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Film Preview – Where No-One Knows Us

An astounding film about Chechen refugees in Vienna will be finally released on September 2


After a twice delayed release because of Covid-19, 2nd September will finally see the German release of one of last year’s best films. “Ein Bißchen Bleiben Wir Noch” (English title: “Where No-One Knows US”) is based on Monika Helfer’s 1994 novel “Oskar and Lilli”, but by making the kids refugees from Chechenya, Iranian -Austrian director Arash T. Riahi has added an extra degree of political urgency.

The film starts in an apartment block in Vienna. Police storm a flat to find the 9-year old Oskar and 13-year old Lilli on their own. Although their mother soon returns, the police are set to take them away anyway. So the mother slips into the bathroom where she slits her wrists while her two kids escape to the roof. They can only hide for so long, though, and while their mother is sent to a psychiatric hospital, the kids are fostered out to two different families, who live an hour away from each other. Lilli is sent to live with the lonely Rut and her deadbeat photographer boyfriend Georg. Oskar, on the other hand, finds himself with two smug vegetarian teachers, who he only ever refers to as “die Lehrerin” und “der Lehrer”.

Der Lehrer has a beard and plays a makeshift accordion at inappropriate moments. Die Lehrerin sneaks pieces of meat when she’s at the supermarket and thinks no-one’s watching. They also have a screaming child and an ageing mother with Parkinson’s disease (who, as Oskar says, “dances without music”). Oskar strikes a bond with the old woman, somehow aware that they are both trophies – there to display the liberal generosity of a couple who have no obvious interest in their thoughts or feelings.

Oskar, the eternal optimist, makes smiley faces out of everything he sees – from food to furniture. He regularly writes his mother letters, which are never answered as he doesn’t know where to send them. He believes that she’ll be waiting for them in their old flat, and when Lilli and he manage to briefly reunite, they twice try to return home. The first time, they find a blood-soaked bathroom, which the police have not got round to cleaning. The second, the locks have been changed and someone else is living there.

Lilli is not as optimistic as her brother. She develops a skin disorder and – following nightmares of being driven out of Chechenya – starts wetting the bed. Meanwhile, the photographer boyfriend thinks that Lilli is cramping his style, and makes a deal with her. He’ll try to track down her mother, so that she’ll be out of his hair.

Lilli is almost entirely sullen with one notable exception. On a ride at the Prater Gardens, she receives a message from the photographer saying that he’s found an address for her mother, As she glides through the air arms outstretched, the look on her face is one of unbridled joy. This is a rare moment of pleasure in a heartbreakingly sad film, remiscent of the final scene of Systemsprenger.

Lilli remains petrified when she sees policemen, feeling that any contact with them will result in her deportation. It’s not an unreasonable fear. And while Oskar is proud that his father is a freedom fighter, Lilli knows that he’s a political prisoner – and possibly dead – which would mean that their return to Chechenya, could be even worse than their current situation.

In a press statement, Riahi explained that

“’Ein bisschen bleiben wir noch’ is not a film about the refugees who are coming to us now, but a film about the future of their children. Children who are growing up in Europe, who master the national language better than their mother tongue, who don’t know their homeland except though stories, but cannot find any space here.”

He goes on

“because of increasingly strong laws, not everyone will be able to stay here. And so it is up to us as a society to draw attention to other possibilities of living together away from the bureaucracy, and to concentrate on the similarities between us and the so-called “foreigners” and not on what divides us.”

“Ein Bißchen bleiben wir noch” is not a film full of hope. How could an authentic film about refugees in a country that doesn’t really want them be any different? Most of the protagonists – including the mothers of both Lilli and Oskar and of Lilli’s Austrian friend – are deeply damaged by an uncaring system, and only their small children are able to offer any support.

Towards the end, Oskar tells his mother that you can buy anything nowadays, which is kind of true, but this only works if you have any money. Yet, despite the general air of hopelessness, the film does manage to show occasional moments of joy, right up to the final scene which threatens to offer us a glimmer of hope before bringing us crashing down for a final time.

Nonetheless, “Ein Bißchen bleiben wir noch” is not a miserable film. This is in part down to the remarkable performances by Leopold Pallua as Oskar and in particular Rosa Zant as Lilli. They bring us into their hopeless world and silently demand our empathy. This means that we leave the film not just appalled at the gross injustices experienced by Oskar, Lilli and many people like them, but also motivated to fight for a better and fairer world.

