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    1. Pills from Guanajuato

      Pills from Guanajuato The American Supreme Court wants to get rid of the right to an abortion. American women now look for help in Mexico. Written by Samiha Shafy and Amrai Coen,...

      Pills from Guanajuato

      The American Supreme Court wants to get rid of the right to an abortion. American
      women now look for help in Mexico.

      Written by Samiha Shafy and Amrai Coen, Wichita/Austin/Guanajuato, translated by @Grzmot

      Updated on 2022-06-18, 16:02

      Original: https://www.zeit.de/2022/25/schwangerschaftsabbruch-usa-mexiko-guanajuato/komplettansicht

      Mark Gietzen was convinced, he wouldn't live to see this triumph. In his eyes, the USA is currently turning away from decades of atrocity to something good, and he says that he helped in a not insignificant way. Since twenty years he has been protesting on the streets because of it. He stands at the edge of a highway in Wichita, Kansas, in front of a simple building, that looks like a window-less warehouse from the outside. "Trust Women" is written on the gray-beige facade. On the inside is one of the last abortion clinics in the state.

      "Let us say our morning prayer," Mark Gietzen says to the two older men next to him, that introduced themselves as Larry and Mike. Gietzen, sixty-eight years old, is the leader of the trio. He looks, like he just came from a film shoot: Cheek-beard, pilot glasses and a baseball cap with "U.S. Marine Veteran" written on it. The three are retired, but they still have work to do: Every day from 08:00 to 17:00 they stand in front of the clinic door, stopping cars, talking to people, handing out flyers. Next to them, a large truck, with gigantic images of dead infants, which Gietzen had specially printed. They want to stop pregnant women from going into the clinic. In his own count, Gietzen has "saved 584 lives of babys".

      The three men form a cirlce for the prayer: "Dear God, please help us in stopping the violent murders through abortion against the youngest members of our human family... Amen."

      Gietzen and his friends call themselves "Pro-Life". They want to close the clinic down, and even better, close all other clinics in the USA. According to the wishes of the Pro-Life movement, women should be forced under all circumstances to deliver the baby - even when the pregnancy is unwanted or the result of rape.

      These days, the American anti-abortionists are as close to their target as they haven't been in five decades. "Roe v. Wade", the verdict of the Supreme Court of the USA, that guarantees the woman's right to decide about her own abortion, will most likely be annulled this month - by the same Supreme Court.

      The Supreme Court today is as polarized and estranged as the rest of the country. But unlike the rest of the USA, the fight between the liberals and right-wingers is decided there: Because Donald Trump was able to fill three seats in his four-year presidency, the court has moved to the extreme right. Of nine judges, six are conservatives.

      The court now supports a similar position as the Pro-Life movement. Even when surveys have shown since years, that about two thirds of Americans support Roe v. Wade. The anti-abortionists have, united with the Christian Right, demonstrated, how you can push through a minority position: With loud, well organized protests, the perserverance of activists like Mark Gietzen and a fine sense for pushing the borders of the doable and sayable again and again.

      If Roe v. Wade falls, every state can decide for itself, how it's abortion laws will look. Some of them have already tightened their abortion laws and are waiting to make them completely or nearly illegal. In half of the fifty US states, especially in the conservative middle and south women would lose the access to safe and legal abortions permanently. The law would hit poor people the hardest, as they couldn't afford to travel to a liberal state to have an abortion. They'd be left with three options: Deliver the fetus, illegally and potentially under threat to their life, abort - or look for help in Mexico. Mexico, the supposedly backwards, catholic neighbour, where women were until recently, locked up after miscarriages under suspicion of having had an illegal abortion.

      For the abortion doctors it's dangerous

      It is as if the American half of the world had turned on it's head. Because Mexico and other latin American countries have, in a surprising move, legalized abortion.

      While Mark Gietzen and his friends protest in front of the clinic in Wichita, the phone on the inside rings constantly. "Trust-Women clinic, I am Jessica, how can I help you?" A crying woman is on the phone, that doesn't have a possibility of abortion her state of Texas, and now wants to travel to Kansas, hundreds of kilometers away from her home. "We are sadly booked fully for the next three weeks," Jessica says.

      Since it's clear that the Supreme Court is going to eliminate Roe v. Wade, thousands of women call on some days. 30 to 35 abortions the clinic can do in one day. "When I tell women, that we don't have space, I can hear the panic in their voices. Some are sad, some are angry, some beg me desperately", says the woman at the reception. "Recently a woman offered me 5000 dollars. But I sadly can't do anything."

      Who wants to get inside the clinic, has to go through a security gate, past a guard, that is looking at multiple cameras on his screen. That the clinic is guarded like a max security prison, stems from history. In the 1970s a doctor called George Tiller took over the clinic. "Tiller, the Baby Killer!", protesters called him at the entrance. They fought Roe v. Wade and later the following verdict of the Supreme Court, that legalize abortions, until the fetus is able to live outside of the womb. The Pro-Choice movement celebrated those verdicts as the freeing of women. The Pro-Life movement mobilized massively.

      1986 a bomb explodes in the clinic in Wichita. Head physician George Tiller continues. 1993 a woman shoots him in both arms in front of the clinic. Tiller continues. On Whit Sunday 2009 George Tiller visits his church. An anti-abortionist shoots him in the head from close proximity. The doctor died. For a short time, the clinic was closed - and then continued.

      A visit in the clinic is only possible on the few days, where there are no patients - to protect the women. What remains of them, are handwritten notes, that they put on a pinboard in the waiting room to support each other. "Don't be embarassed that you are here." - "Only you know, what the best is for you and your life." On the wall is also a poster with different contraception methods, on the small table condoms and a magazine with the title "Family planning".

      There are multiple ultrasound rooms, where it is determined far the pregnancy has progressed. In the first eleven weeks the patient can abort with a combination of two medications, After eleven weeks the fetus has to be removed operatively, for which there are two surgery rooms available.

      The head physician of the clinic is called Christina Bourne and is 36 years old. She speaks with a deep, calm voice and a very earnest tone. One her lower arm she has a tattoo of a papaya, because while studying she practiced with the fruit on how to remove a fetus from the womb. Bourne is the only doctor in the clinic that also lives in Kansas. The others come every few months by plane, like doctors flying into a crisis area. Almost all abortion clinics in the USA are relying on these mobile doctors. They often feel like they couldn't live where htey work. They know what happened to George Tiller.

      Christina Bourne is not intimidated. Every day, she passes the men with the large images of dead infants, that scream after her how she'll burn in hell.

      By now, some Pro-Choice activists are considering to adopt the drastic methods of the opposition. No one is supporting militarisation, but there are discussions of playing videos of birthing women, who's life is threatened by the birth, in court rooms. Or printing photos of beds covered in blood or birth injuries like a torn Perineum on posters.

      The head physician meets the polemic clear and openly. She says, that she also had an abortion. "I was just done with college, I felt too young, now education, no work. To become pregnant in the wrong moment can destroy your life and future." Some of the women, that come to her today, are in a similar situation. Many of them already have one or two children and can't support another. Some are pregnant after surviving a rape. Some have to abort due to medical reasons. The mortality rate of mothers in the US is the highest among all industrial nations. And of course, also religious and conservative women appear in the clinic, says Bourne, in their environment, abortion is a sin.

      "As a doctor I'd like to practice medicine and not politics", Bourne says. Should she lose her job, because the clinic in Kansas has to close, she'll continue either way - Just in a different state.

      Texas wants to punish abortion doctors with life in prison

      If Joe Pojman had his way, Christina Boune would not be a physician anymore, she'd be in prison. He greets visitors in his office in Austin, Texas, 900 kilometres away from the clinic in Wichita. Pojman is 63, he wears suit and tie, a man with grey hair and a full beard, who chooses his words carefully and speaks eloquently. His appearance is so gentle, you don't even notice in the first moments, how radical his words are. He used to work as an engineer at NASA, until he felt like God was calling him to a different purpose. 34 years ago he founded the organization Alliance for Life.

      Joe Pojman has the same goal as Mark Gietzen, the praying man in front of the clinic in Kansas, but Pojman's strategy is much stealthier, and much more efficient. In front of him on his desk is a law, that he designed. The Governor of Texas has already signed it. When Roe v. Wade falls, the law goes into effect 30 days later in Texas. It has the number 1280 and the title "Human life rotection law" In the text: "A person, that violates the ban on abortion, is committing a crime." A doctor like Christina Bourne would be accused of manslaughter in Texas and punished with life in prison, in addition to a fine of "at least $ 100,000 for every violation". And she'd lose her medical license.

      Are there exceptions? "Yes", says Joe Pojman. "When the life of the mother is in danger because of the pregnancy." And because of rape or incest? Or when the child cannot live? "No."

      In Texas people already live in a world, where Roe v. Wade has practically gone. Last September, when Mexico legalized abortions, Texas activated the so-called Heartbeat law, which bans abortions once the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, approximately after the sixth week. Many women don't even know that they're pregnant at that point.

      What such a law can mean in real life, was showcased in April: A 26 year old Texan was arrested and accused of murder, because she allegedly "initiated a abortion by herself". The case was dropped, the woman came free. But defenders of the right to abortion see a dark future in the case, something that could soon be a new reality in the USA.

