What politicians with a migration background experience during the election campaign

Status: 23.05.2024 20:46

A few weeks before the local and European elections, politicians are repeatedly being subjected to hostility and brutal attacks. This is not a new situation for politicians with a migration background. How are they experiencing the election campaign?

By Julius Baumeister and Andreas Maus, WDR

Nurgül Senli says she felt what hate means at the beginning of May. The Left Party politician was out and about in her constituency in Rostock and saw a man destroying her election poster. Senli confronted him: “He then attacked me very aggressively and then shouted: ‘You already look like a Kanak – you should all be put against a wall,'” she remembers.

Nurgül Senli was born and raised in Wuppertal, she is German. Her Kurdish parents came to Germany from Turkey. Since 2019 she has been a member of the Rostock Parliament for the Left Party and is running again in this local election.

Racist hostility is nothing new to her, she has gotten used to it, but now during the election campaign the threats have reached a new level: “You always think that you can deal with it. Of course you go home and ask yourself what will happen if these people really come to power at some point. Will they really put us in a corner? Or will I still be safe here then?” Nurgül Senli continues that she wants to fight against the fear – and yet this thought remains: “You ask yourself: ‘Am I going to do this to myself again?'”.

“You, take care of yourself”

Just a few kilometers away, the SPD politician Seyhmus Atay-Lichtermann is campaigning. He is also running for the Rostock Parliament, and he too has a migration background. Since his candidacy, he has been met with racist hatred and agitation on social media. He is told that he should leave Germany and that, as a person with a migration background, he has no place in German politics.

Atay-Lichtermann says that they are “just comments,” but the comments bother him – often for days. His wife is also worried. She told him to take care of himself. “I looked at her and asked if she was serious – she was serious. That was the first time she told me: ‘You, take care of yourself.'”

The mood today reminds him of his youth – in 1999, as a 14-year-old, he and his family came to Rostock from Turkey. At that time, racism, hatred and violence were omnipresent on the streets. The family moved to the Lichtenhagen district, to an apartment just a few meters away from the Sonnenblumenhaus, the apartment block that a right-wing mob besieged for days in the summer of 1992 and set on fire with Molotov cocktails.

Right-wing violence in Lichtenhagen also shapes Atay-Lichtermann’s life. He says he still remembers his own experiences in the area, the kicks, the punches, the racist insults. “It was like a war zone for us. Even if it wasn’t, that’s how I felt as a child. There wasn’t a day when I wasn’t attacked by skinheads.” The trauma of that time is noticeable again today. A feeling he is not alone with.

“Everyone go, shoot everyone – you first!”

Ahmed Bejaoui came to Germany from Tunisia in 2015. He is now running for the Green Party for the city council in Chemnitz. In the summer of 2018, when right-wing extremists gathered in the city for days and chased migrants through the streets, he too was chased, says Bejaoui. Even after that, he was repeatedly beaten up on the street and racially insulted. Experiences that are now present for Ahmed Bejaoui in the election campaign. While handing out flyers a few days ago, a woman shouted at him: “Everyone go, everyone shoot – you first!” Bejaoui smiles in disbelief, then laughs and shakes his head. “I can only laugh about it, because if I were to think about it now, we would be back to 1933.”

It is probably situations like these that prevent other people with a migration background from becoming politically active. “We are talking about double discrimination,” says Seyhmus Atay-Lichtermann, head of the Rostock Migrant Council and SPD candidate. As a person with a migration background, you are always discriminated against or exposed to racist comments in certain areas of life. “And then as a politician, many people think about whether it is worth putting up with.” Seyhmus Atay-Lichtermann, Ahmed Bejaoui and Nurgül Senli want to continue for these people too.

You can see more about this topic in the program Monitor today at 9.45 p.m. on Das Erste.

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