Where No One Knows Us will be on general release in German cinemas from 2nd September

We must all fight together – Voting rights for all

Non-Germans aren’t just victims. We’re an essential part of the fight in Berlin


Speech given at the LINKE Neukölln rally, “Unite the struggles,” 28th August 2021


My name is Phil Butland. I’m the speaker of the LINKE Berlin “Internationals” group, which tries to connect and activate non-Germans in Berlin.

Voting rights for all

When we set up our group – 7 or 8 years ago – one in ten Berliners had no German passport. Now, nearly a quarter of Berliners do not have German citizenship.

We live here, we work here, we pay taxes and rent here – we are Berliners! But we have few or no voting rights.

At the general election, only Germans are allowed to vote. At the local elections, EU citizens may vote, but not people from other countries – this means that Britons now have no voting rights here. Non-Germans also can’t vote in the referendum for fair rents, even though we all must pay high rents.

We demand “no taxation without representation.” If you pay taxes, if you pay rent, you must also be allowed to vote.

Not just victims

Many of us are in Germany because of the foreign policy of Germany and the EU. Some of us are refugees – here because of war, famine, and the climate crisis. Others are so-called “economic migrants.” German foreign policy is responsible for a youth unemployment rate of over 50 percent in some South European countries. That’s why many of us are here.

But we aren’t just victims – we are fighters. Ten years ago, we occupied the squares in Spain, we went on strike in Greece, we made the Arab Spring. Then we fought against our own governments – and we are still fighting them. If the German government attacks us, we’ll fight them too.

Unite the struggles

But we know that we can’t win on our own – we are too weak and there’s too few of us. That’s why we need you. But you need us too.

We are now in Germany, and are fighting together with our German comrades for better working conditions, for social justice, and for fair rents.

When health workers strike, non-Germans are also there. When there are protests against rent rises, we are there. When there’s a fight against racism, we’re there – often as the people who are affected. Our strength is our unity.

That’s why I’m proud to be speaking at a rally that’s called “Unite the Struggles”. We need you. You need us. We’re only strong when we’re united.

Come to Summer Camp

I don’t want to speak for too long, but before I stop, I want to make you an offer. Every year, the LINKE Internationals organise a Summer Camp on the edge of Berlin. The next one takes place next week-end.

In the Naturfreundehaus Hermsdorf, we’ll hear speakers from Western Sahara, India and Turkey, speakers from Migrantifa, the Jewish Bund, and the trade unions. And of course, we’ll hear speakers from die LINKE and Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen.

We’ll be talking together about the coming elections and referendum, and how we can bring Germans and non-Germans together. We invite you to come and talk with us, to celebrate with us, but also to join our fight.

The ruling class always tries to divide us. They say we must fight against each other. Our message is the opposite – we need each other. We must fight together.

Hasta la victoria siempre! Hoch die internationale Solidarität! 

FAQ on the Situation in Afghanistan following the Takeover by the Taliban

LINKE MP: “The dramatic images from Afghanistan make clear the failures of western interventionist policy.”


At this time, I am in contact with people who are desperately trying to flee from Afghanistan. I also am in contact with people who left Afghanistan years ago, and with people who have many questions.

Alongside the question of how we can now help people to escape Afghanistan, many are pressed by the question of what lessons should be learned from the fiasco of the War in Afghanistan. 20 years of war in Afghanistan with the participation of the German Armed Forces have not brought peace and democracy. On the contrary: the dramatic images from Afghanistan make clear the failures of western interventionist policy.

In this FAQ, which will be continuously updated, I ask questions and attempt to provide answers.

Why did the USA and the German Armed Forces intervene in Afghanistan?

The terror attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon in Washington served as the justification for the invasion of Afghanistan which began in October 2001. At the time, some argued that by toppling the Taliban, we could fight international terrorism and defend human rights. For the USA, however, it was never about that. In actuality, not a single Afghan was among the 9/11 attackers. The war against Afghanistan promised a fast victory. From the perspective of US foreign policy, a swift victory in Afghanistan would generate the necessary momentum for further goals: the war against Iraq and other so-called „rogue states,“ which the US President George W. Bush described as the „axis of evil.“ The plans for the intervention in Afghanistan had already been in the works for a long time. The goal was to establish geostrategic influence and a military base in the oil-rich Middle East and Southern-Central Asia.

Thus the German Armed Forces began the longest operation in its history. The Defence Minister of the day, Peter Struck of the Social Democratic Party, justified the operation by claiming that “the security the German Federal Republic will be defended in the Hindu Kush.” For the Red-Green Federal Government, it was also an opportunity to demonstrate German military presence and to restructure the German Armed Forces into an army capable of global deployment. The Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer of the Greens, summarised the power interests behind the operation as follows: “the decision, “Germany will not participate,” would mean a weaking of Europe and, eventually, it would mean us losing influence over the design of a multilateral politics of responsibility. This is exactly what is at stake in the coming years.”

