Day 1 – Sunday, March 13th: Welcome to France
Following the EGAM summer training seminar that took place in Sarajevo along the Sarajevo Film Festival (14-22 of August 2015), the European leadership training seminar began today in Paris. It will culminates with the “Sarajevo-sur-Seine” Film Festival and the screening of ten documentaries from the Balkans selected by young European during the Sarajevo Film Festival.
In their welcoming speeches Dominique Sopo, President of SOS Racisme, Alma Masic, Director of Youth Initiative Human Rights – Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Benjamin Abtan, President of EGAM, invited the young European activists to understand and take actions into the numerous current issues approached by the seminar: such as the refugees’ situation in Europe, the fight against racism or the importance of memory work against anti-Semitism.
Replacing the seminar in the context of the terrorists’ attacks in Paris in January and November 2015, Dominique Sopo then stated the importance to strongly act against the development of revenge cycles implying Muslims that is playing the game of both islamists and nationalists against democratic values.
Lastly, participants were divided into workshop groups allowing them to share the personal factors that ignited their involvement into human rights, fight against racism and civil society.
Day 2 – Monday, March 14th: How to fight Islamism and nationalism?
After a conference led by Mohamed Sifaoui – Journalist, documentarist, and president of the “11 janvier” association – on the place and influence that Islamism (the political use of the religion Islam) has in modern societies and its link with Islamic terrorism, the young European participants commemorated the victims of the attacks perpetrated in Paris in January 2015 and November 13th, 2015.
Going from one place of attacks to the other, they understood that, beyond peoples, terrorists aimed to destroy freedom of expression, the democratic values carried by France, the European youth and to spread amongst French people a vicious fear against the Muslims.
Then, following a second conference with numerous panelists (such as Frank Morawietz, Coordinator of RYCO – The Regional Youth Cooperation Office Of The Western Balkans ; Alma Masic, Director of YIHR – BiH and Ursa Raukar, Croatian Actress, spokesperson of Kulturnjaci2016) engaged in the fight against nationalisms through the mobility of young European and cultural learning, a workshop took place.
It allowed participants to discuss the main issues of the day, which triggered the question of national identification and nationality as well as the importance to define and educate people about the difference between Islamism and Islam. Tools such as Universal Erasmus were also discussed.
Day 3 – Tuesday, March 15th: Grassroots actions in Hénin-Beaumont
The young participants spent the day to Hénin-Beaumont, a North-French former coal-mining and industrial city where the rise of Front National (French xenophobic, racist and anti-Semite far-right party) became undeniable on March 2014 when the party won the municipal elections, despite a historically strong cultural and political link of local citizens to the left values, particularly concerning openness and solidarity.
Joining PACE, the Party of the Citizens of Europe, participants took part in several grassroots action to support the local militants resisting the Front National and its takeover of social and political spaces. It included door-to-door leafleting for a fundraising in benefit for the refugees of the Calais “Jungle” and Grande-Synthe camps as well as the collection of these donations to be brought to Calais tomorrow.
During this day with young local activists that grew up in this economically challenged area due to the progressive closing of the mining industry over the last decades, the European participants had the opportunity to understand both the context of despair that led people to turn to the Front National – attracted by its social policy – and the energy and solidarity that can be mobilized to fight it, raising hope for the future.
Day 4 – Wednesday, March 16th: Grassroots actions in Calais with L’Auberge des Migrants
Taking the donations collected the day before and accompanied by a delegation of Hénin-Beaumont activists from PACE and French charity “Secours Populaire”, the young European participants went to Calais in order to meet local activists from l’Auberge des Migrants providing the Calais “Jungle” with many basic needs.
There, after unloading the numerous donations, the local English activists performed a tour of the warehouse where they collect, sort out by categories and store – before distributing the goods in several points – the various contributions they receive for migrants ranging from clothes to food and including hygiene products. L’Auberge des Migrants also provides daily meal for 300 persons and, before the dismantling of the southern part of the camp, used to build temporary shelters out of wood and plastic tarpaulins.
Lastly, following an introduction to the history of the camp by Christian Salomé, from L’Auberge des Migrants, the group went into the “Jungle” to meet and discuss directly with migrants and to better understand their stories, aspirations and current situation. A moment of deep emotion allowing them to observe by themselves the slum reduced to its northern part, the surrounding fences, the closed part managed by French government and the way life organize itself around socialization places such as restaurants, churches and schools.
Day 5 – Thursday, March 17th: Meetings from the French MPs at the Assemblée Nationale to the Local Youth Council from Aubervilliers
In continuity with the trips to Hénin-Beaumont and Calais, the participants attended the workshop “What challenges in welcoming refugees?” introduced by activits Charlott Resske (Amadeu Antonio Shiftung, Germany); Sinan Yildiz (Association for Human Rights – IHD, Turkey); Vasiliki Patsia (Greek Forum for Migrants, Greece) and Aldijana Okeric (Youth Initiative Human Rights – BiH). Solutions to widely mobilize politicians and citizens throughout Europe thanks to visits of hotspots and adequate communication tools, such as short videos, were discussed.
Then, they met MP Danielle Auroi, President of the European Affairs Committee of the National Assembly at the Assemblée Nationale for a cocktail. Danielle Auroi expressed her deep motivation to work with EGAM and its members on various issues, such as the RYCO project, part of Universal Erasmus. She is particularly committed to the recognition of the Genocide against the Tutsis (Rwanda, 1995) and the creation of a delegation of French MPs to be present at the official commemorations in Kigali.