      Joe Pojman himself isn't satisfied with the Heartbeat law. "Life starts at conception", he says. Unlike head physician Christina Bourne he never speak of a fetus, only "the unborn child". The choice of words shows, that behind the debate for an abortion there are complex answers: When does life starts? When does a fetus become a person?

      Pojman agrees to a short thought experiment: If he was placed in a burning hospital and could save five embryos in petri dishes, or a newborn child. What would he pick?

      Joe Pojmanm says, he can't answer that question. "For me, all human life is equally important - The unborn, newborn, a teenager or an adult." He has heard that recently women started leaving Texas, to get an abortion elsewhere. "It breaks my heart", he says. "My goal is, that no woman starts that journey."

      But for now it is not illegal for Texan women to look for help outside of the state. For example in Mexico.

      "The Americans are paralyzed by fear"

      At first glance, the town of Guanajuato, 2000 meters over the sea, located in the Mexican state of the same name, looks like a magical cliche. At night, Mariachis travel through cozy alleys, by day there's always a bard somewhere singing about love. The colourful houses from colonial times are a world heritage site since 1988. Here, in one of the most conservative regions of Mexico, the women's revolution started.

      That is tightly connected to her: Verónica Cruz, 51 years old, 1.60m tall, supplied with a apparently limitless energy. With her organization Las Libres, "The Free", the activist has been fighting since twenty years for women's rights in Mexico - For their right to make their own decisions to better protection from violence at home and sexual crimes. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries for women, globally.

      But it is also the country where the highest court last September announced the surprising decision to legalize abortions. In a kind of Mexican Roe v. Wade, half a century after the American verdict, that now shouldn't exist anymore. "Once I saw the announcement in TV, I thought: Now I can stop and travel the world." says Cruz. "But then the American women came."

      Verónica Cruz sits on a couch in the office of Las Libres. At a conference table three women work on laptops. The head quarters of the organization is a two-story house on a hill, overlooking the city and surrounding mountains. Since autumn Cruz and her colleagues get daily calls from desperate pregnant women from the USA, that want to abort, asking if Las Libres can help them. "The Americans are paralyzed by fear", says Cruz, her look is pityfull and mocking at the same time. In the USA people fear the law, she says, differently than in Mexico, where they are used to fighting back.

      Activists organize themselves in Mexico

      And it's not without irony: From all the places in the world it's the south, of all the places in the world it's catholic Mexico that now becomes the country of refugee for American women. That Mexico, from which hundreds of thousands leave every year into the north, to find work, chances and a life in dignity in the richest country on earth. That Mexico, where man Americans think of drug cartels first.

      What many Americans don't know: In the past few years, a feminist grass roots movement has been building in Mexico and other latin American countries, that are well connected and difficult to ignore. The activists organize mass protests in front of courts and parliaments, they sing, they dance, they fly green colours, the symbol for the "Green Wave", the Latin American women's movement. The right to bodily autonomy is one of their central demands - And they found open ears: Argentinia, Columbia, Uruguay, Cuba and Guyana have softened their abortion laws; Chile could soon be next.

      When Verónica Cruz became an activist, a "green wave" didn't exist yet. She grew up as one of eight, went to a monastery school and was taught by nuns, that is it very important to help the weak and poor. For a while, she played with the idea to become a nun: They could travel, see the Vatican! "But my dad said no", she says. "What luck! When I became a feminist, I lost my faith in God." She studied organizational development and political science and decided, that she was going to help the poorer and weaker half of the population: the women.

      Her goals were small at first: I wanted to improve the sexual education of teenagers. "Sexuality was an absolute taboo", she remembers. Again and again, very coung girls became pregnant, some of them only eleven or twelve years old and allegedly abused by male members of the family. As rape victims, they could've theoretically aborted in Guanajuato, but in real life they found no help. "And so the parents lived under the same roof with their daugther and their grand child, which at the same was the child of the father", says Cruz. "That for me is unethical, not the abortion."

      But with her stance she was alone for a long time. Even her feminist allies avoided talking about abortion for a long time. "I head to remove the stigma from their heads first."

      In that time she had always looked towards the USA with admiration, where women could decide themselves, if they wanted a child or not, while in Mexico, hundreds of women were in prison, because they had been accused of abortion after a miscarriage.

      The turning point came in 1995, when conservative politican later president Vicente Fox was elected governor of Guanajuato, with the goal of removing the right to an abortion even for rape victims - with the threat of higher sentences. "There was protest", recounts Cruz. Fox pulled back. And Cruz, for the first time, had allies: A growing network of women, that accompanied rape victims to the few gynecologists, that conducted abortions. Soon pregnant women contacted Las Libres, that had not been raped. The activists decided to help them too.

      Then Verónica Cruz heard of the pills. "A gynecologist told me of medication, with which you can initiate an abortion", she says. One of these medications - Misprostol - in Mexico legal against stomach and gut aches, you can buy without a doctor's not in the apothecary. the WHO recommends it for abortions until the twelveth week.

      "The USA is a country of the insane"

      The work of the activists became simpler. They watched, as women took the pills under the guidance of doctors, and they learned everything there was to learn about the pills. "At some point I thought: Now I don't need the doctors anymore", says Cruz.

      She estimates, that her network between 2000 and 2021 accompanied about 10,000 women to abortions. They got the pregnant women their pills and supported them when they took it. "El producto" Verónica Cruz calls the result that women then press out under contractions and blood.

      She herself could have never imagined to become pregnant, says Cruz. Maybe it has to do with her work, with the limitless tales of male violence and female sorrow. "With 15 I decided to never have children, and every ear I congratulate myself with that decision."

      Cruz has been an activist for decades and has never been attacked by fanatical anti-abortionists. "The people here are more respectful than in the USA", she says. "The USA is a country of the insane."

      She gets up and fetches a cardboard box from a cupboard. In it are pills, that Las Libres now smuggle into the USA, sometimes in Aspirin packaging, sometimes sown into brightly coloured dolls. Since the end of January the Mexicans have helped over a thousant pregnant women from US states like Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and Mississippi and Ohio with the pills. They support them when the women take the pills, over WhatsApp, phone or video-call. If the women want to be supported personally, they are welcome in Mexico. In the city of Moterrey, not far from the US border, allied activists
      have opened a house they call "La Abortería".

      Cruz knows, that she and her allies will attract the rage of the Pro-Life movement in America. "But we are not going to let fear paralyze us", she says. Additionally, the Americans hopefully won't always rely on the South-North-Help.

      She still plans to travel the world, says Verónica Cruz. Probably in five years.

      4 votes
    2. K.O.

      K.O. After a One-Night-Stand a young man is accused of raping a woman in a bathroom. The man vehemently denies it. But instead of looking for the truth, the court spins it's own version of the...


      After a One-Night-Stand a young man is accused of raping a woman in a bathroom. The man vehemently denies it.
      But instead of looking for the truth, the court spins it's own version of the truth.

      Written by Alexander Rupflin, published on 12th of March, 2022 online. Originally published in
      ZEIT VERBRECHEN № 13/2022, 15th of February, 2022.

      Translated by @Grzmot

      For the protection of the individuals involved, names have been changed.

      What really happened in the bathroom between Fabian and Miriam?

      It was a normal night at the disco. Miriam wouldn't have caught his eye in the Funpark, if she hadn't pointed her small digital camera at him and shot two photos. He was sitting with his friends, had another woman in his arm, of which he didn't even know the name. She was lean, her hair was blonde and tied in a ponytail with thin lips, but she quickly got out of his arm again and vanished in the dancing crowd. It was supposed to be one of those nights with the hope for an unforgettable evening - And that hope came true. He spotted the girl with the digital camera in the Alpine Fun room of the giant disco. He approached her, introducing himself: Fabian, and you? Miriam.

      Miriam is tall, almost 1,80m. But he's still taller than her by almost a head. They yell the usual things at each other, trying to drown out the music. Where are you from? Do you want to drink something?

      He smells like vodka-red-bull and wears a necklace with black wooden pearls to show himself off as the cool surfer, but he really is a boy from the village. He think he sees her smiling at him. Contrasting the girl from before, Miriam has more of a round face, that makes her look childlike even though she is nineteen. At the same time she looks incredibly confident; acting like she doesn't take him seriously and is just fooling around. She tells Fabian that she's taking pictures for some website.

      Today, he doesn't really remember, what she tells him about herself. He just recently had his twentieth birthday, from a small village nearby, plays football in the state league. He's also in an apprenticeship in a grocery store. That's why he is even here, in this large disco in the middle of an industry disctrict not far from Koblenz. The grocery stores in the region organised a football championship, and he and his colleagues of course are playing. They are sleeping in the guest room of a local school for grocers. Tomorrow, finale, today, party. A colleague's birthday. It's the 20th January 2007, everyone is singing Ein Stern from DJ Ötzi and Nik P.

      This night happened so long ago, the Funpark doesn't exist anymore, today there is a Realmarkt there, but Fabian still thinks about those couple of hours that changed his life. Pure hatred rises in him. And every time he talks about it, the same thing happens: He talks faster, louder, until he almost screams, then his lower lip begins to tremble, his voice cracks and fails, until the tears roll. He has cried a lot because of this night, sometimes not even making the effort to wipe away the tears. When he comes back down, he then says things like: "These idiots, what have they done with my life! A convict, for nothing. They continue their life. I can't. I'd need a new one."