For Germany, Afghanistan was first and foremost a testing ground for the restructuring of the German Armed Forces into a global actor. Alongside American counterparts, the German Armed Forces grew into their new duties, gained experience in combat, learned to operate drones and participated in the systematic murder of opposing combatants.

At the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn in December 2001, Hamid Karzai was selected to become the new president of the country. Afghan opposition movements were excluded from these negotiations. President Karzai established a patronage system with the involvement of competing warlords, tribal leaders, drug bosses and other powerful groups. Ever since, soaring corruption and a flourishing opium trade characterised both the government of Karzai and that of his successor. This fed the hatred of the Afghan civilian population towards the occupation. The NATO military operation ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) effectively became the military guarantor of the Karzai regime’s security. The NATO allies came to rely on the support of these warlords and corrupt politicians and marketed this arrangement as engagement for human rights and democracy.

Who are the Taliban?

The Taliban are deeply reactionary. Their victory is a new setback for the women of Afghanistan. The origin of the Taliban is deeply interwoven with the endless interventions, occupations, civil wars and corruption in Afghanistan. The Taliban are a product of the US and Pakistani interference in the Afghan-Soviet War in the 1970s, and were initially recruited from destitute religious schools among the refugee camps in Pakistan. With weapons, cash and training, they were supported by Saudi Arabia, the USA, Pakistan and Germany and trained to drive back Soviet influence in the Afghan-Soviet War. The Taliban advocated for the overcoming of tribal mentalities and conflicts among the various warlords and were therefore able to re-establish the unity of Afghanistan under their domination. The left-wing opposition in Afghanistan were, for the most part, marginalised due to their cooperation with the Soviet Union in the War against the civilian population.

The Taliban’s return to power cannot be understood aside from the devastation, which the NATO intervention brought to Afghanistan.

Doesn’t the triumph of the Taliban, and the chaos in the wake of the USA and Germany’s withdrawal, show that the withdraw was a mistake?

With the fall of Kabul, the narrative that the NATO intervention was building a democratic society modelled on western ideals, through the build-up of local security forces, has finally fallen apart. The US-backed government in Kabul was hated. This hatred towards the regime, widely seen as a corrupt puppet government, explains how the Taliban were able to capture all major cities across the country in just a few days without meeting significant resistance.

The suffering, which the 20 year occupation brought to the Afghan people, provided fertile soil for the Taliban to regain its strength.

The German Federal Government and its allies ignored all warnings that the consequences of the war would enable a resurgence of the Taliban. It was not the withdrawal of international armed forces that caused the chaos; rather, the chaos is a consequences of 20 years of war.

Wasn’t the NATO intervention also about women’s rights?

The argument that the war against the Taliban was about values and human rights is hypocritical. Monica Hauser from the women’s rights organisation Medica Mondiale has said, “you don’t need the Taliban, for men to still have deeply misogynistic ideas in their heads.” The NATO-backed government, too, has neglected the rights of women and girls.

The western occupation of Afghanistan brought an improvement of living conditions only to a small minority of women. The majority of the population never benefited from the war. On the contrary, despite massive international assistance, the societal situation is catastrophic. Since April 2020, around 80 percent of the population lives under the poverty line. According to a report from 2019, around 3.7 million children in Afghanistan do not attend school, 60 percent of whom are girls.

Women’s rights were instrumentalised by the Federal Government. The attitude towards women held by the royal family of Saudi Arabia is similar to that of the Taliban, and yet the Federal Government sells weapons to Saudi Arabia. These weapons, in turn, prolong the war in Yemen.

Afghan human rights defenders, journalists, and all those, who have fought for the rights of women, have now been abandoned as Europe shuts its borders to refugees. Human rights are indivisible, and are the first casualties of war.

We were told that it was necessary to first establish security in order for development to be possible. Isn’t that true?

The focus on the establishment of military security in Afghanistan has brought neither peace nor development. On the contrary, the so-called “civil-military cooperation” subordinated civil assistance to military goals.

The humanitarian situation and the human costs of the war are catastrophic. The IPPNW estimates that in the period from 2001 to 2013, 170,000 Afghan civilians were killed directly in the war. 59 German soldiers lost their lives, 35 of whom were killed in attacks or in combat. The involvement of the German Armed Forces has cost more than 12 billion Euros.

In 2020 alone, nearly 9,000 civilians and over 10,000 Afghan soldiers were killed. According to official statistics, at least 3.54 million people are internally displaced within Afghanistan due to the conflict, plus an additional 1.1 million persons displaced due to drought and floods. Over 2.7 million Afghan refugees are registered outside the country.

