In Fulda, Germany, a police officer shoots a young refugee fatally. Was the action justified or violent? Depends on who you ask. An article by Sebastian Kempkens, published on the 22th of...
In Fulda, Germany, a police officer shoots a young refugee fatally. Was the action justified or violent? Depends on who you ask.
An article by Sebastian Kempkens, published on the 22th of September, 2021.
Translated by @Grzmot
For the protection of the individuals involved, some details have been changed.
When everything is over, Lukas Weiler is leaning on a fence in the commercial district of Fulda and feels like everything around him is wrapped in cotton. He sees blue lights shimmer in the darkness and his colleagues run towards him, is how he later remembers the scene. Around him the streets are being locked down. In front of him lies the dead body of a young man, that he, a street police officer, just shot. A puddle of blood is spreading on the asphalt. Steam is rising from the corpse on this cool April morning.
At some point Weiler, who actually has a different name, forces himself up and walks, accompanied by two colleagues, the way back on which he pursued the young man. He crosses the intersection, where he fired the first shot. He walks past the bakery, where he drew his gun. The parking lot, where his colleague was attacked and where everything began.
Weiler sits down in a room in the police station, which is located just around the corner. A man from the team which collects evidence and traces from crime scenes shows up and swabs his fingertips, on which there is still blood of the dead. Weiler must hand in his uniform and weapon belt, he remembers. His equipment is now evidence. Then, shortly before 10 AM, two colleagues enter the room, who oversee the investigation against him, followed by the state attorney.
The state attorney said: “Mr. Weiler, you are now accused in a homicide.”
On the report the details of the case will be detailed: That it is about article 212 in criminal law – Manslaughter. Time of the crime: 4:30AM, weapon: pistol Heckler & Koch P30.
Lukas Weiler fired eleven shots at the 21 years old Matiullah Jabarkhel. An Afghan refugee, who had lived with a temporary residence permit in Fulda and had thrown rocks at a bakery. It’s the 13th of April 2018, a Friday, on which a police response which looked like a routine, ended in catastrophe.
Deadly use of force involving firearms, that sounds like an American phenomenon. But even if the numbers in Germany are low in comparison: They are rising. Between 2000 and 2014 the statistics of the German university of the police only noted a two-digit number in one year. Since 2015, it has been a double-digit number every year. In 2019 and 2020, the police have killed 15 people each year.
The statistic does not differentiate between ethnicity and age of the victims. But the cases which make the headlines sound similar.
In 2019 an officer shoots an Afghan in Stade, who allegedly attacked a colleague with a metal stick.
In June 2021 a female police office [Addendum: In German the gender of the subject is denoted with a simple word ending, I was unsure if I should retain that information or not in the translation] kills a man from Morocco in Bremen, who is holding a knife in his hand.
And in Hamburg, in May of 2021 an officer shoots a man from Lebanon, who screamed “Allahu Akbar” and was allegedly brandishing a knife.
Each one of these cases fits into a schema. Especially since the Black-Lives-Matter protests in the USA such situations – white officers against migrant – stand under suspicion to be the expression of a racist perpetrator-victim system.
Just two days after the death of Matiullah Jabarkhel dozens of people came together at the crime scene, under the motto “Justice for Matiullah” they held high pictures of Jabarkhel and demanded, that the officer be punished. The foreign advisor of the city, Abdulkerim Demir, stood in front of the demonstrating people and gave an interview, in which he said that Jabarkhel was only buy bread and that the police might have “murdered” him.
The opposing front formed just as well. The AfD and the extremist rightwing identarian movement mobilized under the motto “The police – Our friend”, in social networks numerous users wrote things like “The monkeys don’t get it any other way.”, “Everything done right.” And “Clear boundary setting by the police officer!”. A representative of the AfD for the Bundestag released a notice to the press: Chancellor Merkel ensured with her immigration policy, that these uncultured, underqualified people believe, they can do everything here.”
More then three years Matiullah Jabarkhel is now dead, more than three years – until the July of 2021 – the investigation lasted. And still one question remains unanswered: Who is guilty here? The officer, who shot? Or the Afghan, who ran riot on that morning?
For the reconstruction of the intervention on the 13th of April 2018 and the resulting investigation, the ZEIT had the ability to go through files of the police, coroner’s and forensical reports, talked to brothers of Jabarkhel and his friends. With social workers and translators. The ZEIT also met with officer Lukas Weiler for three long conversations. The officer did not want to see his real name in the news, nor the name of his colleague who was on patrol with him that day, who shall be named Regina Wundrack in this text.
A few hours after Lukas Weiler leaves the police station on that Friday of April 2018, the father of Matiullah Jabarkhel gets a call from Germany in a small village in eastern Afghanistan. On the other end is a voice he does not recognize. The father, himself a police officer, a slender man with his head half-bald, stands in the living room of the family. He begins to tremble as he listens, finally ends the call and says nothing for a long time. His wife and sons ask, what happened, but he is silent. Then, his four remaining sons tell, he begins to cry terribly.