      Back then, in the wooden room where Schlager play, Fabian orders two drinks. It's by far not his first drink tonight. He loves partying. Why not? He's young and the women like him. Miriam wants to pay for her drink, Fabian insists to cover it.

      Later, Miriam will tell the police that in that moment, "the guy" (Fabian) would make a weird pinching move with his fingers above the glass. She had laughed and asked: "What are you doing?" He didn't reply.

      They drink, they talk. Then she puts her hand under his shirt to feel his warm stomach. She's bold. he thinks; a party girl. That's how he remembers the moment. She looks incredibly confident, funny, attractive, that makes him a little insecure. He doesn't want to be embarrassed. They kiss, she takes him to her girlfriends, he introduces himself. Time moves along. The two keep their heads close, kiss, talk, kiss. It's two in the morning. Three in the morning. Tanja, Miriam's best friend with whom she lives wants to convince her to go home. Miriam replies: "You're not my mom!" They argue for a bit, ultimately Tanja relents and leaves the Funpark with the others.

      What really happened in the bathroom?

      Miriam stays with Fabian. They sit in the same wooden room, move tables to two of Fabian's last colleagues, the rest is already sleeping in the guest house. He puts his arm around her shoulder, moves strands of hair out of her face. She's wearing black skirt and tights. Her face looks pale, her eyelids flutter. To him, she seems drunk, but he's the same. One of his colleagues takes a photo of them with Miriam's camera.

      Later, Miriam will tell the police that in that moment she felt dizzy, that she had flashbacks to the death of her father, childhood memories came back, that she hit the table with her head multiple times.

      The four leave the disco into the cold January night into one of the waiting taxis. Without any conversation between the two, Miriam apparently decided to come with him tonight. She didn't look afraid.

      The drive takes fifteen minutes, the other two leave for their room. Fabian tells Miriam (according to him), he wants to buy cigarettes at a vending machine around the corner. Is he looking for an excuse for her to leave? But she waits at the door for him. When he comes back, he realizes that he doesn't have a key, calls his roommate Tobias, who is already sleeping upstairs. Tobias isn't surprised, that Fabian shows up with company, Tobias is his best friend, and when they party, sooner or later there is a woman around Fabian's neck. He is tall, athletic and has a rustic kind of charm. Miriam introduces herself quickly and then they sneak back up into room 112. It's in a sorry state, the plastic sockets yellowed, the curtain a torn piece of red cloth, the mattresses narrow (photos from the investigation prove this).
      Miriam undresses, Fabian goes to the bathroom, Tobias falls back into his bed. When Fabian comes back to bed, Miriam is already there, only wearing underwear. They find each other under the blanket, kiss, explore each other blind.

      Later Miriam will say that she was nauseous and felt beside herself. She was not able to think straight, nor could she have
      said anything to the guy.

      Tobias, who wants to sleep, tries to ignore the foreplay, between him and the two there is just about arm-length distance. He's lying on his back, staring at (that is how he tells it today) the ceiling. At some point he loses his patience and says: "At least go to the bathroom!" They do that.

      And then? What really happened in the bathroom?

      Tobias at least says to this day that he didn't hear any sound from the bathroom. That the two came back after just a few minutes and went back to bed. Except for the lack of decency, nothing had seemed strange to him. At no point did it feel like there could have been a crime happening.

      At 22:05 the doctor calls the police

      About two hours later all three of them wake up again, Fabian collects Miriam's clothes, she puts them on, says goodbye, stumbling into the grew morning and taking the next bus to her boyfriend Klaus.

      They are in a relationship for eight months. When Miriam shows up at his place without any message, Klaus feels weird. Miriam is currently an apprentice, learning to become a paramedic, and is usually very confident. He is very much in her grasp, so much so that he feels like a boy next to her sometimes, and when they argue, her argument always beats his. But today she seems introverted, goes into the bathroom, brushes her teeth for a long time and falls into bed, sleeping till noon. When she wakes up, she asks: "Where am I?" Then she takes the bus home. Klaus, he explains today, can't decipher her behaviour. He didn't ask her back then where she had been. Today, he's unsure if she just had a bad conscience or if she really was under shock. He later discovers blood on his bed. Till the evening, he hears nothing
      from her.

      On her way home, Miriam writes a couple of messages to Tanja: "You wouldn't believe, how bad I'm feeling. I haven't even known this feeling up to now. I didn't want to at all, but he just didn't stop." And: "He gave me a lot to drink and put something in it, but I was too drunk, so I drank it anyway..."

      At that point Fabian and the other boys are already back in the sports hall, playing football. Fabian gets a bunch of dumb statements thrown his way about Miriam, but that's it. His team loses. In the afternoon, he drives home to his parents, where he lives, gets on the couch, sleeps it off. His parents ask, how he has been. He doesn't tell them of the party or Miriam.

      Miriam does. She tells Tanja about a gruesome night, complains about pain in her lower body. Tanja convinces her to get to the hospital, the doctor spots redness on the vulva, a almost four millimetre long tear at the entrance of the vagina, a small tear at the anus, a scratch on her neck and haematoma and bruises on her left arm and shoulder blade, lumbar vertebrae and the outer side of her left thigh. No signs of sperm. At 22:05, the doctor informs the police.

      "I remember", Miriam goes on record, "It was when I was lying on the ground in the bathroom, feeling his sperm in my mouth and he then pissed in my mouth. Then he told me to turn around. I remember saying "I don't want this." then it blacks out again." She insists, that her memories of the night are in tears and pieces, even though she only drank three beers mixed with cola [ABV 2,4%] and one vodka-red-bull. This statement conflicts with her message just hours earlier.

      She says, "the guy" had to give her a date drug, when he handed her the beer-cola. Then he took her with him into the guest house and violently raped her. But she also says: "I absolutely cannot tell, if I, at the time this was happening, wanted it or made the appearance that I wanted it." And she adds: "Actually I don't even know if I can accuse the young stranger of anything." She insists on this while making her statement to the police, that she does not want to file a complaint.

      It had to have been a misunderstanding

      The police disagree. They hold the statement of the confused looking woman as impressive enough to name Miriam as the "Aggrieved Party" from the first moment on. Not "supposed" or "alleged". The young woman, that is clearly ashamed of what has happened, is designated as the victim of a violent crime. The tight rope between distrust and empathy, that investigators should walk in such cases, is soon left behind. Even Miriams own doubts are ignored. From her statement: "I'd like to state again, that I do not want, that he is wrongly accused of anything. For me, this is all very irritating. I can, like I already said, only accuse, that I was given something, that brought me into this situation."

      Only hours later: Fabian is sitting in the large office of his employer at the computer, taking care of financials. His boss approaches him, telling him that he got a weird call from the police. They go into an empty room. Fabian is shocked, what he hears. K.O. drops? What's that? Rape? I never did anything to a woman! Until today, he swears that he did not expect such an accusation in his wildest nightmares. Disturbed, he returns to his computer. It must be a misunderstanding. Or he has been confused for the wrong person. It's all going to get cleared up. Why would she accuse him of rape? There's no motive. The company links him up with an attorney, but he's no criminal lawyer, but civil, specialized in work law. Fabian ignores the call of the police, pushes it away. Does his job, plays football, goes to
      parties like nothing happened.

      It the start of April 2007, suddenly the police show up at his house with a search warrant. The mother opens, Fabian isn't home. She doesn't understand what is happening. The officers look in his room for drugs fitting of Miriam's descriptions: Benzodiazepin, Gammahydroxybutyric acid and other hypnotics. They don't find anything. In the evening, Fabian finally forces himself to explain the situation to his parents. He swears multiple times that he did not do anything to Miriam. They believe him.

      Even after the search warrant Fabian tells himself that the problem is going to disappear, solve itself. He takes no initiative, doesn't find lawyer. Doesn't understand, that the race for the sovereignty of interpretation for the evening has already begun. Even today, Fabian convincingly explains that he's innocent. But if you ask him, what he believes happened that night at the toilet, he stutters, his voice becoming insecure, as if he's looking for long lost pictures in his mind: "It happened so fast in the bathroom...She played with me, yes... But I don't believe... No, I didn't even have proper sex with her. I always was afraid that women could get pregnant, and that's why... I don't remember properly. I didn't rape her!" The wounds in her genital area couldn't be from him. But why does he stutter so badly? And why does he say in his statement back then, that he had sex with her for sure?

      Fabian gets to know Jessica. Years later, he'll still call her his dream woman, his soulmate. She's seven years older, he meets her at another party. To most people, she seemed invisible, but to Fabian she was beautiful. Through a friend he gets her number, a few weeks pass, the two are a couple. At some point he's brave enough to tell her of that night. She believes him. Loves him. Surely it will all resolve itself. The two move in together.

      Early 2009, two years after that night, Fabian's attorney informs him, that there is a scheduled date for his case to be heard in court. Fabian, that wanted to forget the whole thing, is surprised that a court will even hear the case. The attorney calms him down, worst comes to worst, he'll get a fine. But why a fine, asks Fabian, I'm innocent.

