Click here. to sign the open letter.

Since the Cultural Committee (Kulturausschuss) meeting on the sixth of November, it is official: Berlin's Senator for Culture Joe Chialo (CDU) is examining measures under subsidy law to discontinue funding for Oyoun. The far-right AfD has expressed its gratitude.

We call on the Berlin Senate to continue funding the state-owned cultural centre at Lucy-Lameck-Straße 32 in Berlin-Neukölln.  

Since 2020, this venue has been called "Oyoun" and today employs 32, mostly marginalised, staff and fellows. Oyoun is an important venue in the intersectional art and culture scene, which primarily focuses on queer*feminist, migrant and decolonial perspectives and has already received several international awards for its work. In 2023, there were 5872 requests to use the space, and 580 events took place over 327 days with approx. 82.100 visitors. 

It is impossible to imagine cosmopolitan Berlin without Oyoun - but its existence is acutely under threat.

The impending closure of Oyoun was provoked by an event that took place on the fourth of November 2023 on the premises of Oyoun: an evening of "mourning and hope" by the organisation „Jüdische Stimme für einen gerechten Frieden in Nahost“Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East, the German section of the international umbrella group European Jews for a Just Peace. The association is dedicated to "informing about the necessity and possibility of a just peace between Palestine and Israel" and "actively working towards the realisation of a lasting peace that is viable for both nations". In 2019, the organisation was awarded the Göttingen Peace Prize.

Oyoun had rejected the Berlin Senate's request to cancel the event and explained its decision in a statement 

The cancellation of Oyoun’s funding would mark the end of freedom of speech and artistic freedom in Germany.

On the twenty-second of October 2023, 100 Jewish artists, writers and academics based in Germany signed  an open letter "As our Arab and Muslim neighbours are beaten and silenced, we fear the atmosphere in Germany has become more dangerous—for Jews and Muslims alike—than at any time in the nation’s recent history. We condemn these acts committed in our names. We further call on Germany to adhere to its own commitments to free expression and the right to assembly as enshrined in its Basic Law."

All these people should have the opportunity, within the framework of freedom of expression, to speak together and publicly, to mourn and enter into dialogue with one another. It seems ironic when Jewish people and groups are labelled or even defamed as anti-Semitic by German politicians and media.

However, on the thirty-first of October the Green parliamentary group published a press release entitled "Funding for Oyoun must be ended (Förderung von Oyoun muss beendet werden)", in which MP Susanna Kahlefeld accuses the cultural centre Oyoun of acting in an antisemitic manner. Oyoun considers these accusations groundless and explicitly rejects them. Already on the first of November, the Senator for Culture announced in the Berliner Zeitung that he would "fundamentally review the financial support of Oyoun (...) to quickly come to a conclusion and take action", after the Berlin Senate refused to talk to Oyoun six times.

The cancellation of funding means the end of an organisation that actively practises anti-discrimination and social criticism and contributes to Berlin's religious, cultural, ethnic and political plurality.  

Freedom of expression and artistic freedom also uphold the internationalism and cosmopolitanism of cultural life in Germany. It is the task and duty of publicly funded cultural venues to reflect diversity of opinions. Democracy needs places where marginalised, intersectional, pluralistic perspectives are presented and discussed in society, art and culture.  

A policy of repressing critical voices causes serious damage to freedom of expression and thus to democracy in Germany. Berlin needs cultural spaces that are dedicated to the issues and concerns of its immediate neighbourhood. 

We call on the Senate to grant further funding to Oyoun and protect migrant, queer*feminist and Jewish life in Germany.

Oyoun must stay. Especially in Germany. Especially now.

Click here to sign the open letter.

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Further links (German)

Verbote sind hier Fehl am Platz (TAZ) // Über die aktuellen Situation um Oyoun (ND) // (K)ein Raum für Diskurs (TAZ) // Repression gegen Kulturzentrum (JW) // Kunstfreiheit in Gefahr (FR) // Ein Verein eigensinniger Juden (Berliner Zeitung) // Gutachten Prof. Dr. Möllers (BKM)