This Newspaper Is Written by Refugees, for Refugees
"My personal aim," the co-founder of the publication told VICE, "is to make <i>Daily Resistance</i> the most feared newspaper in Germany, then the most feared newspaper in Europe, and eventually the most feared newspaper in the world."
Photo by Joshua Olley
In 2015 alone, over 1.1 million migrants entered Germany. Many of them were sequestered in refugee camps, where they still wait in purgatory to be granted asylum. International coverage of the crisis has subsided in recent months, and the media tends to only bring up the countless people stuck in between their past lives and their new residencies when it relates to something like a terrorist attack, or politicians seeking public office.
One Berlin-based newspaper, however, wants to change how the migrant crisis is covered in print, and it's doing so by giving the platform to the refugees themselves. In a letter from the editors, Daily Resistance explains it's a publication that's "fighting against a system of politicians, media, and capitalists that is based on dehumanizing laws that criminalize and instrumentalize people." Rooted in political activism, the newspaper upholds and reiterates the demands of the refugee movement: abolish all lagers (refugee camps), end the German policy of residenzpflicht (which requires refugees to stay within certain boundaries), stop all deportations, and allow refugees to work and study. Articles are written by refugees situated in the camps, as well as by members from activist groups around Europe. The paper is eventually printed in different languages that cater to its readership, including Farsi, Arabic, Turkish, German, French, and English.
"My personal aim," co-founder Klara told VICE, somewhat jokingly, "is to make Daily Resistance the most feared newspaper in Germany, then the most feared newspaper in Europe, and eventually the most feared newspaper in the world." The German citizen was inspired to start the publication after getting involved with a protest effort at the occupied school Gerhart-Hauptmann Schule that led to police attacking both her and others. After that, "I couldn't not get involved, it was right in front of me, it wasn't abstract anymore," she said.
I sat down with Klara and Turgay Ulu, a contributor and refugee activist, at Klara's office in Neukölln where the Daily Resistance team meets weekly. Because of the political nature of the paper, and the safety and privacy concerns that come with it, Klara asked that her real name and day job remain anonymous.
VICE: Can you give me some background on how Daily Resistance got started?
Klara: Daily Resistance came out of Oplatz.net, which started as an online representation of the three-year long occupation movement in Oplatz square. We wanted to have a printed newsletter that we could hand to people who don't have access to the internet, so the first issue was an edited version of online articles.
Turgay Ulu: People in lagers are in isolation and don't have technical means. A printed newspaper is a way to reach them. You can't expect them to already know about the movement if they just came here. Also, it was clear that we needed our own alternative media because the mainstream media was ignoring what was going on. Normally refugees' stories get instrumentalized by the media. So it was important to us that refugees could share their stories in their own words and on their own media platform.
What do you mean when you say that refugees' stories are instrumentalized by the media?
Klara: They pick and choose how they report on refugees, and use refugees to tell the story they are looking for. Sometimes they want to show that refugees are criminals, so they focus on the small amount of crimes enacted by refugees and generalize it as all of them. When we protested against the evacuation of the Gerhart-Hauptmann School, the media's reports always reflected the politicians' interests. They didn't report on what the refugees had to say, or their side of the story.
What is your goal for the newspaper?
The aim of Daily Resistance is to inform and inspire those who are isolated in the lagers. We want to mobilize and politicize them; we also simply want to show them that they are not alone. For instance, we have a pamphlet in the newspapers that includes practical information, like where to get medical or legal advice, addresses of institutions that we trust, locations of free German classes, and information on political groups.
How has the newspaper evolved since the first issue?
Our first issue was filled mostly with well known Berlin-based political refugee activists. The second issue completely changed because of the positive response. Individuals from Berlin and other parts of Germany shared their stories with us, and we received articles and statements from activist groups like Women in Exile, The Voice Refugee Forum, and Street Roots. The second issue is twice as many pages as the first one and twice as heavy. It's hard to carry; it's really a physical thing.
Can you elaborate on the content of the newspaper? What types of articles do you publish?
We have a pretty wide range of articles. In general, we try to publish articles that are about any kind of resistance against the system. Many are stories of personal experiences within the lagers or the refugee system. Some articles are about the actions that are being taken right now, others are about what needs to be changed. We have very simple rules for our articles: no sexism, no capitalism, no racism, and no homophobia.
How have you been distributing it?
The distribution is mainly working because of one guy who is working with us. He was on a bus tour going from lager to lager in 2014, talking to and informing people who lived in them. He made a list of contacts, and they have been distributing the newspaper in the lagers. At first, we printed 2,000 issues and in a second they were gone. Then, we reprinted another 3,000 and shortly they were gone, too.
The lagers have loads of restrictions, is it difficult to get Daily Resistance into them?
Turgay: You are not allowed to be politically active in a lager, and they are closed off—you cannot enter a lager unless you have an official function. We find our ways, though. When the doors close, we climb in through the windows, or we throw the papers over the fucking fence. Also, there are meeting places outside of the lagers. It's not easy, but there are ways. Someone once brought Daily Resistance into a lager and got in a fist fight with security because of it. We have a lot of drama already.
So how are contributors inside of lagers contacting you?
Sometimes by email, or they hand us texts handwritten on paper. Sometimes they find someone to photograph what they wrote and send that to us. We also will sit down with refugees, record a conversation with them, and transcribe and translate that to be published in the newspaper.
Obviously, producing and distributing Daily Resistance is no easy task. Can you tell me about a moment or accomplishment that has motivated you to keep going?
One of these moments for me was when we saw photographs on Twitter of people throwing bundles of Daily Resistance over this super hardcore fence at a lager in Greece. It was unbelievable to see this, to see people who we don't know going through this effort to share the newspaper. The distribution by volunteers and individuals is quite amazing.