      5th March 2009, 9:50 in hall 102 of the state court Koblenz: Only his father is here. Fabian doesn't want Jessica to see him like that and his mother can't bear it. She is back home, at the table, praying. Fabian makes his statement. Miriam hears everything, sitting at the prosecutor's table as joint plaintiff. It's the first time they see each other again. They don't direct a single word towards each other.

      In dubio pro reo

      What happens then in court, of that tells the written sentence. During the proceedings deeds turn into words that can be fitted into a story. These stories are based on evidence, facts and testimonies. But even looking at it from a willing pointof view, there is no clear picture here, but a blurred one full of assumptions. In such cases, a defendant cannot be convicted. In dubio pro reo - When in doubt, rule for the accused.

      But when joint plaintiff Miriam takes the stand as a witness and describes what happened that night, it looks like judge Helga Diedenhofen has no doubts. Fabian immediately gets the impression, that the judge thinks she knows what happened that night. Finally it dawns on him, that he might have to go to prison after all.

      The next date of the proceedings, his past roommate Tobias takes the stand. He explains that both of them were drunk, but not so much that they had no idea what was going on, that Miriam immediately undressed herself, that Fabian brushed his teeth first. That they both disappeared into the bathroom for only a couple of minutes and that he didn't hear anything. The court does not believe a single word of the statement, ruling it as a helping out a friend.

      But how can it be, that on the bed that Miriam shared with Fabian is clean, without any blood stains, but on Klaus' bed there are? The court doesn't seem to be interested. Also strange, how Miriam could approach the bathroom on her own (as written in the sentence), but exactly then and there fell into a "coma-like deep sleep", approximately three hours after she had consumed the allegedly spiked drink. The usual time where typical substances used are full effective, is just about three hours. Considering this problem, the court avoids concrete statements about time in it's written verdict.

      No one looked at the CCTV footage of the disco. The driver of the taxi that the four took home, was never asked anything.

      On the last day of the proceedings, expert testimony is heard from Bianca Navarro-Crummenaur. She is a coroner in the victim's ambulance in Mainz and is supposed to determine if Miriam was under the influence of a daterape drug that evening. Neither in her blood nor urine could they find traces in 2007, though such a substance usually disappears after twelve hours. The exper has nothing but Miriam's testimony to determine, if her description of her state fits K.O. drops. And the expert states that her description is "very classic". She never spoke with Miriam and according to protocol, did not ask her a single question during the proceedings.

      Under lawyers Navarro-Crummenauer is known for taking the testimonies of the alleged victims a bit too much into her reports for courts. A few years later a family files a complaint against her in civil court, because in her report she found indicators of child abuse, where there were none, and the court took the kids away from the parents, until the misunderstanding was cleared up. Fabian's attorney already files motion to dismiss her report due to bias in 2009, but the court denies it. And so a conflicting story is built brick by brick in hall 102, full of ideas, assumptions and prejudices about an alleged occuring of a crime.

      The verdict: Six years prison

      After four days in court the verdict: Six years for Fabian. Rape under use of a dangerous tool and dangerous assault, the "tool" being the K.O. drops, of which Fabian allegedly didn't know anything of, but according to the court, he was carrying on him through the entire weekend. Even though the visit to the disco was a spontanous decision made that evening.

      Even though the verdict is not in effect yet, Fabian is already in cuffs, going to jail, the court believes he might flee. He looks around the room, looking for help. For the first time in his life, Fabian sees his father cry.

      Eleven days he sits in a jail in Koblenz. Then his attorney manages to get him. The appeal remains, like most appeals, without effect. The only thing that could prevent Fabian from prison would be a quick resumption of the proceedings due to new evidence that could prove his innocence. Finally he realizes that severity of his situation and asks one of the most known criminal attorney and experts for the resumption of proceedings for help. It's too late.

      It's the 29. April 2010. Fabian's grandmother's birthday. With Jessica he goes to local retailer, searching for gifts. When they get into the car, a police patrol stops them from getting out of the driveway. Bystanders stare, a second time Fabian gets cuffs around his hands. In panic, Jessica calls Fabian's mother, then goes into a screaming fit.

      Again, jail in Koblenz. The prison sentence is served. Months and years pass. In the meantime, a request for resumption is denied. The parents and Jessica visit every week. They cry and make plans to get him out. His father writes letters begging for his release, even to the pope. Fabian gets increasingly worried what his girlfriend does out there. Where she goes, who she meets? He asks her many questions, writes accusatory letters. He is now regarded as psychologically unstable, psychotropic drugs from which he becomes so fat that he is disgusted to see his own reflection.

      In december 2012 Fabian's worries turn real, he becomes a letter from a stranger, telling him to keep his dirty lips of Jessica. Fabian collapses, the guards have to get him to the medical ward, they worry he will commit suicide. A bit later, he receives a letter from Jessica, she dumps him.

      After four years, Fabian is released on good behaviour. He does not feel anything, the medication has made him numb. He says: "I was in prison for nothing and nothing again." How is he supposed to be relieved?

      He learns to breathe again

      He moves back to his parents and tries to keep going where he stopped four years ago. But no one is listening to DJ Ötzi's Ein Stern, in the village discos they no play Mein Herz from Beatrice Egli. At a local festivity Fabian meets a woman and jumps into a new relationship, not having dealt with the Jessica yet. The people in the village greet him, but half-heartedly. No one talks to him more than necessary. He feels how they talk behind his back. Realizes, that the court didn't just sentence him but also his parents and his younger sister.

      The new girlfriend leaves him as well and Fabian has a final and complete mental breakdown. He drowns without dying, doesn't leave his room anymore. Carries day and night the jacket of his father, a packed travel pack ready to go. "Dad?", he asks. "They won't bring me into prison again, right?" Sometimes he sleeps in the bed of his parents, at the foot of it. Other days he believes, his family wants to poison him. Psychologists meet him. Diagnose anxiety disorder and a severe depression.

      Another year passes. One day Tobias comes to visit. The two talk for a long time. Tobias quickly understands that Fabian didn't age a single day. Tobias now thinks about building a house, founding a family, Fabian is still the boy from back then, living in the past on loop. Tobias convinces Fabian to visit the local football court, like they did back then before everything happened. The smell of the wet grass, the memories of the cheering, the hugging-each-other, the feeling safe, all those emotions rise in Fabian again, in that very moment.

      He learns to breathe again. In the weeks after he starts getting out of the house, starts working as a tiler, even goes independent soon after. Until today he fights for a resumption of the court case. It's also hatred that drives him: "Hate against the people here, that can't open their mouth in front of me anymore. All my supposed friends. I shot goals for them, every game, thirty five goals in a season. When I got arrested, we were three or four games from getting into the next championship. And when they made it, they drove through the streets, cheering and celebrating, even though I was in prison." He sobs. "I'll never be able to close this chapter of my life, but I hope that one day I can prove my innocence and that I didn't fight for no reason."

      In the spring of 2021, Fabian's father dies from a heart attack. He would've loved to show him the acquittal black-on-white. Fabian is now thirty-five.

      Miriam, it appears, is now married and mother. She herself does not want to retell her version of that night. When ZEIT VERBRECHEN reached out to her, she did not answer. Her then-boyfriend Klaus, who she left later, says, that Miriam got through that time better than a lot of other women, but that she had always been incredibly strong. But that he doesn't want any assumptions made based on those words, under any circumstance. If new evidence appears, Fabians attorney wants to file another request for resumption of the case.

      At least until then, the question will remain: What really happened in that bathroom between Fabian and Miriam?

      8 votes
    3. One cop. One young refugee. Eleven shots. Why did Matiullah Jabarkhel have to die?

      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
    4. What Guantánamo made out of them

      By Bastian Berbner and John Goetz, published 1 September, 2021 The man who called himself "Mister X" in Guantánamo wore a balaclava and mirrored sunglasses when he tortured. The person he was...

      By Bastian Berbner and John Goetz, published 1 September, 2021

      The man who called himself "Mister X" in Guantánamo wore a balaclava and mirrored sunglasses when he tortured. The person he was torturing was not supposed to see his face. Now, 17 years later, Mister X is standing at a potter's wheel in his garage in Somewhere, America. A bald man with a greying beard, tattooed on the back of his neck. His hands, big and strong, mould a grey-brown lump of clay. The pot won't turn out very nice, you can already tell. He says that's the way it is with his art, he's more attracted to ugliness.

      Mister X thought long and hard about whether he wanted to receive journalists and talk about what happened back then. It would be the first time that a Guantánamo torturer has spoken publicly about what he did. The meeting on this day in October 2020 was preceded by numerous emails. Now, finally, we are with him. An interview of several hours is already behind us, in which Mister X told us about his cruel work. We told him that the man he maltreated at that time would also like to talk to him. Mister X replied that on the one hand he had longed for such a conversation for 17 years - on the other hand he had dreaded it for 17 years. He asked for half an hour to think it over. He said he could think well while making pottery.

      The man who would like to talk to him is called Mohamedou Ould Slahi. In the summer of 2003, he was considered the most important prisoner in the Guantánamo Bay camp. Of the almost 800 prisoners there, according to all that is known, no one was tortured as severely as he was.

      There are events that determine a biography. Even if they do not last that long in terms of lifespan, in this case barely eight weeks, they unfold a power that makes everything before fade into oblivion and captivates everything after.

