First: Thank you very much for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. I would love to be in Pristina and learn from and exchange with you. I will try to describe why I cannot join this excursion with this text contribution. I will try to explain how important it would be to me to be in Pristina and why it is not possible. What does Freedom of Movement mean for a Forced Migrated person studying at Zurich University of the Arts?
First I briefly want to introduce you to this environment I am referring to. Especially in times of conflict such as the present, debates surrounding human rights have gained increasing traction here in Switzerland and, in general, in Europe. The central discussion remains concerned with the question of migration. The support of illegal pushbacks in the Aegean Sea through direct funding of the European Border- and Coast Guard Frontex is shaking the image of Switzerland/Europe as a defender of human rights.
As a Schengen member, Switzerland has supported Frontex financially and with personnel since 2009. Now, the national council has approved an annual budget of CHF 61 million until 2027. This constitutes 5% of Frontex’s overall budget, which means that Switzerland contributes considerably to the EU’s violent isolationist regime. As a Schengen state, Switzerland can only have a say in this process but has no voting rights in planning new competencies and laws.
Switzerland benefits significantly from Europe’s violent defense against migration. As a home to commodity companies, an international banking center, and through its arms factories, Switzerland is an important profiteer within the capitalist world system and, thus, a contributor to many of the causes of refugee.
A referendum was organized after over 62,000 signatures were collected by swiss parties and NGOs, which is more than is needed to organize a referendum, in a bid to prevent the increase of Switzerland’s contribution to Frontex from CHF24 million in 2021 to CHF61 million in 2027.
I was too confused because, in the vote of May 15, 2022, this initiative was rejected by a majority of swiss citizens, and the budget increase to Frontex was thus approved: 71.5 percent of swiss voters voted in favor of increasing Switzerland’s financial contribution to the european union border and coast guard (Frontex) in the referendum.
For me, it was the brutal face of racism and discrimination. Already in 2008, the “deportation initiative” (of the swiss people’s party SVP) had been launched, calling for the deportation of people who were legally in Switzerland but had committed a serious crime (e.g., tax fraud, drug trafficking, and burglary). This initiative was also approved by a majority of swiss citizens, but by a much narrower margin (52.9% in 2010). This increase in approval of racist laws from 2010 to 2022 puzzled me even more.
These are only two examples to give an idea of the environment of forced migration which I have lived and still live in. That brings me to think and feel about the illegal pushbacks happening in the balkan corridor in order to defend the european borders. Swiss citizens support this tragedy with their votes. This means more money, personnel, and equipment for illegal pushbacks, torture, and murdering the immigrants on european borders. It is hard and painful for me as a refugee who knows and feels what it means to be forced to migrate to rescue your life from the bombs and weapons produced in Europe. Or worry about your freedom from a fascist regime prison of Turkey governed by a dictator struggling for a neo-ottoman empire.
How can I close my ears if the screams of refugees crash the prison walls because of the torture practices of the local police and frontex guards in balkan countries?
I cannot stop asking myself: in these circumstances, how can I enjoy visiting art installations of the nomadic art biennale Manifesta 14 in Kosovo/Pristina?
What could be the moral value of a european art biennale? Would an artist just be contemporary and make nostalgia for Ottoman and other empires’ legacies instead of being critical, feeling responsible, and having social responsibility in their artistic position?
Honestly, I am not very hopeful as I experienced Manifesta 11 in Zurich 2016 “What people do for Money?”
As I argued, the moral values of Europe with Frontex make me hopeless to be optimistic about contemporary and contemporary art biennales in Europe.
Another reality is that a person (for example myself) is forced to migrate from their homeland (Turkey) because of their activist engagement after being punished with a prison penalty. As I learned from the news, Kosovo is not a safe place to travel to for forced migrants from Turkey because turkish authorities kidnaped turkish citizens in Kosovo and brought them to turkish prisons, places of brutal torture. Many dead bodies of ill prisoners were sent to their families because there was no guarantee of life for prisoners. Turkey does not respect the decisions of the European Human Right Court decisions.
In these circumstances, one can ask how it can happen in a country like Switzerland, which is well known as neutral, humanitarian, and with a direct democracy that for an art university student, it is not possible to go on an excursion even he has a travel document from swiss migration office.
I describe this as a phantasma in the art university, where I am studying. An art university, proud of its diversity and equality offices, cannot secure freedom of movement in the case of an excursion to Kosovo.
The reason for writing this text comes from the necessity of reflecting on the reality we live in this moment, in this century, being consumers of news about the number of immigrants losing their lives on their way to find a safe place, about conventions signed by the states that have no impact on the reality, expecting in vain morality from brutal capitalist structures and its practitioners. To be a consumer of these crimes and not to react against them, for me, means being a part of the crimes against humanity. At least I can try to keep on struggeling and resisting against these cruel deals of brutal capitalist vampires as much as I can and it will never be enough. No Pasaran!
The title is a reference to Albert Heta’s well-known work “It’s time to go visiting: No visa required,” a public intervention on British Airways billboards in Prishtina (2003)
By Niştiman Erdede
Niştiman Erdede (*1979 in Silvan/TR) came to Switzerland as a political migrant in 2008 and lives in Zurich. He works as a decolonial artist and curator. Between 2010 and 2014 Erdede participated in a collective, an association of the “Autonome Schule Zürich” (ASZ), the Institute for Art Education of the Zurich University of the Arts ZHdK and other art institutions. In 2019, he founded the MigrArt association with other refugees. While still an asylum seeker, he applied to the Zurich University of the Arts, and graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Advanced Theory, Department of Art & Media. He is currently working on his master’s thesis on the Lausanne Peace Treaty of 1923 in transdisciplinarity program at ZHdK. He curated the exhibitions “Fractured Spine” (2021), “Broken Constellation” (2016), and is involved in a wide variety of art, culture and research projects (performances, lectures, etc.)