Finally, after taking part in the demonstration against the new French Labour Law, whose implementation might lead to enhanced discriminations and racial discriminations, participants met in a friendly atmosphere the Youth Local Council of Aubervilliers. The young people showed a profound investment to fight racism and educate other citizens to the importance of living together and fighting stereotypes.
Day 6 – Friday, March 18th: Shoah Memorial and opening of Sarajevo-sur-Seine Film Festival
The day started with a guided visit of the Shoah Memorial in which participants learned more about the characteristics of anti-Semitism and collaboration in France during World War II. Then, the conference “How to prevent genocide and fight against genocide denial?” took place with interventions by Alban Perrin, Historian; Nedim Jahic, activist at Nasa Stranka (Bosnia and Herzegovina) ; Marcel Kabanda, President of Ibuka-France and Benjamin Abtan on the Bosnian, Armenian and Tutsis genocides.
At the crossroads of past and present politics and justice, the fight against genocide denial is relying on several tools such as memory work, commemorations, trials, compensation and restitution of properties to keep evolving against negationists’ theories.
Lastly, after some final preparations, they went to the opening ceremony of the “Sarajevo-sur-Seine Film Festival” that offered many speeches by Dominique Sopo (President of SOS Racisme), Benjamin Abtan (President of EGAM), Dinko Sijercic (Programme Coordinator YIHR – BiH), Rada Sesic (Programmer of the Sarajevo Film Festival Documentary Competition) and by deputies mayor of the 20th district and of Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris.
Highlighting the crucial work of EGAM and its members across Europe, the speakers welcomed the connection provided by Sarajevo-sur-Seine between Sarajevo and Paris through the spirit of “resistance by culture” and the link with the French Week for education and actions against racism and the International Day for the Elimination of racial discrimination on March 21st.
Day 7 – Saturday, March 19th: Sarajevo-sur-Seine Film Festival
After Those Who Feel the Fire Burning by Morgan Knibbe that made the opening of the Sarajevo-sur-Seine Film Festival – on Friday evening – on the issue of refugees, their dangerous travels and difficult living conditions all over Europe, the day was entirely dedicated to documentary screenings.
Various issues were approached, such as the Roma situation in today’s Romania displayed in touching documentary Toto and His Sisters by Alexander Nanau where, in a torn apart family familiar of prison, living between despair and the forgetfulness provided by heroine, three children try to survive and to choose their own destiny through Hip-Hop and education.
In Chasing a Dream by Mladen Mitrovic looking for and gathering the crew of children now adults that played in one of the director’s first movie more than 20 years ago, the life of these former Bosnian refugees scattered all around the world is approached in a particularly poetic and humane way. The meeting with the director that followed the screening allowed many spectator to learn more about the story behind the scenes and the motivations of Mladen Mitrovic trying to highlight through his poetic texts and metaphors the carelessness of childhood and beauty of dreams.
Finally, with Chuck Norris VS Communism by Ilinca Calugereanu, participants were taken to a docu-fiction reproduction of the social atmosphere experienced by citizens Ceausescu’s Romania from 1985 to 1989. A time when watching a VHS of western movies illegally brought, dubbed, copied and circulated was a subversive attitude towards the regime.
Day 8 – Sunday, March 20th: Brainstorming session
On the occasion of the last workshop of the festival, the participants of the EGAM training seminar and the young activists from Hénin-Beaumont discussed of the next step they could coordinate together in their countries.
They discussed the utility to develop actions with high-school or college students – if not with younger children – to widely mobilize the European youth on antiracist issues. Wondering on the creation of new supports such as short films and photos, documentaries’ directors Mladen Mitrovic and Nemanja Babic provided advices and recommendations. Finally, participants questioned generally the way they could define, attract and mobilize new target groups to raise awareness on their issues.
The rest of the day was dedicated to documentaries screenings focusing on genocides and refugees issues with The Unidentified by Marija Ristić and Nemanja Babić, The Fog of Srebrenica by Samir Mehanovic and Flotel Europa by Vladimir Tomic. Society questions such as the life of young Roma people in Hungary, the (often wrong and partial) perception of autism, and the appalling living conditions of Macedonian students were also displayed by Drifter directed by Gabor Hörcher, I Like That Super Most the Best by Eva Karljevic and Green Walls, Black Food by Sandra Gjorgieva.
Meeting with directors of The Fog of Srebrenica and The Unidentified also provided a place to deepen the understanding of the film making. The Kosovo massacres remain today the only event of this sort to be prosecuted in Serbia and the movie is part of a wider project aiming to broadcast the knowledge on such topics. On the other hand, the Srebrenica genocide keep being denied and the ethnic tensions that caused it are not soothed even nowadays.
Day 9 – Closing of the Sarajevo-sur-Seine Film Festival and International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discriminations
On the last day of the EGAM training seminar, participants met with Harlem Désir, Secretary of State for European Affair at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs where their European impact on issues such as refugees, daily racial discriminations and anti-Semitism, and the fight against extremism (nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism…) was saluted.
Lastly, an official closing ceremony of the Sarajevo-sur-Seine Film Festival and of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – opening the French week for Education against Racism – took place at restaurants Le Carillon and Le Petit Cambodge, places of November 13th attacks in Paris.
In company of Benjamin Abtan, President of EGAM, Dominique Sopo, President of SOS Racisme, Noël Mamère, French MP, the former Vice-president of International Affairs and Ambassadors of Croatia and Romania, participants also met inhabitants of the neighborhood trying to regain possession of these scarred places.
"Il devient absolument urgent de mettre un terme à cette injustice. Il y a un manque de connaissances et de recherches. Il faut donc promouvoir le recueil de témoignages, mais aussi construire des mémoriaux, organiser des expositions..." - @BenjaminAbtan