      Back then, in the summer of 2003, Mister X was in his mid-thirties and an interrogator in the American army. He was part of the so-called Special Projects Team whose task was to break Slahi. The detainee had so far remained stubbornly silent, but the intelligence services were convinced that he possessed important information. Perhaps even information that could prevent the next major attack or lead to Osama bin Laden, who was then the world's most wanted terrorist: the leader of Al-Qaeda, the main perpetrator of the attacks of 11 September 2001.

      The team's mission was to defeat evil. To achieve this, it opposed him with another evil.

      Mister X always tortured at night. With each night that Slahi's silence lasted, he tried a new cruelty. He says torture is ultimately a creative process. Listening to Mister X describe what he did can leave you breathless, and sometimes Mister X seems to feel that way himself as he tells the story. Then he shakes his head. Pauses. Runs his hand through his beard. Fights back tears. He says, "Man, I can't believe this myself."

      The way he speaks, you don't get the impression that it was all so long ago. In fact, it's not over at all. Mister X says there is hardly a day when he does not think about Slahi or when he does not haunt his dreams. Slahi was the case of his life, in the worst sense of the word.

      There was a moment back then that not only burned itself into his memory, it also poisoned his soul, Mister X says. That night he went into the interrogation room where Slahi, small and emaciated, sat in his orange jumpsuit on a chair, chained to an eyelet in the floor. Mister X, tall and muscular, had thought of something new again. This time he pretended to go berserk. He screamed wildly, hurled chairs across the room, slammed his fist against the wall and threw papers in Slahi's face. Slahi was shaking all over.

      Mister X says the reason he never got rid of that moment was not that he saw fear in Slahi's eyes, but that he, Mister X, enjoyed seeing that fear. Seeing the trembling Slahi, he says, felt like an orgasm.

      Mohamedou Slahi is 50 years old today. In December 2020, two months after our visit to Mister X, he is standing on the Atlantic beach. In front of him the waves break on the Mauritanian coast, not far behind him begins the endless expanse of the Sahara. Slahi wears a Mauritanian robe and a turban, both in the bright blue of the sky above him. With narrowed eyes, he looks out to sea and says that if he were to sail off here on a steady westerly course, he would arrive where he was held for 14 years, at the south-eastern tip of Cuba.

      Slahi has been free again for five years. But like Mister X, he too cannot shake off his time in Guantánamo. He now lives again in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, on the edge of the desert, the place where the USA had him kidnapped a few weeks after 11 September 2001. Unlike then, he is now a celebrity. He is approached on the street, he zooms out of his house into universities and onto podiums around the world to denounce human rights abuses by the United States. He says that when he closes his eyes at night and sleep comes, sometimes the masked man comes again.

      When one of the authors of this article first visited him in 2017, Slahi expressed a wish - he would like to find his torturers. At the time, he had already written a book about his time in Guantánamo. In the last sentence, he had invited the people who had tortured him to have tea with him: "My house is open."

      The trauma of 11 September 2001

      At that first meeting and again now, in December 2020, he says that during the torture period in Guantánamo he felt one thing above all: Hate. Again and again, he imagined the cruel way in which he would kill Mister X. He said that he had to kill him, his family and everyone else. Him, his family and everyone who meant something to him. But then, in the solitude of his cell, while thinking, praying and writing, he realised that revenge was not the answer. So he decided to try something else: Forgiveness.

      In the silence of his cell, he forced himself to think that this big, strong man, Mister X, was in fact a small, weak child. A child to whom he, Mohamedou Slahi, patted his head and said: What you did is bad, but I forgive you. The process of re-educating himself took several years. But at some point, still sitting in his cell in Guantánamo, he had managed to convince himself so much of the sincerity of this thought that he really felt the need to want to forgive.

      When Slahi expressed a desire to speak to Mister X, he said he hoped it would bring peace to his still troubled soul. In the best case scenario, he could replace the old, painful memories of that time with new, good memories.

      Thus began our search for Mister X.

      How must one imagine a man torturing another? In American files, for example in a Senate investigation report, there is a list of what Mister X did. They are descriptions of the crudest psychological and sometimes physical violence.

      When you meet him, something strange happens: you don't connect the image that all the reports have created in your head with the man sitting in front of you. We know for sure that he is Mister X. Former colleagues of his have confirmed his identity to us. But the Mister X we meet is: a subtle art lover. An educated man interested in history. All in all, a pretty nice guy. After spending several days with him, one cannot escape the impression that he is apparently also a very empathetic person.

      Mister X tells us that he occasionally invites homeless people to the restaurant, also that it happens that he cries in front of the TV when he sees reports from disaster areas. It is precisely because he can empathise so well that he has been so good as an interrogator, as a torturer. You have to put yourself in the other person's shoes. What causes him even greater pain? What could make him feel even more insecure? Where is his weak point? But precisely because of empathy, he says, he was also broken by what he had done at the time.

      Shortly after he left Guantánamo in the winter of 2003, Mister X began to drink. It was not unusual for him to drink three bottles of red wine a night. He spent more and more time in bed and spoke less and less with his wife and children. He hardly found any sleep any more. He toyed with the idea of killing himself, he says. A doctor diagnosed him with severe post-traumatic stress disorder. The torturer, of all people, had suffered the kind of trauma one would expect to find in his victim.

      There are many studies on the psychological suffering of torture victims. War refugees from Syria, refugees who were mistreated in Libyan camps, Uighur prisoners from China - in such people, depression, addictions, concentration problems, sleeping problems and suicidal thoughts are increasingly observed.

      Mister X also suffered from all these symptoms.

      One could see the distraught Mister X as the personification of the trauma that has gripped the entire United States since 11 September 2001. After that primal experience, the country that wanted to defend the values of the West in the fight against terror betrayed precisely those values. Rule of law. Justice. Democracy. And since that primordial experience, the country has been ravaged more than ever by an omnipresent violence perpetrated by broken people. Spree killings, assassinations, hate crimes. Maybe the whole US has some kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome?

      For 17 years, Mister X says, he has been working through the guilt he has brought upon himself. He has taken medication, undergone therapy and looked for a new job. For 17 years he has been trying to make up for his mistake. A few things have helped him. A little. But not really. Maybe also because he had secretly known all these years that in order to really come clean with himself, he would have to do one thing urgently. "The decent thing to do would be to tell Slahi to his face that I regret what I did to him. That it was wrong."

      In that sense, Slahi's offer to talk to us reporters is a gift. An opportunity to draw a line under the matter. But there's a thought that's been troubling Mister X and making it difficult for him to accept the offer.

      Mister X still thinks Mohamedou Slahi is a terrorist. And for one of the most brilliant in recent history. A charismatic. A manipulator. A gifted communicator who already spoke four languages, Arabic, French, German and English, and taught himself a fifth, Spanish, in Guantánamo.

      Slahi was probably the smartest person he had ever met, Mister X says. So smart that Slahi managed to fool his interrogators, just as he now manages to make millions of people around the world believe he is innocent. Mister X says he knows this person's psyche better than that of his own wife. For weeks he did nothing but put himself in this man's shoes and one thing was clear: Slahi was a brilliant liar.

      He looks his tormentor in the face

      In 2010, a US federal judge ruled that Slahi must be released because the US government's alleged evidence against him was just that, not evidence: Evidence. The government appeals.

      In 2015, the book Slahi wrote in prison is published: Guantánamo Diary. It is extensively redacted, but the message is clear: the US tortured an innocent man. The book becomes a bestseller.

      In 2016, Slahi is released, after 14 years without charges. In Mauritania, he is received like a hero.

      In 2019, it is announced that Guantánamo Diary will be made into a film. Jodie Foster and Benedict Cumberbatch will star, and Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald will direct.

      In 2020, the Guardian's website will publish the trailer for a documentary in which one of Slahi's guards travels to Mauritania and former enemies become friends.

      Apparent friends, says Mister X. He doesn't buy any of this "forgiveness stuff" from Slahi. The film scenes - the walk in the Sahara sand, Slahi laughing and helping his guard into a Mauritanian robe - , Slahi has really staged all that masterfully. Slahi who generously forgives, the decent David who rises above the corrupt Goliath - the narrative of a hero.

      That is what makes Mister X hesitate for so long: Slahi, he fears, could also use him for his production. He could show the whole world: Look, now not only an insignificant guard apologises, but also my torturer, and I forgive him too! Slahi would become an even greater hero.

      Is Mister X's urge to face his victim stronger than his fear of being instrumentalised?

      Mister X has made a small, ugly potty. It must now dry. He puts it aside, wipes his hands on a towel and looks serious. He is silent for a long time and then says, "I'm going through with this now. Oh God."

      The picture jerks, the sound wobbles, and for a brief moment hope is written on Mister X's face that technology will save him from his courage. Then the face he knows so well appears before him on the computer screen - narrow as ever, but aged. The man on the screen, unlike Slahi in 2003, has hardly any hair left. And Slahi now wears glasses, with black rims.

      It is late in Mauritania, almost midnight, but Mohamedou Slahi has stayed awake. He also has a visit from a member of our team. By phone, we have been keeping Slahi updated from the US for the past few hours: There is a delay; Mister X needs a little more time.

