Thursday, 7 June 2012

Dear Mely Kiyak

Mely Kiyak is a columnist for the Frankfurter Rundschau. She writes witty, caustic weekly open letters to politicians, hypocritical TV chefs, analogue satellite TV, people looking for flats in Berlin, and pretty much anyone or anything who alerts her attention or ire. She tends to be rather rude. Her column devoted to Sakineh Ashtiani won the prestigious Theodor Wolff Prize for journalism last year.

Mely Kiyak was born in Germany to Kurdish parents and took German nationality as an adult. She takes an active interest in racism and neo-fascism in Germany and often addresses the subject in her writing. As such, like many of us, she was incensed by Thilo Sarrazin's mega-selling racist book Deutschland schafft sich ab and then commented on a recent TV appearance of his to promote his latest work about how Europe doesn't need the Euro. I don't know what she wrote because she made a mistake and insulted Sarrazin in it on the subject of his lisp and stiff facial muscles, which she didn't know were lamed by an operation. She soon found out. A wave of indignation from right-wing bloggers and journalists hit her unexpectedly and the column was taken offline in an attempt to calm things down.

Her clarification came quickly:
At no point was it my intention to belittle him personally. Thilo Sarrazin appears unusual in public discussions and requires tolerance and consideration due to his language, gestures and mimicry. He himself, however, refuses this consideration and tolerance to others with regard to appearance, lifestyle, origins and disposition. What I intended was to point out his own imperfections – not due to physical factors – in his presentation; I now find that the means I used were not inadmissible. Had I known the physiological background I would not have chosen the image. I greatly regret that. 
Too late, however. As the Frankfurter Rundschau writes, the reaction has developed into a full-blown hate campaign. Kiyak and the newspaper have received hundreds of often anonymous abusive emails, calls and letters. Some of them have been passed on to the police.

I don't agree with everything Mely Kiyak has ever written. But I do think she has the right to write it without being subjected to abuse. The fact that Sarrazin's brave defenders have begun standing up for him as part of a minority - a person with a disability - while the man himself has spread numerous insults against ethnic and religious minorities would be funny if it weren't so tragic. At some point BILD demanded an apology from Kiyak. I'm wondering whether Sarrazin has apologized to all the people he's insulted over the past few years. Certainly his foreword to the paperback of his popular book claiming that immigrants are making Germany less intelligent as a whole apparently emphasizes that he's not willing to take back one word he's written. I haven't read it.

If you're in Berlin you can show your support for Mely Kiyak by attending a solidarity reading at the Ballhaus Naunynstraße this Friday evening. Writers, actors, playwrights and musicians will be reading from her columns. I shall try to attend.


Tony said...

Like the post about the Urheberrecht discussion, I have nothing to add but am very glad that you're here to tell us about these things - thanks :)

kjd said...

Thanks Tony!

David said...

Thilo Sarrazin is a bully and a jackass, so I'm glad to see he's getting some of his own medicine.

kjd said...

Hi David,

Sadly, it's been Mely Kiyak who's been getting the bitter pill. But I'm told the event was very uplifting and a great success.