On the second to last day of his life, it’s Thursday afternoon, Matiullah Jabarkhel enters the foreign office in Fulda, a large building near the castle garden. He is a slim young man with soft facial features, his hair shaved to a kind of mohawk, short on the sides, long on the top. He walks up to the office and complains, that his social money had not been transferred. The conflict cannot be resolved, Jabarkhel cannot be calmed down, so security notifies a man, who sits a floor higher up: The man, a retired officer, knows Jabarkhel and is able to calm him down and promises, the money will be transferred this afternoon, he could get it soon at his bank.
Jabarkhel exits the office. One of the last somewhat friendly contacts with a state, where he wanted to build a future.
Matiullah Jabarkhel grew up in a large, tight-knit family. Six brothers, three sisters, the family of eleven lived in their village near the city Dschalalabad, about 100 kilometers away from the Pakistani border. When the brothers tell of this time, it sounds like a childhood where war comes and goes, but where also a lot os good. Matiullah plays Cricket, he teases his brothers during prayers and he has big plans. He wants to become a police officer like his father. But after one brother dies in the Afghan Army during combat with the Taliban and the family received threats, the father decided: Matiullah will go to Europe.
Converted, about 10,000 EUR credit the family takes up on itself for this. Matiullah, according to their hopes, will repay the money soon and can support the family financially.
Iran, Balkan route, traffickers. In October 2015 Jabarkhel, 18 years old, arrives in Gießen. The euphoria of the welcome culture is already slowly fading, but in retrospect it looks like he had a good start. He is moved to Fulda and gets lodgings in a refugee center. There is little space and it’s dirty, says his best friend, who he met there, but Jabarkhel finds himself in these new circumstances, learns a few pieces of German. After a few months, he can move to a better lodging. He was intelligent, says everyone who dealt with him. On photos he poses in front of a Christmas tree.
On the phone he tells his family with excitement of Germany’s pine forests and the luxury of selecting between countless brands of chocolate at the grocery store. A social worker remembers that he often wears the same T-Shirt, on his breast the words “I Germany”.
Jabarkhel attends an integration class and learns decent Germany. Like in Afghanistan he plays Cricket in Germany too, apparently, he even travels the country, there is a photo showing him at the Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin. He wears a white shirt and is holding a cricket bat in his hand. With the other he forms the victory symbol.
In that time, a social worker describes his behavior as unremarkable, not warranting further attention. Nothing points towards the looming conflict with the police.
The office of the attorney Pascal Johann is in a practical building in Frankfurt. Here, at the end of a long corridor, in a conference room, in front of grey curtains, waits Lukas Weiler.
It is not common, that an accused police officer agrees to an interview with a journalist after a that hotly debated, conflicting intervention. He decided after thinking about it for a short time. He wants to correct something.
At the meeting with Weiler you meet a man, who strangely enough appears both younger and older, than he really is. Weiler is 39 years old, but he could also be at the end of his 20s. He wears a T-Shirt, worn skater shoes, a fuzzy beard, around his wrist several old entry bands for rock festivals. When he begins to talk, he appears significantly older, than he is, that’s how bureaucratic and complex his words sometimes are. He tries hard to make himself as unattackable as possible.
Weiler is a police officer more by chance than anything else. A friend dragged him to the entry exam. In his sixteen years of service, he worked undercover in the trainyard district in Frankfurt and as a group leader at the police. He showed young officers the ropes, but his favourite activity on the job was driving on patrol. He doesn’t like offices. He loves being outside, “Help the weak and step on the toes of the evil”, is how he calls it.
Matiullah Jabarkhel has been in Germany for about a year, when the problems start. Like during an EKG of a stressed heart, one can notice stronger eruptions every time they happen. At the start, he has has difficulties organizing his day to day tasks, then, he the paid out money isn’t enough anymore. A woman who lived in the same building says that the refugees talked about him a lot: “One man told me, that Matiullah told him multiple times, that he was hungry and if he could give him bread.”
“Please make sure, that the boy stays in Germany”
Jabarkhel, who always told his best friend that he wanted to become a doctor in Germany, soon only sporadically attends class, the school throws him out due to missing too many classes. His social worker organizes him an apprenticeship instead, but he gets thrown out there too. He takes the train without a ticket and gets letters full of complicated words like reminder and debt collection.
Apparently Matiullah Jabarkhel becomes more and more desperate. He talks about suicide, and apparently attempts one too. Then, in March 2017, the federal office for migration and refugees denies his request for asylum. Through an attorney he fights the decision, from now on he lives in Germany only with a temporary residence permit, which has to be renewed every few months.
A short time later Jabarkhel is institutionalized in a psychiatry and receives stationary care: “Crisis intervention due to acute stress reaction, cannabis intoxication with addiction”, the doctors note. Jabarkhel doesn’t make it long, after just three days he releases himself, “because of urgent personal wishes and against professional medical advice”.