      Now a picture is also building up on the monitor in Mauritania. The greying beard, the bald head, the tattoos on the back of his neck.

      Mohamedou Slahi looks his tormentor in the face. No mask, no sunglasses.

      Mister X: Mister Slahi. How are you doing?

      Mohamedou Slahi: How are you, sir?

      Mister X: Not bad, and you?

      Mohamedou Slahi: I am very well.

      Mister X: That's good.

      Mohamedou Slahi: Thank you for asking.

      Mister X: Yes, sir. I was extremely hesitant to make this call. But let me explain a few things to you.

      The first time Mister X saw him was on 22 May 2003. Mister X was standing in an observation room in Guantánamo, looking through a pane of glass that was a mirror from the other side. There, in the interrogation room, Slahi was being questioned by two FBI agents. For half a year they had spoken to him almost every day - without the slightest success. In a few days, it had already been decided, the military would take over, Mister X and his colleagues.

      There was a table in the middle of the room, on one side the agents, on the other Slahi. The FBI had brought cakes. One of them, blond and tall, obviously the boss, was leafing through a Koran and saying something about a passage. Then Slahi stood up. He wore no handcuffs, no chains. He walked around the table, took the Koran from the agent's hand and said, no, no, he got it wrong, he had to see it this way and that way. In the end, Mister X watched as the agents hugged Slahi like a friend. "I couldn't believe it," he says.

      The FBI agent who leafed through the Koran is Rob Zydlow. We spoke to him as well. He lives in California, he retired a few months ago. He thinks failure is a harsh word. But, yes, in Slahi's case, his plan didn't work. He tried the nice way, but no matter whether he brought home-made cakes, as he did that day, or burgers from McDonald's, whether he watched animal documentaries with Slahi or let him teach him Arabic, Slahi just didn't talk. He would always just say, "I'm innocent."

      Slahi, on the other hand, says today that the FBI cake tasted good, that he liked the documentary about the Australian desert best, and that Rob Zydlow's attempt to learn Arabic was simply ridiculous. It was true that the FBI people had been reasonably nice to him for months, but he did not owe those agents any answers. On the other hand, they owed him answers. Why had the US had him kidnapped?

      Slahi did not know that on that day, behind the glass, the man he would meet a little later as Mister X was watching. He did not know that in the Pentagon a document was just being passed from one office to the next, signature by signature, all the way to Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, giving examples of what methods this man could use to get the prisoner Mohamedou Slahi to talk. It was a paper that provided a framework, but still left the torture team plenty of room to come up with their own ideas.

      Rob Zydlow says he sensed a real hunting fever in the army people who took over.

      Mister X says he went to the army shop and bought a bluesuit. Slahi was a man-catcher, as his dealings with the FBI agents proved. So, that was the logic, Slahi would now not be dealing with a human being, but with a figure from a horror film.

      "What we did to you was wrong".

      In high school, Mister X was in the drama club. Even today he plays Dungeons & Dragons, a board game with elves, orcs and dragons, he reads comics and loves science fiction. While some of his colleagues were boring in their interrogation methods back then - question, question, question - he really immersed himself in the roles.

      On the evening of 8 July 2003, Mister X put on his overalls, black military boots, black gloves and a black balaclava, along with mirrored sunglasses. He had Slahi brought into the interrogation room and hooked to the eyelet in the floor, but the chain was so short that Slahi could only stand bent over. Then Mister X switched on a CD player and heavy metal music filled the room, deafeningly loud.

      Let the bodies hit the floor
      Let the bodies hit the floor
      Let the bodies hit the floor
      Let the bodies hit the floor

      Mister X put the song on continuous loop, turned off the lights, turned on a strobe light that emitted bright white flashes, and left the room. For a while, he says, he watched from the next room. But the music was so loud that he couldn't think. So he went outside for a smoke.

      Slahi says he tried to pray, to take refuge in his own thoughts. He did not talk.

      Mister X was trying out new songs. The American national anthem. A commercial for cat food that consisted only of the word "meow". Mister X turned up the air conditioning until Slahi was shaking all over. Mister X turned up the heating until Slahi had sweated through his clothes. Mister X put his feet up on the table in front of Slahi and told him that he had had a dream. In it, a pine coffin had been lowered into the ground in Guantánamo. There had been a number on the coffin. 760, Slahi's prisoner number. Then there was his outburst, which he could not get rid of later.

      No matter what he did, Slahi remained silent.

      Mister X: It is difficult for me to have this conversation because I am not convinced of your innocence. I still believe that you are an enemy of the United States. But what we did to you was wrong, no question about it. Nobody deserves something like that.

      Mohamedou Slahi: I can assure you that I have never been an enemy of your country. I have never harmed any American. In fact, I have never harmed anyone at all. Never.

      Whether Mohamedou Slahi was a terrorist, as Mister X thinks, or completely innocent, as Slahi himself claims, will probably never be clarified. Perhaps he was something in between, a sympathiser. In the search for concrete criminal acts, for terrorist actions by Mohamedou Slahi, we have spoken to many people who were close to him or who know his case well. There were constitutional protectors in Germany, where Slahi lived for eleven years, intelligence officers in Mauritania and the USA, investigators and several members of the Special Projects Team. We read German and American files. After years of research, we found - nothing.

      Mohamedou Slahi grew up two hours' drive from Nouakchott, in the sandy foothills of the Sahara. His father tended the camels, his mother the twelve children. He was an exceptionally good student - just like his cousin Mahfouz, who was the same age. As teenagers, in the mid-eighties, the cousins shared a room. Late into the night, they read books about Islam and longed to join the thousands of young men from all over the Islamic world and travel to Afghanistan to fight the infidel Soviet occupiers. But they were too poor to make such a journey. Then Slahi got a scholarship to study in Germany.

      In 1990, at the age of 19, he enrolled in electrical engineering in Duisburg. Five years later, now a graduate engineer, he started a job at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronics. He now built microchips for the renowned German research institution, earning 4000 marks a month.

      That was one life of Mohamedou Slahi. The other had begun during his studies.

      1990: Stay in an Al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan. Weapons training, oath of allegiance to Emir Osama bin Laden.

      1992: second trip to Afghanistan, where the Islamists were on the verge of overthrowing the Afghan government. Slahi was deployed in an artillery unit. After two months, he returned to Germany, allegedly, as he would later say, because the Islamists had disappointed him with their fighting among themselves - it was not at all the paradisiacal reign of God on earth that he had imagined.

      At that time, there was still a kind of community of interest between Al-Qaida and the West; after all, Bin Laden's people had helped to drive the Soviet occupiers out of Afghanistan.

      If you ask Slahi what his relationship with Al-Qaeda was like in 1992 after his return to Germany, he says: "That chapter of my life was closed. I cut all ties. I stopped reading the magazines, stopped informing myself about Al-Qaeda's activities, had no more friends in the organisation, no more contacts, with anyone, no phone calls, nothing."

      If this were true, Slahi would have turned her back on the organisation before turning against the US.

      But it isn't true. Slahi kept in touch: with his cousin, with whom he used to share a room and who had since become a confidant of Osama bin Laden under the name Abu Hafs al-Mauritani - once the cousin even called him on bin Laden's satellite phone; with a friend in Duisburg who was involved in the attack on the synagogue on Djerba in April 2002; with another friend who was later convicted of planning an attack on La Réunion. And Slahi, in Duisburg in October 1999, had three overnight guests, one of whom was Ramzi Binalshibh, who would later become one of the key planners of 9/11. Binalshibh later told his American interrogators that the other two visitors were two of the hijackers. At the meeting in Duisburg, Slahi advised them to travel to Afghanistan.

      Slahi's involvement with Al-Qaeda

      Slahi did not break off all contacts. On the contrary, the list of his friends and acquaintances reads like an extract from Al-Qaeda's Who's Who.

      If you ask Slahi about these contacts, he confirms everything, but acts as if it is an insult that you bring up these little things at all. These were his friends, and what his friends believed or did had nothing to do with him.

      All those contacts and friendships - it is not hard to imagine that hunting fever broke out among Mister X and his colleagues. It's hard to imagine what Slahi might know. Even if he himself was perhaps hardly involved.

      Perhaps he would lead the investigators to his cousin, bin Laden's confidant. It was suspected that the cousin and Bin Laden were on the run together.

      I wonder how many lives could be saved if only he finally came clean?

      Mister X says that as a team they felt they were fighting on the front line of the war on terror. He says he was aware that if he got anything of significance out of Slahi, President George W. Bush would be informed personally.

      For weeks, Mister X worked his way around Slahi. To no avail. Then he got a new boss, a man called Richard Zuley, known as Dick.

      Mister X says of him today, "Dick is a diabolical motherfucker."

      Richard Zuley himself says, "All Mister X got out of Slahi was petty stuff. Slahi had everything under control, we had to change that."

      Zuley now lives in a row house on Chicago's north side. For years he worked here as a police officer; now, in retirement, he spends a lot of time at the airfield where his small plane is parked. When Zuley talks about how he took over Slahi's interrogations, he smiles. "There was then no question about who was in charge."

