Denmark: "Danes are welcome to come to Gellerup ... and be together with us"

Denmark: "Danes are welcome to come to Gellerup ... and be together with us"

("Surrender is not an option" - A message for Danish politicians Lene Espersen
and Pia Kjærsgaard in the Copenhagen ghettos. Uriasposten)

Interview with an 18-year-old Danish-born Palestinian-Lebanese girl (DA) from Gellerup, an immigrant 'ghetto' next to Aarhus. Transcription by Danish blog Uriasposten:

Mikkel Krause, P1: My guest is Iman Rabeh, who is 18 and has lived in Gellerup-park all her life. Tell me, please, how has it been living in Gellerup-park.

Iman Rabeh, Gellerup: Gellerup-park, it's been my whole life, it's been - all my friends, all the places in Gellerup-park , it's both good memories and bad memories, but also, I can't leave Gellerup.

Mikkel Krause: But what are the values, in what is now being called a ghetto, which are important to you?

Iman Rabeh: The value is the fellowship, that we all speak the same language, that we stick together, also my neighbor - all my neighbors are Arabs, if they're not Arabs, they're Lebanese, if they're not Lebanese, they're - we have that love for each other, that you are Arab - I am Arab, we can speak together, we can discuss everything, we come from other countries.

Mikkel Krause: But what does it mean for you, to come from Gellerup-park, also to be Iman from the ghetto, rather than Iman from Vejlby, or wherever else you might come from.

Iman Rabeh: It means everything. Because if I move to a Danish neighborhood, it won't mean as much to me, because to know the language is one thing, but also, the Danes in general, they're not like us, they - in everything, we have different traditions, we have different - also, we are different, and there's a difference in our way of thinking. Also the neighbors, if we were now to loan some things from the neighbors, we do it. It's just in general, in everything, that you're Arab, I'm Arab, we give some things to each other, it doesn't matter.

Mikkel Krause: You've said straightforwardly that if you ever move from Gellerup, and you might be forced to move from Gellerup, because they'll tear down an apartment block, or whatever, you'll move to another ghetto.

Iman Rabeh: Yes, exactly. I'll move to another ghetto.

Mikkel Krause: But why?

Iman Rabeh: Also because, that I can't - I've lived all my life with, let me ask it another way - why do we go back to Lebanon every year. I didn't do that, but then, I've been there in the past two years. But all the others, why do they spend hundreds of thousands of kroner to go to Lebanon every year, I wonder why. To talk, so that they sit together, to hear the language, to hear, to say, that this is mine, you have a good feeling there, that this is me. It's mine. This is where I fit.

Mikkel Krause: But if you now go out in the streets at 3AM, I don't know if you ever do that, but where would you feel most safe? In Aarhus or out in Gellerup-park?

Iman Rabeh: In the 'ghetto', in Gellerup-park. Because everybody knows each other, nobody dares do anything to each other. But if I go in a Danish neighborhood or something, I'll be insecure or afraid.

Mikkel Krause: Now you could say that some of what's been talked a lot about in the past on the ghetto debate, is that ghettos function as a sort of parallel society, closed-off areas. What you say here, the image you draw, just confirms that allegation.

Iman Rabeh: That might be, but no - All Danes are welcome to come to Gellerup and live there, and be together with us, but, if I go alone, for example, there, there won't, I'm 100% sure of it, nobody will lay a finger on me, or steal a handbag, or steal a bicycle, for example, because I'm of 'them'. Also we know everybody, they won't be able to do that.

Mikkel Krause: Your parents, how much contact did your parents have with Danes outside the ghetto, or for that matter, with with Danes in Gellerup-park, and with Danish society while you were growing up?

Iman Rabeh: No contacts. They didn't have, they have no Danish friends, nor do they have a communal life, so they only have the schools, when they're invited to school parties they go for my brothers' or my sisters' sake. Also, whatever. Or the municipality, they have contacts with the municipality etc, they have no friendships with Danes, for example, if a Dane told my mother, 'should we go out to the city to day?', then my mother thinks 'you've got it completely wrong - that I would go out to the city in the evening and eat and do such things. I do that with my family, I don't do that with my friends' Or take the swimming pool for example, they'll never think of it or want it. Also the problem is that the parents have the thoughts of a thousand years, of generations ago, of our fore-fore-fathers. They have this tradition, and the Danes naturally have their culture.

Mikkel Krause: But what does it mean for your parents' relationship to Danish society. That they have no anchor here, and haven't had much contact with Danes.

Iman Rabeh: It means that they can't understand us, who were born here and grew up here. If I tell my mother that I'm going out with my girlfriend at 6PM, that we're just going to eat, or going to a movie, they won't understand it, because she has that way of thought that I'll never think of doing this, unless I go out with my family and eat, then it would be something completely different. But when I say that, she doesn't understand me. I'm not going to do something wrong, I'm just going to eat something and go to the movie.

Mikkel Krause: So there are also very big differences between your parent's contact with Danish society and your way of associating with other people, and therefore, your own contact.

Iman Rabeh: Yes there is is - a lot.

Mikkel Krause: One of the solutions to the ghetto problems the politicians are talking about, is to dissolve the ghettos by forcing people to mix more. That more Danes will move in, for example, into Gellerup-park, and more immigrants will go out to the society around. What would that mean for you and your family.

Iman Rabeh: We can't do that, just like you and I and them can't decide who will live here, we can decide on our own. Nobody can force somebody else to move out.

Mikkel Krause: What would you do if they try?

Iman Rabeh: Well, if they try, I'll revolt - where is the freedom of speech you speak of, where it is? I decide where I'll live, as you decide for yourself. Fine, you want me to live, you want to force me to live with Danes, so I'd like to live together with your Pia Kjærsgaard, for example.

Mikkel Krause: There's also another solution which is discussed a lot, to tear down some of the blocks in Gellerup-park. What do you think of such a solution?

Iman Rabeh: Absolutely not. It's the wrong solution. You can build something up instead of tearing something down. You can make it a nicer place, but why should you tear it down. There's no reason for it.

Mikkel Krause: Thank you very much for coming here, Iman Rabeh.

Iman Rabeh: Thanks for the invitation.