Showing posts with label germany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label germany. Show all posts

Jul 8, 2016

Eine Postkarte aus Deutschland

Nothing compares to the happiness when you receive your first postcard from the country that you have love for. I have been to Germany a few times and upon every visit, I learned something new, something real and serious. I have heard stereotypes about Germans being austere in their mannerism. That may be true, not only about Germans but about a lot of people in the United States and around the world. But what I experienced and learned during the time I spent in different cities in Germany was unique. I found people who were serious in their promises, honest in speaking the their minds, forthcoming when asked for help, and beyond all that, sincere in their relationship. Germans also have stereotypes about Americans, and one of them is oberflächlich, which means superficial. It might be true to some extent, but again it could be said about any people or culture anywhere that we know nothing or know very little about them. Even that little information which is usually from TVs or the Internet can be misleading, unless we obtain firsthand experience.

Anyway, here is my first postcard from one of my great German teachers, Herr Schneider. If you read this blog post and would like to have a pen pal friend in Athens, GA, here's my address:
101 College State Rd
Apt A204
Athens, GA 30605

Jan 27, 2009

At Berlin Tegel Prison

The title may a little surprise you. You may ask yourself, what happened to Nasim that he ended up prison in Berlin. Maybe you will think that he is suspected of something because he comes from a country that provides 95% of opium to the world, and plus, there is a war going on.

I am in Kabul now, this post had to be posted already, but it was missing somewhere my computer. I was invited by the GTZ as a photographer for a photography workshop on November 7 to 14. There were six other photographers from other countries; Jodi Bieber from South Africa, Dörthe Boxberg from Germany, Stefan Erber from Germany, Elena Koktanek from Germany, Michael Tsegaye from Ethiopia, Leonel Vasquez from Colombia and two workshop leaders: Ralf Bäcker and Jörn Neumann from Germany.

Before going to the workshop in Berlin I had been in Italy where i received my freedom of expression award from Information Safety and Freedom (ISF) in Siena.
The workshop subject was “Developing security and security development” the central theme of for 2009 of the GTZ. For one day I was shooting in the main Berlin prison “Justizvollzugsanstalt Tegel”, which contains 1580 prisoners from 62 countries right now. Around 32% of them are foreigners.

It was early morning, when we arrived at the prison. The security guards at the main gate got our passports and in return a coarse card, not easy to bend, was given to us and we were demanded to not lose it, otherwise we couldn’t get out of the prison afterwards.

The doors and windows are built out of rigid steel and concrete structures, strong glasses are used for the windows and soundproofed rooms. Inside the control room are many monitors that show the area where the staff and prisoners are moving around. A burly security man suited in a dark blue suit, with written on his arm and back “Justiz” guided us around inside the prison. We were told not to photograph the prisoners or security guards, nor locks and keys. And we had to empty our pockets from money and electronic devices.

The buildings inside are surrounded by a barbed wire fence and in each corner cameras are controlling your steps. We were given two hours inside the prison, by the security guard who was with us. Me and my German colleague Elena definitely had to be clever to use our time as well as possible. Elena was excited to see the inside of the prison, me too. It was very important for me to see the prison in Berlin and to compare it to the Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul. It's a large prison in Afghanistan. I visited Pul-e-Charkhi prison and remember pretty well how horrible it was.

Now, I found myself in the biggest prison in Germany. I was looking for the meaning of Sicherheit inside the prison, in the Berlin streets, in the city with its skyscrapers and well dressed people with luxurious cars moving and people 'petting' with their best friends, which is not normal in Afghanistan and other Islamic states.

I had to find out now what Sicherheit means in this country, for the Berliners, for the people who work and earn money to live, for those who hope to have a shelter where to spend the night, for the many who survive.

This time Berlin became very interesting for me, but how to figure out its looks? I like this city, but how can I find myself if I would live there for a day? With this workshop I learned a lot, and also from the people who I met in the streets, at their work, and also the beggars who smiled at us.

The 44 years old security guard Rafael Galejew, who originally comes from Georgia, accompanied us. He works in the Justizvollzugsanstalt Tegel prison since 1994. Rafael carried a bunch of large keys. One was bigger than the others and I joked by calling it “the king key”. Yes it was a real special one, because he could open any door with it.

Entering the first building of the prison, and looking up to the walls painted yellow doesn’t give a sense of being be happy. "But for a prisoner" said Rafel, "yellow is a happy color". Doors are numbered together with their prisoner names. The stairs, door, and windows are netted with steel girders. While I tried to take pictures Rafael told me to not picture the prisoners. To have him trust me I showed my pictures to him every now and then and told him to do so as well after our tour. That made him happy and he told me he trusted me.

Time was running and we had to go to the next building, moving from the short term punishment prison to the lifelong imprisonments building. The 8 floors building contains over 300 prisoners who committed murder or similar crimes.