      Zuley suggested to Slahi that the latter's mother could be raped if he didn't talk. And under Zuley's command, Slahi was beaten half to death. That was one day in late August 2003. When Mister X saw Slahi's bloody and swollen face, he says, he was shocked. For him, this raw physical violence went far beyond the limits of what was permissible and was also not compatible with Rumsfeld's list. Mister X confronted his boss - and was taken off the case the same day.

      When asked why, Zuley replies, "I used people who were effective." One senses no sense of injustice, only pride that he managed to break Slahi.

      Slahi was moved to a new cell that evening. "There was nothing in the cell," Slahi remembers, "no window. No clock. Nothing on the wall that I could look at. It was pure loneliness. I don't know how long it lasted, I didn't even know when it was day and night, but eventually I knocked and said I was ready to talk."

      After months of silence, Slahi was now talking so much that Zuley had paper and pens brought to him, and later a computer. Slahi wrote that he had planned an attack on the CN Tower in Toronto. He listed accomplices. He drew organigrams of terror cells in Europe. Slahi says it was all made up.

      In fact, intelligence agencies soon raised doubts about the veracity of the information Zuley's team passed on to them. In November 2003, Zuley ordered a lie detector test on Mohamedou Slahi. The latter recanted his confession and the machine failed.

      Mohamedou Slahi: You know so little about me. Obviously your government has given you very little information ...

      Mister X: Let me make something clear.

      Mohamedou Slahi: May I please finish my sentence?

      Mister X: Excuse me, please continue.

      Mohamedou Slahi: The military prosecutor who was going to charge me, Stuart Couch, was going to ask for the death penalty at the beginning, but then he realised that I am innocent.

      Stuart Couch is now 56 years old and a judge. An accurately dressed man with a military short haircut and a fierce southern accent. On a Sunday morning in January 2021, we have an appointment at a hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia. Couch talks about his Christian family and his time as a soldier in the Marines, which shaped him. He paints a picture of himself as a man who was shaped by a strong belief in values and rules. Rules that demanded a lot of him when he had to make the most difficult decision of his career in spring 2004.

      The US government had given him, the military prosecutor, the task of indicting the most important prisoner in Guantánamo Bay, Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Of course, this was a potential death penalty case, says Couch. After all, it had to be assumed that Slahi had recruited the later hijackers for al-Qaida - at the meeting in the Duisburg flat.

      There was a lot of circumstantial evidence for Slahi's involvement with Al-Qaeda, namely the many friendships and contacts. Couch assumed that with all the smoke, it was a matter of time before the fire was encountered. "My grandfather used to say, 'If you lie down with the dogs, you'll get fleas.' And man, Slahi must have lain with a lot of dogs."

      But Couch found no fire - not a shred of evidence. Instead, he found something else. On a site visit to Guantánamo, he heard loud music blaring from an interrogation room in a hallway. Let the Bodies hit the floor. Through the crack in the door he saw bright flashes of light. Inside, a detainee was chained to the floor in front of two speakers.

      "What I did was torture. No doubt about it"

      The scene repelled him as a human being and as a Christian, he says. As a prosecutor, he immediately understood: if they did the same to Slahi, he had a huge problem. What he had said or would still say would have no relevance in court. "Under torture, people tell everything, whether it is true or not, the main thing is that the torture stops," says Couch.

      He began investigating what was going on at Guantánamo. Shortly after Slahi's confession reached him, he had certainty: it was worth nothing.

      Stuart Couch says he wrestled with himself for days. Not pressing charges would mean possibly letting a terrorist get away with it. He consulted with his priest. Then he told his superior that he was withdrawing from the case.

      The case never went to trial. Nevertheless, Slahi remained in prison for another twelve years. Only in October 2016 was he released, one of the last decisions of the Obama administration.

      Asked today if Stuart Couch believes Slahi was a terrorist then, he replies, "I don't know."

      Mister X says he is sure. All you have to do is look at the way Slahi communicates. He plays games - no innocent man does that.

      In fact, watching Slahi talk to Mister X, one sometimes gets the impression of watching a shrewd politician. Mister X says a total of six times that the torture should not have happened. Slahi never responds to this. Instead, he talks about other things - his innocence, criticism of America. Once he starts talking about Chalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief planner of 9/11, who is still in Guantánamo. Another time about the US war in Afghanistan.

      Mister X: I won't say anything about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, nor about politics. I can only talk about the techniques I used. That they were wrong and I should never have done it. They should never have been abused. They should never have been beaten. That's not who we are. That's not who I am.

      Mister X tells Slahi that he painted him, six years after that August day in 2003. Bleeding Slahi in oil with a busted lip and a swollen eye. Now, during the conversation, he asks us reporters to send a photo of the painting to Mauritania via WhatsApp.

      Mohamedou Slahi: Ah, wow. This prisoner in the picture looks much better than the real prisoner back then. (Slahi laughs)

      Mister X: You actually didn't look very good that day. And this painting is not meant to ... it's to reflect what happened to you that day.

      Mister X painted the picture when he had just resigned from the army. His post-traumatic stress disorder had become so bad that he could no longer work. The alcohol had stopped helping, the medication was no longer working either. So now painting. He says he had hoped that the artistic confrontation would trigger a catharsis. But it only brought pain. So he destroyed the painting again. Only the photo is still there.

      Mister X: I have to live with this shame. Maybe this is a small victory for you, that I have to live with my behaviour.

      Mohamedou Slahi: Um, I don't know ... I always had the impression that you were an intelligent person. And it was hard for me to understand how you could do such a thing to me.

      Slahi asks exactly the question that determines Mister X's life. After art failed to give him an answer, he tried science. He enrolled in Creative Studies at university. He studied how creativity is used for evil purposes, for cigarette advertising, weapons of mass destruction, torture. He read study after study in search of an explanation for why he was capable of so much cruelty. From all that reading, he took away: The tendency to cruelty is in all human beings. It asserts itself when the circumstances allow it. The circumstances in his case were: a country that craved revenge. A president who demanded success. A superior who spurred on the interrogators.

      "My country made me do some pretty shitty things, and I did them," says Mister X. "I hate myself for it. And I hate my country for making me this monster." He speaks out, "What I did was torture. One hundred percent. No doubt about it."

      The few studies that exist on people who have tortured suggest that there are two types of torturers. The ones who live on afterwards as if nothing had happened. And the others who break. Scientists suspect that it is the worldview of the torturer that determines which category he or she will fall into.

      For example, if a person tortures, like Richard Zuley, in the belief that it is morally right to torture one individual in order to possibly save thousands, then he is more likely to escape unscathed.

      If, like Mister X, he tortures in contradiction to his own humanism, then shame and guilt are more likely to trigger trauma. The symptoms then often resemble those of torture victims, only one thing is sometimes added: a deep mistrust in institutions. Those who have been forced to do abysmal things in the name of a system, an ideology, a country, their trust in this system, this ideology, this country is sometimes shaken by this.

      Can there ever be reconciliation?

      Mohamedou Slahi, the victim, on the other hand, has managed something that therapists very rarely see. Victims are often stuck in a situation of helplessness and hopelessness. Slahi has broken out of this helplessness. He has made himself an actor.

      You can watch numerous videos of Slahi's performances on the net. The audience is often visibly moved when he talks about how he received his guard in Mauritania. Actress Jodie Foster, who won a Golden Globe for her role as Slahi's lawyer in the film The Mauritanian, said of him in a statement at the awards ceremony: "You taught us so much: what it means to be human. Joyful of life. Loving. Forgiving. We love you, Mohamedou Ould Slahi!"

      It is always this one thing that touches people, what they admire him for: that he is willing and able to forgive.

      In a way, Slahi says in one of our interviews in Mauritania, forgiveness is also a form of revenge for him. He is taking revenge on his tormentors and all the people who fought the American war on terror for 20 years: before the eyes of the world public, he exposes the actions of those who thought they were the good guys as evil. And he stylises himself, the supposedly so evil, as the good guy.

      Mohamedou Slahi: I want to tell you: I forgive you, just as I forgive all those who have caused me pain. I forgive the Americans ...

      Mister X: Yeah ...

      Mohamedou Slahi: ... With all my heart. I want to live in peace with you.

      Mister X: It is important for me to clarify that I did not ask for your forgiveness. I have to forgive myself.

      It doesn't work for Mister X, he rebuffs Slahi. The two do not find each other. One last try: Slahi tries another subject.

      Mohamedou Slahi: How are you today? Are you married? Do you have children?

      Mister X: I'm not going to talk about my family or where I live, what I do or don't do. That's how it is, mate.

      The conversation lasts 18 minutes and 46 seconds and ends with frustration on both sides.

      Mohamedou Slahi: Anyway, I wish you all the best.
      Mister X: You too.
      Mohamedou Slahi: I think you are what you do. I forgive you with all my heart, even if you don't ask me to.
      Mister X: It's okay. I have nothing more to say. Goodbye, Mister Slahi.
      Mohamedou Slahi: Bye.
      When the video link ends, the two are left unreconciled, the weak, self-doubting perpetrator, and the strong victim.
      When one person tortures another, it's quite intimate. Tears. Screams. Pain. Fear. Nudity. A torturer sees things that otherwise only the partner sees, if at all. Mister X and Mohamedou Slahi are familiar with each other and strangers at the same time. They know everything about each other - and nothing. In this conversation, in which there seems to be nothing in common, it becomes clear that there is one thing they do share: Eight weeks in Guantánamo in the summer of 2003 have made them who they are today.
      Mohamedou Slahi lives largely from his story, from what was done to him. His suffering has brought him not only pain and nightmares, but also wealth and prestige. He married a human rights lawyer who worked in Guantánamo and had a child with her. He has turned his destiny around.
      In Mister X's life, almost everything has turned into its opposite. He no longer votes for the Republicans, as he used to, but for the Democrats. He is no longer for the death penalty, but against it. He is no longer sure he wants to continue living in the USA, but is thinking of emigrating.