In November 2017, five months before his death, Jabarkhel receives a letter, that for him, must sound like the last friendly offer from a state that wants him gone. In the letter the federal office for foreigners advises a so called “voluntary journey back in his home country.” Germany does not send denied refugees back to Afghanistan, but voluntary trips back home are being organized.
Jabarkhel reacts with violence. In December, he hits his best friend, with whom he shares a room, with his fist in his face: Brainn trauma, bruising of the cheekbone, police intervention. Shortly after he hits another refugee without any known reason at a bus stop, splitting his lip. On the Christmas eve 2017 he threatens three people living in his home with a knife with a 20cm long blade, because they supposedly do not want to share their food with him. In March of 2018, a month before his death, he threatens a young Iranian woman and shatters her broom.
The witness statements by his housemates in the investigation after his death sound like a mix of fear and empathy: On one hand the young man terrorizes the whole home, on the other many feel sorry for him. Jabarkhel’s life in Germany, which started out so promising, is completely out of control after one and a half years.
On the evening before his death an acquaintance spots him at the Fuldau train station, where the pedestrian passage goes into the building. He sits there a lot with other refugees. They talk, joke, kick around empty beer cans and whistle after girls. And not seldomly, the acquaintance says, “they eat glass”, meaning they take drugs – Ecstasy.
Who had to cross the group on the way to the store or to work, probably often was annoyed by the group of young men. In a lot of German downtowns you can find them, hanging out in groups. They come from Syria, Somalia, Irak or Afghanistan. Sometimes they look sympathetic, sometimes threatening. In their home country they are thought to be the lucky ones that made it, but often enough they are broken people – with differing life stories that all go towards the same end: endless waiting, solitude and lack of perspective. And the feeling of being stranded between worlds, maybe even lost.
A doctor at one point diagnosed the Uprooted-syndrome in Jabarkhel, which is also called the Odysseus syndrome: A type of collective diagonisis of psychical ailments of refugees, which during their odyssey across the continents have lost everything that made up their world – Friends, family, home, their moral system, the inner compass.
At some point Jabarkhel couldn’t hold it together anymore. At a school conference, the topic being his missing classes, he called his father. A present translator said that he begged his father to be allowed to return to Afghanistan. The father had said: “Please make sure that the boy stays in Germany. We have sold everything, we have nothing left, we cannot use him here.”
Jabarkhel, the translator remembers, cried afterwards, “like a small child”.
Often now, Jabarkhel sits alone in the refugee home and talks to himself about nonsensical things. At night he is rarely home, always out for a long time, can’t sleep anymore, wakes up with headaches, he tells a doctor. Sometimes he punches and kicks the air, as if he was fighting an invisible enemy. At one point during a meeting with his social worker he stands in front of the office and says, “I am Hitler.” Multiple times.
The man responsible for the refugee home does his best to guide Jabarkhel back to the right path. But he is still responsible for sixty other refugees as well. A lot of other people dealing with Jabarkhel says the same: they want to help, but they have too little time.
Eight days before his death, 5th of April 2018, Jabarkhel makes a fundamental choice, which shocks the other refugees in the home: he signs the agreement for the voluntary journey back home, against the will of his father. By signing, he agrees to drop the complaint against his denied request for asylum. As if he had given up.
“The guy just wanted to destroy me”
Lukas Weiler’s night shift on the 13th of April is almost at its end, when he and his partner Regina Wundrack decide at about 4 AM to go out and control traffic and parked cars. Drivers, who were already getting to work will later tell investigators of a young man in a muscle shirt and Army pants: One window car he hits with his fist, in front of another he jumps directly into the street. It is Matiullah Jabarkhel.
The refugee home, in which proximity everything happens, is located in Münsterfeld, a former military outpost. Once upon a time, the Americans were stationed here. Today, there are a few apartments, otherwise mostly closed off commercial company grounds and offices.
Jabarkhel lives in room B39, on photos it looks abandoned. Ten square meters, metal lockers, a dirty refrigerator, cigarette butts on the window rest. At night, the neighbour heard, how Jabarkhel was hitting his head against the wall. “It happened so often, that after some time I recognized the sound”, he said later as a witness. But this time it sounded louder and more desperate. At approximately 4 AM in the morning he hears Jabarkhel run down the metal stairs, sees how he wanders in front of the building, yelling in German: “Fuck Germany, fuck the street, fuck this county!”
At 4:21 AM an emergency call is received at the police, originating from the bakery opposite of the refugee home. On the phone is the saleswoman, who wants to prepare the store for the first customers: “Here is someone, who is throwing rocks at the window.” In the background you can hear loud banging noises, is how it is written in the investigation files. “Fuck, shit, psychopath!” the woman yells.
Two minutes later the woman calls again. “A refugee or whatever” is still throwing with rocks, the delivery driver was hit on the head, she needs a doctor.
It only takes a few minutes until a police car enters the roundabout at the bakery. Not Lukas Weiler and Regina Wundrack are the first ones to arrive, but three colleagues: Driving and at the backseat two women, and riding shotgun one man.
