Changing perspectives through media representation: refugee.tv

Ayad Salim, interviewed by Dilara Akarçeşme

 

How did you select the topics to cover in your reports?

At the beginning, David Gross gave us ideas because we did not have much experience with how Austrian people think. I had some experience with Europeans in general because at the beginning of my media life, I worked as a translator for Europeans who came to Iraq and wanted to make some reports, stories, articles etc. They needed a translator. But with Austrian society, we did not have much experience. Later, we developed ideas and David gave us advice about what would work. And it really did work. I have to say that he was a good manager. We discussed things openly. Sometimes we would get a bit upset, but that was just for the work. Then, we got together and had a drink and it was ok again. The work was very important for us, and it was very good.

 

 

Who was your target audience?

We aimed for Austrian society. Also, our language in the reports should be comprehensible for everybody. We did not aim for politicians, but for the people. We changed many wrong ideas about refugees.

 

What kind of reactions did you get?

We got a lot of positive reactions. I think the evidence for that were the donations. Many people supported us. They told us that they had many misconceptions about us and that they now understand why we left our countries. We changed a lot of ideas about Arabic culture and about refugees here. Let me give an example about Arabic refugees: When we came from Iraq and Syria and they saw that we had smartphones, it was a big problem at that time. “Refugee with a smartphone!”, they said. Then we explained to them that we are not necessarily poor people. I am just one example of many, but from 2007 until I came here, my salary was between $ 4,500 and $ 5,000 a month. There are also many people who come here to work because they lack prospects in their home countries, but Iraq is really a rich country. We wanted people to differentiate. We had many discussions after events, at parties, at presentations etc. We made clear that we are here because our lives and families are threatened with death. That’s why we are coming here, and we come with our smartphones. This is an example of how we succeeded in changing ideas. We are all refugees, but we have different reasons to be refugees.

 

 

Verein means ‘association’ or ‘club’ in German. These types of organizations are essential for public life and civil society in Austria. Usually they are formed by people who commit themselves to a specific common activity or cause and are run by a specified member structure and statutes.

Servus means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in German and is commonly used in parts of southern Germany and in Austria.

‘Bike kitchen’

Ausländer means ‘foreigner’ or ‘alien’ in German. The word is deliberately kept in German, since it is a significant keyword used in discourses of belonging in German-speaking countries (for example, see https://igkultur.at/artikel/der-auslaender-und-seine-erziehung). In the meantime, migrants from the second or third generation have also critically appropriated the term Ausländer for themselves in various contexts.

‘Warehouse’

‘Cellar’ or ‘basement’

Dilara Akarçeşme, Ayad Salim (2020): Changing perspectives through media representation: refugee.tv. Ayad Salim, interviewed by Dilara Akarçeşme. In: p/art/icipate – Kultur aktiv gestalten #11 , https://www.p-art-icipate.net/changing-perspectives-through-media-representation-refugee-tv/