The Afghan human rights activist and politician Malalai Joya has said, “the intervention has not changed Afghanistan for the better at all. Instead, it has plunged the country deeper into suffering and tragedy.“ For years, The Left has been warning that both the West‘s support for the corrupt Afghan government and the principle of military „security“ were destined to fail and would give the Taliban renewed momentum. This is now exactly what has happened, and the price for it is being paid by the people who now try to flee.

What is the German Government trying to achieve via its mandate for military evacuations?

The German Federal Government has completely failed in the evacuation of vulnerable people from Afghanistan. Despite all warnings, they never had a realistic assessment of the situation and therefore significantly delayed the rescue operation. Bureaucratic obstacles further hindered the early departure of local employees.

For years, the German Government has failed to provide straightforward support to its local support workers and their families in Afghanistan. On the 21st of April this year, as in previous years, the members of parliament from The Left demanded the generous relocation to Germany of local Afghan support workers, and has continued to do so since. On the 22nd of June, the parliamentary faction of The Left demanded the evacuation of all local Afghan support workers. This was rejected by all other parties.

Since the 17th of August, the German Armed Forces have been flying people out of Kabul. Now the Federal Government has given the Armed Forces a mandate which explicitly allows the use of military force throughout all of Afghanistan, according to which German commando forces are to be deployed. German citizens and – pending adequate capacity – employees of international NGOs and “further designated persons” are to be evacuated.

According to the legal services of the German Foreign Office, the still-valid mandate explicitly intends the evacuation as an option for military deployment. This shows that the German Government, with the support of the Federal Parliament, intends to shift the responsibility for the disastrous evacuation onto other shoulders.

The German military has now sent special forces helicopters to Kabul. These are intended for use in rescuing people from difficult-to-reach areas. However, the deployment of German special forces poses an enormous risk of escalation.

The underlying problem is that the group of people eligible for evacuation is tightly limited. Human rights activists and at-risk Afghan civilians are not on the priority list. Many of them have waited desperately at the airport in Kabul over the last few days and have now been turned away. According to reports from people at the scene, chartered civilian airplanes, which were sent to evacuate human rights activists, have being prevented from landing by the US Army. The German Government must put immediate pressure on the USA to ensure that no aircraft are prevented from landing.

The largest group of people attempting to reach safety are internally displaced persons. The do not make it onto the evacuation lists of the US or German governments.

What should The Left demand?

There need to be fast and unbureaucratic efforts to evacuate not only the local Afghan employees of the German Armed Forces, but also the local employees of German international development organisations, human rights defenders, media representatives, and their families. Furthermore, Germany must now put pressure on the US Government, which is in negotiations with the Taliban over the evacuation.

The Left must advocate for the intake and accommodation of all persons who need or want to flee. There must be a massive investment into the UN Refugee Fund for Afghanistan. Deportations must be immediately and permanently stopped. There must be open escape routes into the neighbouring countries around Afghanistan and into, and throughout, the European Union.

What lessons do we need to learn from Afghanistan?

With the defeat of western imperialism in Afghanistan, the interventionalist policy of NATO has failed dramatically. In the German Federal Government, doubts are growing about operations such as in Afghanistan and Mali. What The Left has said all along has proven to be true: democracy, human rights and development cannot be imposed from outside with bombs. The Left must maintain pressure, both within parliament and on the streets, for an immediate stop to foreign military operations and to all weapons exports, and for open borders for all people in need.


This is a translation of a German press statement which was published on 24 August 2021. Translation: Tim Redfern. Reproduced with permission

Die Vielen

More artistic diversity! Voting rights for all!


The next federal election will take place in less than two months. And this goes on without the votes of 14 percent of all the full-aged residents in Germany. That is almost ten million votes that AGAIN will not be represented. The reason is that we do not have German citizenship.

While politicians run their election campaigns for only 86 percent of all people living in Germany, we are silenced. While parties are buying votes with their deportation policies, expatriation strategies and border security three months before the election, the political means to fight for our rights are being taken away from us. We are being systematically invisibilized.

How can we talk about democracy when almost 10 million residents of Germany are excluded from the most important political instrument of every state solely because of their nationality? How can we talk about social, economic and environmental justice when the concept of citizenship still determines our rights? How can we talk about ‘one’ future when our future is still determined by the dominant society?

We are here and we take the space: That’s why we want to invite you to walk with us on Saturday, August 28th. Bring all of your friends with you and let’s speak out for the right to self-determination and the right to have a say. We would like to particularly invite people without German citizenship to make their own speech.

