Moslem youths force Berlin HIV centre to re-locate
Ernest Gill | March 19, 2004
BERLIN — Attacks by radical Islamic youths have forced Berlin's only
caf� catering to HIV-positive customers to move, reflecting
mounting tensions between an increasingly radicalized Islamic
community in a city with an openly gay mayor.
Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit
While Mayor Klaus Wowereit held a news conference during a
tourism trade fair at the city's International Congress Center to
promote an officially sanction gay guide to Berlin and Germany,
roving gangs of
ethnic Kurdish and Palestinian teens smashed windows at the
caf� in the city's funky Schoeneberg district.
Shouting "you queer swine", the youths hurled iron bars and
paving stones through the plate-glass windows of the cafe in the
Alvensleben Strasse and pulled down and burned the rainbow-hued gay
pride penants that had been festooned over the doorway.
"The attacks started right after the September 11 attacks," says
caf� owner Joachim Schreck. "Until that day, we got along fine
with everybody in this multi-cultural neighbourhood. But after that
day, it was as if it was suddenly open season on decadent
The attacks started with customers being accosted or spat upon
as they left the caf�. Then beverage cans were hurled through the
door. A window was smashed. Then several.
"Now we can't keep up with replacing the windows," says Schreck.
"So it's time to move. I hate to give in to intolerance and hatred.
But we can't afford to stay here. I don't want to end up with
somebody getting hurt, especially with May Day coming up."
He was referring to the May 1 holiday, which has become a
bizarre annual rite of spring violence, with hundreds of young
radicals going on a two-night spree of destruction through Berlin's
predominately Turkish neighbourhoods.
Local business and religious leaders have launched a campaign
aimed at averting violence this year. But longtime residents are
doubtful, considering the fact that rioting has occurred 17 years
in a row and that tensions have mounted.
In the aftermath of last year's rioting, with gutted shops and
burned-out cars lining streets in the multi-ethnic Kreuzberg
district, angry residents lashed out at Mayor Wowereit for jetting
off to America for a gay pride festival during the unrest.
Wowereit's fragile leftwing coalition of Social Democrats and
former East Berlin communists adopted a "soft glove" approach to
the rioting for two years in a row.
And as violence erupted, and rioters staged cat-and-mouse street
battles with police, Wowereit flew off to Philadelphia for a gay
cultural festival in America.
Wowereit, 50, who was elected in June 2001 after telling Berlin
voters "I'm gay and that's good", appeared at German-theme parties
along with a lederhosen-clad gay Bavarian shoe-plattler dancing and
yodelling troupe and two German drag queens called Fraulein Piggy
and Gene Pascal.
The Berlin mayor afterwards defended the trip, saying he was
using the festival as a forum to lobby for gay tourist dollars for
Berlin. It is a favourite subject of his, and for two yers now he
has promoted a "GayFriendly Germany" guide book specifically aimed
at homosexuals in America.
"Berlin is a gay-friendly city, a city of tolerance," the mayor
says. "And I represent our city with this message. Berlin has the
biggest gay and lesbian scene in Germany and we welcome gay
But tolerance is less obvious in multi-culti neighbourhoods
where down-and-out artists live side-by-side with immigrants from
Southeastern Europe and the Middle East.
"Some neighbourhoods in Berlin are as repressive as the most
backwoods areas of Turkey or Syria," says Turkish-German filmmaker
His film "Head-On" (Gegen die Wand) won the Golden Bear award at
this year's Berlin Film Festival with its story of a marriage of
convenience between two Turks in Germany: a young woman trying to
escape the influence of her fundamentalist Moslem family, and a
conniving man devoid of scrupels.
"You have to realise that millions of Turks now live in
Germany," Akin says, "and that theses are not urbane Turks who live
in Istanbul. They are immigrants from the most conservative rural
regions. And they have brought their conservative prejudices with
HIV caf� owner Schreck agrees.
"The atmosphere has changed in recent years," 44-year-old
Schreck says as he sweeps up broken glass after yet another night
"There used to be a mix of ethnic Europeans. But there has been
an influx of radical Kurdish and Lebanese immigrants who come here
with there expanded families," he notes.
"I never thought I would see the day when I, of all people,
would speak intolerantly of any other minority group," he adds.
"But the vitriolic hatred of all things Western that we are
experiencing every day now makes me very frightened. We're moving
out." – Sapa-dpa
German lawmakers approve memorial for gay victims of Nazis [14/11/2003]