      For several years, Mister X has been teaching young soldiers and FBI agents interrogation techniques. At the beginning of the course, there are always people who say: torture should be allowed. He then says, no, absolutely not. Torture exacts a high price. Not only of the person who suffers it. But also on the one who commits it. Sometimes he talks about himself.

      Source: https://www.zeit.de/2021/36/folter-guantanamo-mohamedou-ould-slahi-gefangener-folterer-gespraech-terrorismus/komplettansicht

      Translated with DeepL: https://www.deepl.com/

      10 votes
    5. Your fellow citizen, the oppressor

      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”.

      Political Poison

      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
    6. „Hating Men is a freeing form of hostility”

      When Pauline Harmange published her Essay “I hate men” (in French: “Moi, les hommes, je les déteste”) – the first edition with only 400 copies printed by a small French publisher – the 25 years...

      When Pauline Harmange published her Essay “I hate men” (in French: “Moi, les hommes, je les déteste”) – the first edition with only 400 copies printed by a small French publisher – the 25 years old blogger and author expected, that only feminist activists would be interested in it.
      But then Ralph Zurmély, an advisor of the French Ministry for Equality, read the text and publicly threatened Harmange with a lawsuit for “Inciting Hatred”. The ministry quickly distanced itself, but the public had already gotten wind of the manifest. For the author, this meant a flood of insults and threats over social networks, but also attention from international publishers. Her book is now being translated into ten languages; in German it is being published by Rowohlt. At this point, the 25 year old can laugh about Zurmélys threat, “because it proves my thesis beautifully”, she says on the telephone.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: Feminists worldwide are justified in defending themselves against all forms of misogyny, the hatred of women. Now you are advocating for hating men. Fighting hate with hate, can that be a good idea?

      Pauline Harmange: Now, hating men and hating women are not the same thing. Behind misogyny, the hatred of women, there is a system, which is extremely dangerous and violent in many ways. Misandry, hating men, is a way for women to protect and defend themselves from the violent behaviour of men. It is a counter-reaction. There would not be a need to dislike or hate men, if hating women would not systematically exist. Men are in many ways simply a danger to our life.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: But does that justify a general hate against men, all men?

      Harmange: For me and a lot of other feminists men form a social class. The phrase “I hate men” means that I hate the social group of men, because of all the privileges that they enjoy. I’d like to tell everyone that it is okay and important to be tired of this group. Misandry is a freeing form of hostility, and it covers a wide range of emotions and needs: It can mean, that we publicly fight against the violence of men against women. It can also mean personal consequences, like making the decision to not meet with men anymore and not trust them. All those things are okay and legitimate.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: Is it not more important to differentiate, which men and which behaviours are problematic?

      Harmange: When we take the time and effort, to exactly decide which men are good and bad, we lose a lot of our feminist energy, which we need in the fight against the patriarchy. The “Not all men” argument isn’t a strong enough answer for the systematic oppression which women experience through men. When we as feminists say, that we hate all men, that doesn’t mean that we don’t make any differences.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: Which differences do you mean?

      Harmange: Picture the system of misogyny like a pyramid. On top we have a few extremely violent men. Under that comes a large portion of men, which can be good, for example to the woman that they love. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t live in a misogynist system and support it in other ways. For example if they make sexist jokes or speak badly of women with their friends.

      Zeit Campus ONLINE: You are married to a man and have male friends. How do you live with the contradiction, hating all men, but loving one and liking some?

      Harmange: That is not a contradiction. I’m only married to a man, because we grew together as people. I live in a relationship which allows me to be the person I want to be. But yes, it was tiring to become a feminist and kind of take my husband with me during that process. I don’t know if I could do that again with a different man. My husband and my male friends know, what I mean when I say that I hate men or “men are trash”. They understand, that masculine ideals are not good for themselves or society. Only because one dislikes men as a social group, does not mean that one cannot have individual, very good relationships to men. The prerequisite for that however is, that you have men in front of you who are ready to listen and understand.

      ZEIT Campus Online: You don’t seem to have a lot of faith in the introspection of men. In your text you write that behind every man that takes an interest in gender equality, “there are multiple women which have opened his eyes with hard work.”

      Harmange: It is very frustrating for me and a lot of other feminists that men don’t use any of their time to learn anything about gender equality. A lot of women don’t get the choice but learn about the topic of sexual violence, for them it is only a choice of life or death. They have to learn to protect themselves. We get taught from small age to always learn and better ourselves to find a place in society. Men don’t feel that need. They grow up with the idea, that they are good the way they are. For them it is easier to say “I don’t hate women, I treat my girlfriend well, I’m one of the good ones.” That’s not enough, because it’s not just about the women they love. Men have to think about privileges and the system of oppression of women through men.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: But if you advocate misandry, wouldn’t the opposite happen? Wouldn’t men feel appalled by feminist discourse and stop taking an interest in it?

      Harmange: I find this idea horrible, that men have to feel liked by women to be interested in the feminist fight and gender equality. We don’t have the time or energy to convince men or give them a good feeling just to hope that they maybe do something for us. This inequality between the genders exists since hundreds of years, thousands of smart things have been said and written about it. Now it’s one the men to take an interest in it. By motivating themselves. It can’t be, that this interest is only done for their girlfriends.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: What does that mean for you? Do you not talk to your male friends about gender equality?

      Harmange: I’m ready to discuss with individuals I like and where I know that they want to learn and be better. But I won’t be a teacher for men in general. It is extremely tiring and gives me no benefit.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: What about a man who takes interest in gender equality and wants to do something? What can he do?

      Harmange: There’s a feminist influencer on Instagram which I really like, @irenevrose, and she wrote “When men ask me what they can do for the feminist fight, I always say: Watch the kids while your girlfriends go take part in demonstrations.” Even when the women in their surroundings aren’t activists, men should ask themselves: How can I support them and help? It’s important that men don’t push themselves into the foreground. It’s not their fight and not their stage.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: But isn’t it important that men call themselves feminists in public and talk about gender equality, so the work doesn’t just stay with the women?

      Harmange: Men who call themselves feminist in public often sadly want to be the star of the show. Many of them want to get compliments, without ever asking themselves: “When have I benefited from my male privilege? How did I treat the women in my life?” There was surely problematic behaviour at some point. If a man is serious about his fight against the patriarchy, he has to start with himself. And his friends. Men can talk with friends about how to treat women and can criticise it, when someone makes a sexist joke or comment. That’s much more important than any kind of interview or text, in which a man celebrates himself as an exemplary feminist.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: Back to the hate on men: Which social vision is connected to this? If you think it through – do we really want to live in a society, where all women hate men?

      Harmange: I think the chance, that we wake up tomorrow in a matriarchy, in which all women hate men is fairly small (laughs). But seriously: We women know how hard it is to be oppressed in a society and treated harshly. All women have lived through it at some point. We wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. To think, that from critical feminist discourse a matriarchy would arise which oppresses men is a too simple view on the subject. I see this fear of men of man-hating, female wielders of power as admitting their own wrong behaviour.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: How do you mean?
      Harmange: Well, they seem to think that systematic oppression of women in the patriarchy for hundreds of years could evoke a strong counter reaction. The best thing would be to reflect on this fear and ask yourself: In which society do I want to live? A lot of men would conclude that the patriarchy hurts them too. Of course, in the first step they lose the as naturally viewed confirmation from women. But in the second step they gain a new equality between the genders. Men and women would learn to be more honest to each other, in their relationships as well.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: What personal consequences have you drawn from hating men?
      Harmange: I’ve realised that my well-being is not depended on the acknowledgement from men. I’ve shifted my focus radically on the women in my surroundings, whose support I need and whom I can offer help and support myself. I think that allowing yourself to hate men can help a lot of women in deepening the relationships to their female friends. Through this I have discovered a new quality of sisterhood.

      ZEIT Campus ONLINE: What defines this sisterhood?

      Harmange: One thing in which women are better than men are building up emotional relationships to other people. That can help us build deep connections. Moments, in which women are between each other, are important. We collect our energy, charge our batteries for the feminist fight. It doesn’t matter if we meet to knit, read, network or protest. I believe firmly that the private and intimate is political, so a round to knit can be political. Just sitting down with female friends and drinking tea helps the feminist fight, because we say things that we wouldn’t be saying if men were present. Because we talk about our experiences in a patriarchal society. And because we realize that it’s beautiful that men don’t play a role in every aspect of our lives.

      This text is a translation of the German original. The translation is written by me. Not because I agree with the person, I think her views are abhorrent and self-absorbed, more because I think it's a good basis for discussion, and because I liked the exercise. Link to the (paywalled) original

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