by Demetrios Pogkas

Ramy Al-Asheq is a poet and journalist of Syrian and Palestinian origin currently based in Germany. Here, he helps refugees to integrate into local communities through a migrant-run newspaper called Abwab.

Initially run by refugees for refugees, Abwab pivoted to featuring both refugees and locals writing about cultural, social, and political topics in Arabic and German. First released in Germany in December 2015, Abwab has a monthly circulation of over 65,000 copies, and is distributed in 400 locations all across Germany.

According to Al-Asheq, integration is multilayered; people want to be part of the culture, political life, and there is also social and economic integration. The journalist emphasizes on language matters that define migrants in society. “My identity is my poetry and my art, not being a migrant,” he says, “You are going to a concert to listen to an artist performing, not a refugee.”

Al-Asheq believes in a different narrative the refugees need. “These people are not poor victims; they are capable of doing things and can add to the German identity and enrich it,” he continues, “We have to come to terms with this narrative, overcome the mutual lack of confidence, and get to know each others’ culture.”

Although an artist himself, he doesn’t believe in fighting political extremism with cultural means. “With law, we can do more than with culture,” he says, “In order to solve integration and other problems, we also need to address the root causes.”

Al-Asheq adds: “The refugees are courageous, and they’re trying to find better future. We need to think how these people became victims, what happened to them so they decided to jeopardize their lives to escape death.” He concludes: “To understand this, Germany and other European states need to create a dialogue.”

On the video below, watch a short interview with Ramy Al-Asheq discussing Abwab and if traditional media have the same impact as new media projects for integrating refugees

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