The man will later say: “A male person” from the direction of the bakery had crossed the street: “My first thought was, that that might be the person that threw the rocks. But he was running pretty normally across the street.” Then the man suddenly attacked.
With a big rock, that he apparently picked up from the street, Jabarkhel breaks the side window of the car, opens the door and starts attacking the officer wildly with the rock. His colleague behind the wheel does not know how to help herself and hits the gas, dragging Jabarkhel about 200 meters while he wildly hits everything around himself. Then he falls to the ground, gets up and runs away. On a video that the ZEIT has seen you can see silhouettes, probably the male officer and behind him his two colleagues, following Jabarkhel to an unlit parking lot.
What happens later, will cause a lot of discussion. Three police officers, equipped, against a young man, who isn’t very tall at 1.70 meters nor very muscular – The result should be obvious.
The three officers from the first car however, are not federal police officers, but so called “Wachpolizisten” (watch police officers). Such officers have a shorter time of education and are mostly used for things like transporting prisoners or guarding objects. On this morning, the three have a task which they cannot handle.
It only takes a couple of seconds, until Jabarkhel has overwhelmed the male officer, apparently he takes away his baton and assaults the man lying on the floor heavily, his two colleagues unable to help.
Jabarkhel appeared like a “wild animal” one of the two will later say. She was afraid that her colleague would “lie dead under him”. The colleague himself say: “This guy just wanted to destroy me with an intensity that I have never witnessed in my life.” He describes Jabarkhel like a zombie: “massive, aggressive, dead eyes, unable to feel pain.”
Most likely there will always be doubts about the story. A coroner will later find cannabis in in a toxicological exam. But that does not explain the behavior. It reminds more of “the influence of certain psychoactive substances”, writes the coroner. But his laboratory cannot check the corpse for such drugs, a sample would have to be sent to a specialized laboratory. Which the state attorney never requested.
A few seconds after the male officer falls to the ground, Lukas Weiler and his patrol colleague Regina Wundrack arrive at the parking lot, running. The request for help reached them, while they were checking a car. Weiler immediately realizes, that the situation is serious. He jumps over a hedge, which is why he arrives a few seconds before his colleague Wundrack at Jabarkhel.
Was his behaviour a “suicide by cop”?
He hits Jabarkhel with his baton on his upper arm, he remembers. Jabarkhel immediately stopped assaulting his colleague and turned towards Weiler. Weiler moved back and tripped, losing his baton. Jabarkhel runs past Weiler, away from the parking lot, some stairs down towards the street. Weiler pursues.
Near the bakery, Jabarkhel stops. Weiler says, he hit Jabarkhel with a load of pepper spray straight into his face. From behind his colleague Wundrack sees, how Jabarkhel shudders, wipes his face with his hand and continues running. Later it will come out, that the pepper spray was most likely defective.
He ordered Jabarkhel to stop and drop the baton, says Weiler. But he didn’t react, instead kept on running.
Weiler pulls his gun and keeps up the pursuit.
In Hessian law about public security it’s clearly stated, when police officers are allowed to use their firearms: They can “only be used against persons to stop an immediate danger either against body or life.”
Was Weiler in immediate danger?
Jabarkhel and Weiler ran for about 100 meters when the officer overtake the Afghan. He wants to arrest him together with his colleague Regina Wundrack, but she is too far away. She can only see, that the two are facing each other, Jabarkhel with his back towards her. A person living nearby later would state as a witness that he heard someone yell “Stop moving, stop moving or I will shoot!”
When he yelled that, says Weiler, Jabarkhel looked at him.
What happens then, to this day cannot be determined without any doubts. Weiler and Jabarkhel are about two to three meters apart. Weiler says, Jabarkhel fixated his eyes on him, and then ran towards him. He, Weiler, moved back and shot at the legs of the attacker. Regina Wundrack, who was standing a few meters behind Jabarkhel, describes however, that there was no movement of the Afghan towards Weiler, when he started shooting. Another witness could only approximately see what happened and remembers “lightning” in the darkness, the muzzle fire of the shots.
Did Weiler shoot to soon?
The state attorney will later say, that “on the first impression” shooting “could be determined as not needed”, because Jabarkhel and Weiler were static. On the other hand, the attorney says, Jabarkhel was “without a doubt” still holding the baton, and it is unclear, “if his manner, words or behavior indicated another looming attack of the killed.” Factoring in Jabarkhel’s previous behavior, it cannot be assumed, that he was thinking about “capitulation”.
Thomas Feltes has researched cases like the one from Fulda for years, cases, in which often young men against all rationality and a stronger power on the side of the police, riot and risk the lives of the officers – and their own. Feltes works as a police researcher at the Ruhr university Bochum. The case Jabarkhel, he says, fits a trend: About three quarters of those shot and killed by the police are mentally ill.
For this task, Feltes says, officers are not well prepared. He recommends, that the officers retreat to deescalate the situation and play for time, for example until the civil reinforcement can arrive, like the psychological service. In most cases however, they do the opposite, and attempt to resolve the situation with force. Especially when it comes to the mentally ill, it can lead to catastrophe. The larger the built up pressure, the larger the sense of danger of the mentally ill – and the fiercer their resistance.
