Typically German: Ramadama in Ramadan – Munich

Benjamin is an engineer. At least that’s what he told me. Then why is he suddenly wearing a yellow vest and picking up trash from the street with a grabbing arm? I didn’t greet him, instead I slipped away. To avoid making the situation embarrassing. For the “engineer”. Or for both of us.

But yes, it’s true. Benjamin studied mechanical engineering. All correct. I had simply never heard of Ramadamah at the time. It takes place parallel to the current Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. However, it has little to do with religion. In Bavaria, Ramadama means something like: Let’s clean up.

When I was a child, the motto was: housewives and mothers do the garbage cleaning. When I wanted to clean once, my mother said: Come on, go away, otherwise the others will make fun of you. In my former homeland of Syria – before the war – students took to the streets to collect rubbish, a small minority. Then came other problems with the bombs.

In and around Munich, the snow has long since melted. And without the white layer, the land reveals what two-legged pigs sometimes scatter in the open. Plastic, paper, electronic scrap, cans and bottles, discarded garden furniture, even an old sink. The counter-movement is called Ramadama – and their headquarters is a large container on the village square.

During the years of war in Syria, there were many yellow faces. That’s what they say there when people are full of fear and sadness. After an air bombardment in my city of Raqqa, all the houses were destroyed. We collected the rubble and ash in heaps and built makeshift barracks with scraps of cloth for ceilings.

In Kirchseeon I’ve been standing on the street in the spring for a few years now with a yellow vest and a gripping arm. This year there were fewer cloth masks thrown away than in 2021. When we’re done with work, there are pretzels, beer and apple spritzer. As I fast in Ramadan, the snack is kindly packed for me to eat after the sun goes down.

When a bomb went off in the street of Raqqa, my brother began collecting the remains. Then a second bomb fell and destroyed his right eye. Later, a rocket hit and 20 children disappeared under the pile of rubble. When we cleared the rubble to save the children, we found only their socks on some of them.

After the air bombing, we could have used heavy equipment to clear the streets of the debris. Here we need nothing more than garbage tongs, bags and gloves.

In Kirchseeon I recently met one of my students who I look after. He wore the yellow vest. I went up to him, he said hello and then said: “I can’t talk now, I have to clean up!”

The children here do Ramadama in peace and quiet and return home. How nice it would be if the people in Syria and Ukraine could just go home and have an ordinary Ramadamah there.

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