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.
C. and me came to get quite close friends in a short period of time but unless I felt lot of attraction to him, I was still having feelings for another person at that time (I was in a sort of in and out relationship with my ex). But we also had divergent views unheritated from our respective background and education.
We thus kind of develop a platonic friendship based on a mutual understanding that allowed us to find a language above our cultural difference and see each other aside of what we represent (30/09/2017).
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 approved of it. From what he’d seen in the camps, the rape problem was true. He said that men do rape girls. Girls internalize this condition. 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 nor being the target of racist acts. Then he explained, really calmly, that he understood Danish were scared about him.
Fear is often the main component of individual or collective acts of subjugation, deshumanization and objectification (Haraway, Butler, Foucault) as it produces distorted views of the reality in which strangers embodies the psychotic representations of the human minds that cannot express in normalized society. Marginalized categories of person are thus often perceived as denatured citizens : immigrants as terrorists, women as sexual subjects, …. Mainstream media and state contribute to the reproduction of these stereotypes (edit 30/09/2017).
The anti-migrants as well as the pro-migrants are both racists denying status to refugees and objectifying them to get voters.The media representation of immigrant is an empty vacuum filled with both pro and anti-migrant ideology that instrumentalizes people’s lives.
Of course, C. was conscious that media and state use the pro or anti-migrants rhetorics for electoral aims but he was resigned. He just wanted to be a film maker. He was jailed in his country for showing too much interests in politics. He wanted to start a life anew.
I guess the violence of power was a common ground. I have been exposed to gender and racist violence while travelling for work in UK and North America after I was repeadly verbally, physically and sexually attacked for what I represented. Being white and educated, I am seen as a powerful woman, which causes panic modes in response to a threat (edit 30/09/2017).
The blatent revisionism of stories is used to justify the killing of millions of innocent souls by our mediocracy. Transient populations are at risk with abuse, especially single women, mother or left alone kids.
I have never been jailed but I know the feeling of being unchained or asphyxiated by abusive categorizations and stereotypes. I am jailed with stigma as these virtual representations impact real life.
C. keeps hope in the belief that education might help, not me. I have ceased to believe in liberal frames. I am staggered by the destiny of women and kids condemned to remain in captivity with the threat 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 not the symbolical or material access to produce representations while living in the camps. 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 targeted 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.
Besides, portraying refugees as rapists that have to be educated by some 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. I believe that the zero tolerance to human’s persecution is the only answer. Saying no, over and over.
Why to be critical about religious politics and not care about the morality of our western policies that encourage fascism, dictatorship and violence with sophisticated apparatus for social chaos.
Is that wiseness as C. said?
Education is one procedure of exclusion that pertains to a political system reproducing limits and contraints (Bourdieu).
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 countries or depriving them from the vital resources they need to afford a decent living are modern forms of censure, torture and coercion (refugees are not authorized to take part into politics…). It forces people into cooperation.
The responsibility is on global leaders and state.
Later that day, after C. invited me to stay in his house as it was late, C. said that if we had to sleep in the same bed, he wouldn’t be sure he could control himself. I was kind of afraid having been myself confronted in the past with sexual violence. I came to think that the media rhetorics could in a way encourage some men into bad conducts by approving logics of domination.
Maybe the story he told me about rape in the refugees camps wasn’t that unofficial at the end. Maybe everyone around is accepting of the story as 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 and devaluation of knowledge.
Society shouldn’t let its choices to be driven by the fear and the paranoïa.
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, if the same model of governance is perpetuated over and, over again, if knowledge is being devaluated because of paranoid leaders that want to keep control over the people’s bodies (Haraway).
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. It is really likely that they might also take part into terrorism.
Politics have to be made accountable prior to actions and we need to lead the revolution in the minds. 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:
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 economical domination and to reach political influence.
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., the question to adress is not about communitarism but about power corruption.
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 out of victimization for we understand each other but being different.
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