Another security guard joined us when we came on the fifth floor. We entered a cell of 2x3 meters wide, with a bed, tv, tape recorder, a toilet and lots of pictures of family, children, and relatives hanging on the wall of the prisoner who himself is outside and waving to us. But we can’t respond to him nor take pictures because we had been asked not to talk or get close to the prisoners.

In the entry hall of the building hangs a picture of a priest, the writings on it say that he was killed by the Nazis. Rafael commented, "The Nazis were the enemy of human kind, not only Jews."
I asked Rafael if there are any Afghans in the prison, and he told me that a couple of years ago there were a few, but now they are all released.

They have special meals for the Muslim prisoners, and however, "since 2000 the numbers of prisoners are decreasing" as Rafael described.

The reason for being in the prison and to look for the word of “Sicherheit” was because in the German concept, Sicherheit has no specific meaning. Many use it as 'security' and 'safety' which are not right translations in German.
As photographers from various backgrounds, but all coming from post-war countries, we had to find out the meaning of security in Berlin, where I don’t see police, or military convoys in the streets.

So, what does security really mean for Berliners here? But it is the question and the theme of our workshop photography.
We had to explore the city to find the meaning of security in the German context among Berliners and foreigners living in Berlin.
It was very interesting hearing the meaning of security in so different ways. For some, security is about money, or trust, love, or sex, profession, or travel, while for others it means to find shelter, to be safe.

Dec 5, 2008

Traveling to Germany

I just came back from L'Aquila, the capital of Abruzzo region. Today, there was a photo exhibition and one of my Photos was also exhibited among 50 photos from different photographers there. The association which called themselves “the Cultural Association “L’Idea di Clèves” was born and developed in the provincial reality of L’Aquila” organizes this competition every year.

This year they had two categories, prize for online competition and the one which jury had to choose among 200 pictures. The photo which was selected by the jury was a red lip and with white face and side red colored. I didn’t understand why the jury selected this picture as the winner as I found lot of great shots there. I have doubt nepotism is so strong and influenced here in Italy.

I am tired, my domain is expired and my is still not working, it was hacked before and a few days before the data moved to a new server but the DNS is not fixed I don’t know why. I wrote several times to the host and technician who is helping me but there is no positive answer. It is not complicated but now it turned to an exigent problem.

Tomorrow, I am traveling to Berlin for a workshop which is organized by GTZ, I will write more about this later.

Jul 31, 2008

Back to Kabul

I am in Kabul now. Over the last few weeks I was in Hamburg, Germany, for a Summer school on freedom and responsibilities in media. What a wonderful occasion and what wonderful people from 18 countries who I’ve met there. I miss all of them now and the only thing that remains with me are memories and pictures.

If this course was held in Kabul, it might not have been so successful and interesting. In Germany I had to learn every step, I had to learn about the people, cities and culture. I came back with lots of information and memories that I am now sharing with my friends who are coming to meet me.

One of the topics we had to work on was ‘dealing with the past’. Working with 8 people from different countries in one group on how we can deal with the past is not such an easy job. In most of the cases it is taboo to write about the past or it might not be so secure, or even dangerous. In a situation like Afghanistan it is very difficult to write about criminals and the warlords who are in power right now. But alas, in our class we never thought about the hows, and which methods we could use to write about our past. But now, I don't know what to do with these criminals who are in power and still threatening.
We only overviewed the history of Germany and the time when the Nazis committed genocide.

For several days, my heart was wounded. I couldn't imagine what happened to Jewish people there. But some times it was also very irritating when some of my colleagues were making funny pictures with the commemoration statue of a Jew who died from the severe conditions of living in one of the concentration camps. Maybe they had only eyes to look at the statue and the pictures around them. Maybe they only have eyes to look but have no heart to feel. May be most of us are like this, without doubt. Who feels our pains here? No one.

The Neuengamme concentration camp, close to Hamburg in northern Germany brings tears into your heart. You cannot believe how brutal and savagely those innocent people were killed. May be, this is an example of savageness of a period in history that reminds us to look back, to what has happened in the past. “We can not forget, but we can forgive always”, is a fine quote from Nelson Mandela.

Anyway, the workshop gave me the idea to build a group of researchers, to research about the massacre and genocide of the Hazara people of Afghanistan. In the 1880s in Afghanistan, King Amir Abul Rahman Khan committed a first Hazara genocide. Later in 2000, when the Taliban captured Mazar-e Sharif they massacred a number of 10,000 of the Hazara people, and when they captured Bamyian again they killed more than 10,000 of people. Today talking about the massacres and the civil war that took place in the 1990s has become a big taboo. If you talk about what happened during these times, you are labelled as an enemy of unity.

I hope to make a research-centre to research our past. This can also help Internationals because they can learn how many problems we had in our past. Unfortunately today, foreign politicians and those people who intend to favour Afghanistan and who are theorizing the construction of an Afghani nation-state don’t see that this will be a completely impossible mission. They have the wrong approach.