But Feltes also says, that the concrete situation is hard to estimate in this case. Who can say, if Weiler had another choice? Wnad what would have happened if he let Jabarkhel run? Would he have attacked someone else?
That Jabarkhel might have been mentally ill, will also play a role in the investigation of the federal police. The officers will introduce a “suicide by cop” theory. Most of the studies on the topic come from the USA. According to it, Jabarkhel provoked until a police officer would shoot him.
In Germany, only few researches have investigated the topic of suicide by cop. One of them is Dietmar Heubrock. The law psychologist from Bremen has written a guide for officers, that if you read it, you have to think of Matiullah Jabarkhel. Heubrock says, the provoked self killing often was “a spontaneous decision”. A lot of perpetrators are under the influence of drugs and were mentally ill. The need to force the decision of suicide on someone else, often has cultural reasons – in Arabian cultures suicides are a grave sin.
And still: it only is a theory. Under experts, a controversial one. It could be used to justify the behavior of the police in retrospect, because he didn’t want it any other way.
“I would have done the same with any other violent perpetrator”
On that morning in Fulda, Weiler apparently shoots three times. They miss. Then his gun fails to load, later an unfired bullet will be found on the street. According to Weiler Jabarkhel charges Weiler, as soon as he realizes that he cannot shoot, and starts beating him with the baton.
For a few seconds, Weiler and Jabarkhel are out of the view for his colleague. Weiler says, he was running backwards up the slight hill, trying to solve his failure to load and stop the bleeding Jabarkhel.
A person living close by, who was watching from his terrace, recalls Weiler’s calls: “Stop, stop”. But Jabarkhel was “still charging him, aggressively, he didn’t stop, nothing”, says the man later during a reconstruction of the scene. Regina Wundrack too sees them both again, and she too sees how Jabarkhel is charging her colleague with the baton.
Then Weiler fixes his failure to load, ejecting the unfired bullet. And fires from a short distance, until he has an effect, just how he learned it: He fires until Jabarkhel stumbles backwards and falls to the ground. At the end, Weiler goes to his knees too. “Shit, I shot a person”, he says, his colleague hears as she comes running. Weiler himself, cannot remember anymore.
In his report the coroner will later list all shot wounds: Neck, rib, right upper thigh, between the shoulder blades. In total, eleven shots were fired, four hit Jabarkhel, from a maximum distance of 2.5 meters. The entry wounds fit into Weiler’s testimony; the coroner writes.
At 4:49 AM the female emergency doctor determines Matiullah Jabarkhels death. Cause of death: Bleeding out due to shot wounds with disconnection to vital organs.
In the conversations at the law firm in Frankfurt, Weiler appears distanced and analytical, when talks about the details. He is surprised how you function in such a situation. Again and again he says, he worked through the escalation protocol: Baton, pepper spray, threat of shooting, shooting the legs, final shots at torso. In the end, he had no other choice. “If I didn’t act the way I did, I would’ve been lying on the street, and maybe someone else too.”
There are other theories on why officers shoot migrants. They too, come from the USA, but in contrast to suicide by cop they don’t focus on the mental state of the victim, but of the shooter. Studies regarding the so called shooter bias imply: police officers in a dangerous situation tend to shoot someone with darker skin – because there is a deep connection in their brains that is being accessed. Black equals dangerous. Arabian equals dangerous.
You can absolutely ask yourself if Lukas Weiler would’ve shot eleven times in the same situation if the perpetrator was white an German. But at the same time, police researcher Thomas Feltes warns the same way he did before, to explain a situation like Fulda with a singular cause – too complicated is the situation to be explained by something like shooter bias.
If you ask the Fulda police president Günther Voß for Weiler’s track record, he describes him as a very good colleague. No wrong behavior on his track record, in conversations the officer doesn’t say anything, which could even generously be understood as racist. He seems reflective, provocative questions he answers smartly and attempting to calm the conversation. During the investigation of the ZEIT, we receive a screenshot from an anonymous sender, showing the Facebook page of Weiler, under a slightly different name. You can see, what groups he has subscribed to. A Biergarden [Addendum: Imagine Oktoberfest, but way smaller, usually local annual celebration of something with the excuse to consume beer], a DIY workshop for children.
Under that, a red logo with the words “Protect home country – Stop asylum fraud!”, the title of the page: “No more asylum homes in Germany”, next to it another site, that Weiler has subscribed to: “AfD party in the German Bundestag”
Weiler reacts shocked, if you confront him with that screenshot. He confirms, that it is his profile. That he subscribed to those groups, he was not aware of that. He is almost never on Facebook, he does not support a political stance like that. Maybe he added the sites on accident, when he read comments related to the case. “I would’ve done the same with every different perpetrator as well – the skin colour was and is not a factor for me at all.”
