25 November 2011

Lampedusa’s Spoon River

I returned from Tunis with thirty photographs. Pictures of young men. Some in colour, some black and white. I keep them stored in an envelope inside a notebook. Wrapped in a sheet of paper in which a list of names and dates of birth are written in pen, in Arabic. Every time I look at them I feel uneasy. As if I were afraid to meet their lively gaze now that their lives are gone. Yes, because those thirty young men are some of among at least 187 Tunisians lost at sea in 2011 en route to Lampedusa.

These pictures were handed to me by their families. And they asked me to publish them and ask if anyone has seen them in Italy, in the CIEs or in prison or in any other place. The experience of the last few years helps me realise that there is little hope of finding them still alive. But I have decided to publish them anyway. And I ask the readers of this blog to make an effort. We'll publish one a day for two weeks. Try and look into these eyes that no longer exists. And learn to pronounce their names. And to celebrate them. Because in the end they will not be remembered only as victims. But as martyrs. Fallen in this dirty war of borders. Rebel heroes of a spontaneous civil disobedience movement against unjust border laws and against the criminalization of free movement.

Young men killed by our embassies even before being killed by the waves of the sea. Young men who deliberately violate European laws on immigration push us to question ourselves on the institutionalization of racism, on the prohibition of movement and the detention of those who are not in possession of documents. These faces will be part of the collections in the museum of emigration that will one day open in Lampedusa, like today at Ellis Island in the United States of America. But then it will be too late to beat the one’s chest and fill the mouth with rhetoric. Let’s make sure that, from today, these young people have not died in vain.

Listen to the report from radio Passpartù on the missing Tunisians

On the website Storie Migranti you can sign a petition asking for greater commitment from the Italian government in the search for those missing at the border.

Read also
Riad’s watch and they young men of Ouardiya
Ahmed, Akram, Mohammed, Makram and Walid
The Nasri cousins and the Aayari family
Walid, a Paduan among the dispersed of Sidi Mansour
The sinking of Zarzis and the young men of Jebal Ahmer
The Boulila brothers and the young men of Hay Nur and Mallasin
The sinking of Sfax and then4 martyrs of the Cherni family

translated by Camilla Gamba