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Diamondiaal in Danger

March 20, 2019

Today we had an emergency meeting to discuss the quite bad news that none of the residents of diamondiaal were aware was even an issue until tonight. A press release is to come tomorrow from Amal with more precise information explaining it all, but the short story is this: one of the two investors in the diamondiaal project, which was started in 2014, decided in November that he and his organization would no longer finance the project as is, and took Inspiratie to court over control of the property and rentals. The value of the land Diamondiaal occupies has risen drastically over the years, and is now worth millions. The court decided today in favor of this financier, and now Diamondiaal's existence as a creative project, as a multicultural home for people living in social housing and who need a place to be safe, is at risk.

 

The meeting was a telling moment in the history of this village. Our collective and individual futures were thrown into uncertainty. Some reacted with anger and fear for themselves and their children. Others were sympathetic to the predicament of those who had invested so much of their lives to this project in the past years. Many wanted to know what they could do, how we could help, how we could fight to protect this place and everything it stands for.

 

On the WhatsApp group for the village where this meeting was announced, there was another announcement around the same time- a baby boy had been born to one of our neighbors. There were messages of congratulations and joy as we went home with heavy hearts at the prospect of leaving this place.

 

I thought back to the meeting I had earlier today to plan the weekly children's activity, where we will celebrate the spring equinox in the tradition of Newruz, the Persian New Year. This Thursday the amount of daytime and nighttime will be equal, as the days gradually lean towards more and more sunshine. Symbolically, equinoxes are a time to think about balance. Of new beginnings. Embracing contradictions.

 

The holiday we will celebrate is itself an example of this; Newruz has been celebrated since time immemorial, and no conqueror has been able to rid the Iran of this ancient tradition. It is an especially important holiday for the Kurdish people. For Kurds living in Turkey however, the government annually takes advantage of the sanctity of this day to target them and enact widespread violence. There, Nowruz is not a day of celebration, but of mourning. Too many deaths share this day as anniversary.

 

At the banner making event on Sunday I encountered this theme again. Volunteers had come from an environmental advocacy group to paint a banner someone from their group had designed on the theme of climate racism. As we started, Amal asked for an explanation of what climate racism is. The volunteers offered well-spoken academic explanations using words like oppression, injustice, intersectionality, etc. But when I asked if any of them had personal experience with the subject or examples from life, they admitted they really just knew about it theoretically. After most of the lettering was finished Amal suggested that we add henna style design inside the big letters spelling out DECOLONIZE to make it 'less corporate' looking and more multicultural. I had the glitter tubes ready but the volunteers were hesitant; they thought this would soften the message, make it cutesy and therefore detract from the seriousness of the issue. Amal and I shared the perspective of Inspiratie, of celebrating diversity and diverse forms of expression, of protesting ugly injustice with beauty and art. They eventually came around but first had to call the designer to get the go ahead.

 

At the meeting today, I had two contradictory thoughts playing in my mind. One was a personal contingency plan, brainstorming where to go next if this doesn't work out. The other was that this could be the inciting incident that brings this village together, unites us in action not just against some mysterious greedy investor but for each other. I tried thinking of myself as less affected because I have options and was already considering possibilities for leaving. But as I looked around and saw the distraught faces of my friends and co-workers, neighbors I'd already begun to care for deeply, I couldn't see myself as separate. Their pain weighs on my shoulders, and the struggles I've been having here transformed into a collective struggle. For Resistance, existence, the right to stay and to play. When Samaa suggested we start a social media campaign and mobilize everyone's networks to shine a light onto what we're facing, I felt a surge of hope and excitement. It wasn't much later that someone suggested a hunger strike.

 

This whole village is a bunch of potential energy: land for a garden with no plants, people living separate lives in close apartments, and lots of people enraged at the injustices of the world, the horrors of war and governmental actions. Together, we will have infinite power.

 

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