One week after his death Matiullah Jabarkhel’s coffin lands in Kabul. The two older brothers pick him up and drive him home in a rented ambulance. When the family opens the body bag and sees the wounds all over his body, the mother faints. When the coffin is moved to the graveyard two hours later, she feverishly holds on to it, the brothers say.
Hundreds show up for the burial. The parents almost collapse there, also because some guests say: You shouldn’t have sent him to Europe, he’d still be alive then.
Every side sees itself as the victim and everyone else as the perpetrator
A short time later the father dies, aged 55, heartattack. His wife is brought to the hospital as well two days later, with high blood pressure and vertigo. Two weeks later she dies too, stroke. That’s how the brothers of Matiullah Jabarkhel describe it. The parents, they say, couldn’t handle the death of their son.
In Fulda photos soon begin to circulate, that apparently were taken in Afghanistan: the in white cloth wrapped face of Jabarkhel, his skin dotted with blue spots.
Lukas Weiler is driving in his car at that time, passing a protest banner. At one of the main roads he read in big letters: “What happened to Matiullah?” He asked himself at that time, why no one cared, what happened to the officer, says Weiler.
About a year passes, the state attorney stops the investigation, result: No credible belief in a crime. “For an alternative series of events of the final shooting, partly how the public calls it, an “execution” of Jabarkhel, there is simply not enough proof.” Writes the state attorney.
It doesn’t lead to the calming of the conflict. Not it only really begins. Exactly one year after Jabarkhe’s death in April 2019, people once again demonstrate, one of them would later be indicted. Another one supposedly yelled: “Cops murder, the state deports, what a bunch of racists!” another one held a protest sign high: Who do you call when cops murder?
If you talk with people from the left who attended the protests, then you often get counter questions for your questions. If you didn’t see what happened in Hanau? Or in Halle? If you’ve heard of the NSU 2.0? In chat groups, where police officers apparently exchanged racist messages, colleagues of Lukas Weiler were in them as well.
Two activists from Frankfurt publicize a blog post, title: “Police kills refugee, demonstrators demand resolution and are defamed”, they write, Jabarkhel had been killed with 11 shots. The police office accuses the two activists of libel. Reason: It was eleven shots, of which only four hit. But only people who know the investigation file know that.
And so the fronts harden. The leftists complain about racism and police violence, without considering in detail, the actions of the police officer. And the Fulda police searches the home of a journalist, because people shared the blog post in his Facebook group. Which causes the leftists to think that they were right.
On one side the apparently white, strong state. On the other the weak refugee and his supporters. Every side sees itself as the victim and the other as the perpetrator. And every side can call upon a theory that supports them. Here the suicide by cop hypothesis, there the shooter bias.
While the storm rages outside, Lukas Weiler attempts to understand his feelings. To get away from it all, he goes patrolling. For the left a scandal – How can it be, that an accused is still on the job? For Weiler, the day to day becomes more and more difficult, both at work and at home. He talks with a police doctor and a psychiatrist, “Work accident support” is written in the document handed to him by the relevant authority, in bold letters the diagnosis: “post traumatic stress disorder” and “problems dealing with depressive symptoms and symptoms of bitterness”.
At least the investigation is behind him. But then in 2019, the video appears, which shows his colleagues following Jabarkhel to the parking lot. A group of young adults filmed the video and only now informed the police. The state attorney reopens the case, asks the new witnesses, it’s apparent, how complicated the case is, how difficult a final verdict will be.
In July of 2019 the investigation is closed again. The German attorney of the family Jabarkhel appeals. The investigation is re-reopened. And finally closed for good. There will not be a case.
The brothers of Matiullah Jabarkhel say, they don’t understand how the officers got away with it. If you talk to them through a video call, they cry a lot, and hold each other in their arms, interrupt the interview again and again.
Lukas Weiler says, he has the feeling of being publicly shamed, even though he was only doing his job. He has decided to stop doing patrols. He, that always wanted anything but a job behind a desk, requested to be retrained to an emergence call responder, where he would sit at a desk, in front of him a phone, and take emergency calls.
Cooperation: Amdadullah Hamdard
Behind the story: To contact the family of the dead Matiullah Jabarkhel in rural Afghanistan, the author of the story talked to Amdadullah Hamdard, a local employee of the ZEIT. He visited the family in May 2021. It was his final mission for the ZEIT. In August Amdadullah Hamdard, who was on the death list of the Taliban, was shot in front of his house.9 votes
Hey everyone! Last time I translated an article, it generated all sorts of interesting discussion. so I thought I'd do it again and I think I found an interesting one that gives plenty of good...
Hey everyone! Last time I translated an article, it generated all sorts of interesting discussion. so I thought I'd do it again and I think I found an interesting one that gives plenty of good ground for discussion.
Your fellow citizen, the oppressor
A new ideology is spreading in Germany. It divides society artificially in hostile camps. This madness must be stopped.
An essay by Jochen Bittner
Published 2021-03-10, 16:54, edited 2021-03-11, 10:27, DIE ZEIT № 11/2021, 2021-03-11.