One of the main organisers of the action is Die Vielen (the Many). Die Vielen was founded in Berlin in 2017 as a non-profit association with the goal of strengthening and reinforcing artistic freedom in public and diversity and to work decisively against the increasing right-wing extremism in the areas of politics and society. Since then, DIE VIELEN have dedicated themselves to working toward an open and democratic society.

Die Vielen is also planning a nationwide week of action from 12th-19th September to draw attention to the number of people living in Germany who are excluded from taking part in the Bundestag elections. Activists from the fields of art and culture have engaged in a nationwide network for artistic freedom, diverse participation and presentation in the field of art.

This is important: but at least as important is driving forward the further development of democracy in a society that is growing more diverse as nearly 10 million people in Germany are prevented from voting because they do not hold a German passport. Voting rights tied solely to citizenship exclude people who have lived in Germany for many years from political decision-making and from making decisions regarding the shaping of a shared society.

This not only weakens democracy; it also provides greater weight to some 4.5 million votes with an extreme right-wing worldview and racist, nationalistic attitudes. In light of this, DIE VIELEN are supporting the call for voting rights for all with symbolic elections, surveys, poster campaigns and artistic inventions in public space.

Press Contact for the Campaign: Elisabeth Friedrich, Artefakt Kulturkonzepte / T +49.(0)30 44010 687

News from Berlin and Germany: 28th August 2021

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany


Compiled by Ana Ferreira



Large majority of Berliners in favour of taking in Afghan local workers

According to the Senate, 192 local Afghan forces and their families had arrived in Berlin by Tuesday. The Senate is preparing for more to come, affirmed Michael Müller (SPD). Berlin is prepared both for the reception and further distribution of people arriving in the capital and for the fact that some of them will remain here at least in the medium term. According to the Senate Administration, Berlin is a distribution centre. In Brandenburg, the first local Afghans already arrived on Friday and were brought to the initial reception centre in Doberlug-Kirchhain (Elbe-Elster). Source: rbb

Admission only for vaccinated and recovered people: will 2G come to Berlin, too?

Hamburg is the first German state to introduce the so-called 2G (“genesen, geimpft”) option model from Saturday on. In Berlin, the 3G (“genesen, getestet, geimpft”) regulation has been in force since last Friday. According to the mayor Michael Müller (SPD), the 2G model for public spaces cannot be implemented once this would represent an exclusion of, among others, families with small children, who cannot yet be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Other politicians such as Ramona Pop, Regine Günther and Dirk Behrendt (Greens) are very sympathetic to the 2G regulation. Source: Berliner Zeitung

Student council seeks non-white applicants for position

A job advertisement by the student representation (RefRat) of Berlin’s Humboldt University (HU) caused a stir on Thursday. The job is about a counselling centre on racist discrimination. “We ask (…) white people to refrain from applying for this counselling centre,” the advertisement reads. The management of the HU is calling on the constituted student body to review the job advertisement. Later, the advertisement could no longer be found in the RefRat section on tenders. “We are in the process of revising the advertisement. We regret the ambiguous wording,” the RefRat stated. Source: rbb



A moral dilemma

Who to get out of Afghanistan first? Those at risk who are hiding or those who make it to the airport? There is no easy answer to this moral dilemma. It cannot be right that half-empty planes take off just because there are not enough people in the chaos who have a legitimate claim to leave. But it would also be wrong to take in those waiting at the airport, while for those waiting in hiding to be rescued, the time for help is running out. Anyway, the action of taking 823 people in an aircraft showed something else: it showed humanity. Source: taz

Last German soldiers have left Afghanistan

Two weeks after the start of the rescue mission, the Bundeswehr has completed its evacuation flights from Afghanistan. Parallel to the latest exodus of Germans, a suicide attack occurred outside the gates of Kabul airport this Thursday. Due to the attack outside the airport, a German plane intended for emergencies landed in Kabul a little later. The aircraft, which was kept on standby for possible emergencies in the airspace over Kabul, made an unscheduled landing. It also picked up two German soldiers who had remained on the ground during the chaos following the explosion outside the airport. Source: spiegel

Germany “needs 400.000 immigrants a year”

To compensate for its growing worker shortage, Germany will need to attract hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the next years. The idea of inviting skilled migration to Germany is certainly not a new one. To fill more jobs, the Skilled Workers Immigration Act was introduced in March 2020. However, it was just when the first wave of coronavirus hit Germany, with its first national lockdown. The accompanying restrictions on travel only exacerbated the problem. And the number of applications for recognition of foreign professional qualifications – fell by 3 percent in 2020. Source: iamexpat