorics could in a way encourage him into bad conducts and behaviors or into making uses of such politics against my wants.
Maybe the story he told me about rape in the refugees camps wasn’t that unofficial at the end. Maybe everyone around is accepting the story of the natural sacrifice of women and kids on the autel of progress.
I should have been relieved as what C. said confirmed our premonitions but the fact that women and child’s safety is furtherly subordinated to economical growth made me feel depressed, sad and hopeless. Years have passed by and bleached my hope since my PhD years that critical issues can be resolved with the project of basically telling people how to behave.
It’s not much that I contest the freirian philosophy of critical education that still is an inspiration for my works. It’s more that, with the complicity of some media, we live in an era of unpreceding manipulation of facts, data, image and technology in the name of profit due to news acceleration and poor literacy causing desinformation.
Research and education have never been the priority of the successive governments and it is impacting knowledge. I observed how useless it is to teach our kids about media and politics if no critical policies fighting logics of domination and exclusion are implemented too, if the same model of governance is perpetuated over and, over again.
Western governments encourage dictatures in countries as Iran, Irak or Syria with elits, C. said, that have been sent to the best UK universities. They do maintain abusive powers in place causing harm to civilians.
Politics have to be made accountable prior to their actions. A revolution in the minds first. We have far too many descriptive and politically correct media telling us the official story. We need brave and courageous media asking the right questions. You don’t fight power with the same weapons that the power uses.
I found this graff in Copenhagen next to a oil station that shows that even Danes are not quite convinced either:
Society shouldn’t let its choices to be driven by the fear and the paranoïa spread around by abusive leaders.
A critical goal can hardly be reached with governmental agency or international funds. Such a goal remains a project from the oppressed communities making use of their inner knowledge.
Substantial and undetectable amounts of money come from business deals as unethical as prostitution, weapons and drugs and even from politics and media owners. They are motivated by the rush to access power and to reach political influence AT ALL COSTS rom political elites. They are causing as desperate situations as the one we saw with the death by drowning of Alan Kurdi in 2015 [edit 19/08/1026 : or the sight of a bloodied child in an ambulance in Syria]. Their politics are damaging the future of not only women, and vulnerable people but of the most wealth negatively impacted minority : kids.
The question we have to address now is if global powers and at some point amoral political leaders are deliberately encouraging social crisis in our modern democracies or politics of crime by manipulating conflictual politics.
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