They are two seemingly completely divorced events, but they are part of one and the same questionable ideological trend, which is currently spreading at universities, editorials and party headquarters.
In the summer of 2018, a black student at the college of Massachusetts accuses a janitor of racist intimidation. The janitor had asked her, what she was doing there. “Everything I did, was being black.” Said the student. That was enough to question not just her existence at the college, but her entire existence. Outrage broke out at the elite women’s university (yearly fee 78,000 USD). The university president apologized profusely, accused the janitor of racism and suspended him. Only now, a few days ago, the New York Times continued the story: After an investigation by a law firm ended, their report concluded that the space the student was occupying had been reserved and closed off for an event. That is what the janitor was referring to. Signs of racist behaviour were not found.
The second event was a shitstorm centred around the pop radio station Bayern 3 [Bavaria 3] in the last week of February. A moderator known for his polemics had talked himself into a rage including insults about a South Korean boy group; in the end he equated said boy group with a virus, for which we would hopefully soon find a vaccine. In a couple of hours, a global quake of protests arose under the hashtag #BR3Racist, and it did not take long for Bayern 3 to publicly apologize with the words “If a statement is deemed inflammatory and racist by many people, then that statement is.”
300 years of enlightenment, and only the feelings of many angry people are enough to count as truth? So, we burned the witches in medieval times rightly?
Fact is, that what comes out in such events is the result of a powerful academic movement that has found entry in all humanities, social sciences including law. It is a kind of thinking, where categories like skin colour, gender and other bodily characteristics do not play a vanishing, but a very important role, with more weight placed into it every day. Not what someone says, but if they are an “old white man” or a “privileged cis-woman” – cis means shortened: not transsexual1 – says, is significant. And less the intent of the speaker is relevant than the impression of said words. That leads to a form of “Social Justice” where not individual circumstances are important, but alone the perspective of the real or fictive victim. If that sounds dangerous, then because it is.
The origin of this cultural step back is the combination of two models of explaining the world: the “Critical Theory” and “Intersectionality”. Both cannot be avoided in todays university seminars. Who wants to understand the swelling culture fight climate, which is also spreading in Germany, must learn to understand.
Looked at each in isolation, both models of Intersectionality and Critical Theory are useful. The term Intersectionality comes from the American law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. She found an important flaw in anti-discriminatory law in 1989. The car manufacturer General Motors had, in the 1970s, let go a wave of black women because they were part of the employees, who had only been hired recently. The women sued, without success. According to the court, the women were not discriminated as women, because there were still women in the offices of the company, who had not been let go. They had also not been discriminated as black people, because the company employed them in its factories. What the judges were not keeping in mind: black women only recently began to be hired in offices by GM – which was the reason why they were let go first.
The plaintiffs had been exposed to a special form of injustice, their characteristic as women and as black people. Crenshaw compared this to an intersection on which the women were standing and had subsequently been caught in two streams of discriminations at once.
Are injustices nothing else but products of structures?
The answer of classical liberalism to this question would be: Here there were two instances, where the universal right to equality of the individual were violated. It was racist that GM did not hire black women for so long. And it was sexist, that the women were only employed in offices. Every reasonable person must recognize this and want to remove these circumstances.
A different answer comes from Critical Theory, or better, the 21st century reprint of it. According to it, society is full of power structures, which are permanently connected to group characteristics like skin colour, gender and sexual orientation. Depending on which characteristics people fulfil, they belong into a “privileged” group or a “oppressed” group. Men oppress women. White people oppress black people. Heterosexuals oppress homosexuals. Cis people oppress trans people. Fully abled people oppress disabled people. If there are injustices between two such groups, they are nothing but the product of these structures. Herbert Marcuse, a member of the Frankfurt school, claimed in the 1960s that because of these power inequalities people that supported these structures (according to Marcuse; the political right) should not be able to talk with the same tolerance as oppressed groups.
In the times of the student revolts postmodernism of the French philosopher Michel Foucault became more popular. Many of his followers understood it that way that there was no objective reality, but that the perception of truth depended on the particular position of power in society. Colonialism and relationship of the genders were examples how power influenced knowledge. Systems are still oppressive, even if the individuals are not aware of oppressive behaviour.
Again liberalism, optimistic to clarify would answer: Correct, as colonialism was based on the thought of superiority of white people against “inferior races”, and the discrimination of women results from the patriarchal misfire that different bodies should result in different social values. But haven’t the western, free societies on the last seven decades not detected theses chauvinisms and have made leaps forward? Racism remains a dangerous problem, but it is socially and juristically despised, women are by law made equal and are partially even supported by quotas. Gay people become heads of state and public officials, and the right to asylum grants oppressed people from the global south protection. Of course, there is more to be done, the liberal society is never finished, but the direction is right.
