As soon as the front door opens they surround him, hug him, pick him up and he, carried on both their shoulders and prayers, surfs his way through the building. It has been six weeks since he saw his comrades, six weeks since the Dutch government decided that his quest for safety earned him a spot among criminals. Jails ain’t shelters and ‘housing’ asylum seeking Brothers and Sisters in institutes built to lock up killers and rapists goes against every form of humanitarianism the Netherlands likes to associate with itself. Or at least it should…
I recognize him from one of the posters with the summarized stories of those who were jailed or deported. His name, El Mouthana, is frequently featured in my Brothers’ narratives about the casualties of politics and the importance of collective visibility. Both their protest songs and their silences illustrate that war is so much more than a series of hollow headlines serving Islamophobic propaganda the West likes to call ’(inter)national security/safety’. The stories have faces and his is one with character and a moustache, eyes tired of questions and a radiant smile without answers. The Brotherly Parade passes us and for a second our eyes meet. Mine are scanned by a glance that, blurred by emotions, is hunting for familiar faces. I’m sure he doesn’t see me.
(Amsterdam/ January 14, 2013)
El Mouthana is one of the 100 asylum seekers who’re staying in De Vluchtkerk, a church turned housing project in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) that provides a temporary stay for Brothers and Sisters from East and West African countries like Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Côte d’Ivoire. They can stay there until March 31st 2013. After that? Nobody knows… I truly hope some of my fellow writers (especially those based in Holland) will donate a few moments of their time and craft to the proper documentation of this horror story and to help raise the awareness it deserves.
Picture by Aja Monet