On Monday, June 5th our topics of the day were ‘Refugees’ and ‘Greece’. I could give you an elaborate overview of our program that day and tell you for example that we kicked off the day by watching the documentary ‘We Are Here’ followed by a talk of human rights lawyer Jelle Klaas, who works with the Public Interest Litigation Project (PILP). However, I am not going to do this. Don’t get me wrong, it was a day full of informing and eye-opening talks (e.g. the story of Keyya Baloch from Balochistan who told us his horrific story about the ongoing war in Balochistan) with which I could easily fill this blog.
Instead, I want to focus on what I consider a critical lesson of this day. After the talk by Sanne Mylonas, ex-entrepreneur in Greece, we were invited to the Wereldhuis (“Worldhouse”), a center of information, counseling, education, and culture for undocumented migrants. We were given the chance to experience, listen, and talk to the people that Jelle Klaas introduced us to earlier that day. At the Wereldhuis, Izzy Abu Hassan Bangura shared his story about the work they are doing:
“Approximately 15.000 undocumented people live in Amsterdam; all of them have their own story. Some of them are refugees or rejected asylum seekers. The Wereldhuis is the place where they are not dependent on others for a while. They can come here for advice and counseling. Most of the activities in the Wereldhuis are developed by undocumented migrants themselves.”
After Izzy’s introduction, he showed us a video about diversity. Now, what happened afterwards is critical. Our group took over the debate and continued our heated academic discussion without taking the people who welcomed us into account, at all.
This brings us to a crucial issue that has been occurring repeatedly over the past week. We are a group of intelligent, well-educated, international (ex-) students with a strong commitment to human rights. We have been brought together by Humanity in Action because we all feel a responsibility to put our academic knowledge into practice. However, at times, this results in reproducing our privilege as scholars. The day after our meeting at the Wereldhuis Judith Goldstein, founder of HiA reminded us of what went wrong that day: we forgot about our goals as activists, we forgot about the people who inspire us. I hope, together with the rest of the group, that during this month the program will help us to find ways to put our words into action.
P.s. tomorrow, on June 8th, a social media campaign on Twitter will be launched using the hashtag #BalochMissingPersonsDay. It brings awareness to what is happening in Balochistan, check it out.