Sadly no, says Critical Theory in its newest reprint. Liberalism is not the solution, but part of the problem. It does not recognize the problems in the system, because it itself is an intellectual product of white men, therefore, a power structure. In her in the USA very successful book Critical Race Theory (2012) the lawyer couple Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic write, that liberalism does not offer the correct frame to solve problems of racism: “Different from traditional civil rights conversation, that (…) focus on step-by-step advancements, Critical Race Theory questions the fundaments of the liberal order itself, including the equality theory, the judicial arguments, the enlightened rationalism and the neutral principal of constitutional law.” You have to read that sentence aloud to yourself sometimes.
An in America also recognized author is Robin DiAngelo, who landed a New York Times bestseller with White Fragility – Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism in 2018. The book states that “Individualism” is an “Ideology” and white people had to, to reflect on omnipresent racism, always look at themselves as part of their race. DiAngelo also offers “Antiracism” trainings. In one of them for the employees of Coca-Cola, she demands to appear “less white” which also meant: “Be less oppressive, arrogant and ignorant.” Sounds racist? It is of course, except if one thinks such generalizations are legitimate to remove “White supremacy”.
Exactly here the political poison lies dormant, a concoction of Critical Theory and Intersectionality. It lets society appear as layers of opposing hostile groups – and every injustice is a consequence of those structures. That is the hot core of so-called identity politics. That is why it suddenly is a problem, if a white Dutch woman translates the book of the black US poet Amanda Gorman, even though when Gorman herself thinks that the translator is a good choice. That is why the peak officials of the SPD2 are “extremely ashamed”, when Wolfgang Thierse (a not that young white man) warns, that identity debates could lead to new trench warfare which destroys the public spirit.
Skin colour, age, gender, are the basis of the presumption of guilt – from too little sensibility to racism. The clou, with which this kind of thinking is made waterproof is the mentioned idea of white fragility. It says: If white people fight the accusation of being racist, they are simply denying the reality of racism – and thus keeping it alive.
These already dividing teachings are often directly applied from the USA to Germany, despite the historic, economic and institutional differences. They are taught in seminars, spread in books and shared in editorials. The Critical Race Theory, writes lawyer Cengiz Barskanmaz on the online platform Verfassungsblog [Constitutional blog], can be used to “propagate a racially aware perspective for the German law”. “The interest of law students in Critical Race Theory is definitely high, with rising tendencies.”
Black people can be missing the right racial awareness, mind you. The German-British sociologist Natasha A. Kelly said in a recent discussion round about a black man from Kiel, who called his restaurant “To the Mohr’s head”3 simply hadn’t been through his “political awareness process” yet. The name of the restaurant remains racist, independent of the viewpoint of the man who named it, because: “It is not an individual thing, that you or me can influence, it’s something in the structures.”
The structures. They are everywhere, and they are more powerful than the individual and their arguments. It is a to political theory heightened deeply pessimistic, even in parts paranoid, world view. Of course, racism exists, and it makes murderers out of people. After the NSU terrorism, the murders of Hanau and the success of the AfD4 at the voting booth it is only understandable that the fear of the (luckily growing louder) migrant community in Germany is increasing. But who thinks that crime and extremism arise from the “structures” of this country, even from and especially from their immediate surroundings, accuses and alienates their main ally in the fight against racism. Such a rough interpretation of the truth is wrong in the same ways as the right-wing populist projection, Islamist terror comes from the middle of the Muslim community.
Pauli Murray, a civil rights activist at the side of Martin Luther King, once wrote: “When my brothers draw a circle around me to exclude me, I’ll draw a larger one, to include them. When they talk about the privileges of a weakening group, I’ll talk about the rights of all people.” From this inclusive philosophy this new, dangerous teaching of hostility does not only step back – it draws ever-shrinking circles with thicker and thicker brushes and divides society into more and more groups, which are supposed to oppose each other with more and more hostility. It is time to realize this madness – and stop it.
1 The term transsexual was used here verbatim. I think the term is outdated, but as I am not a professional translator, I was unsure if I should "update" it, as I think a translation should always be as close to the source as possible.
2 The SPD is the major center-left party in Germany. They have formed the government together with the center right party, the CDU/CSU for decades now, but are fairly unpopular right now.
3 The word Mohr is a German discriminatory term to refer to black people. I would not put it on the same "pedestal" as the n-word as it is missing the historical weight, but nevertheless it should not be used any more. It still remains in use under the population in some historic remnants like a classic dessert called Mohr im Hemd (Mohr in a shirt) which is a chocolate sponge cake in chocolate sauce served with vanilla ice cream.
4 The populist rightwing party of Germany. Have gotten enough votes due to the refugee crisis to enter some local state governments and the German federal, but no other party cooperates with them as they are very obviously racist, islamophobic and have in some cases, ties to actual neo nazis.
Original article: https://www.zeit.de/2021/11/identitaetspolitik-rassismus-soziale-gerechtigkeit-intersektionalitaet/komplettansicht (paywalled, and in German, if we have German people here who'd like to verify my translation, I can give you a copy).
That marks the end! I hope you liked it and I hope we can have a good discussion about it. I've spend some time translating this so I'll take a break, go shopping and come back to this a bit later to form my own opinion in a separate comment. Be kind to each other!28 votes