Ruhullah Aramesh was a 24 year old refugee from Afghanistan. He was attacked in Thornton Heath on 31st July, 1992, by a gang of twenty yelling racist epithets. They beat him with iron bars and wood planks until his skull was crushed.
He died on August 2, 1992. Barry Hannon (17), his brother, Paul Hannon(18), and Joseph Curtin (17), were sentenced to life for murder. Richard Turner, (19), and Jamie Ware (19), were acquitted of manslaughter and murder. Another boy, seventeen years old, whose name was not released, was acquitted for attacking Mr. Aramesh but convicted for assault for having previously attacked a friend of Mr. Aramesh. Barry Hannon and Joseph Curtin had also attacked an Asian family only an hour before killing Mr. Aramesh, hitting a man, sixty-five years old, on the head with a bottle.
It was recorded as racially motivated. Barry Hannon, Paul Hannon, Joseph Curtin were given life for murder. One other was convicted of manslaughter through diminished responsibility, and three were acquitted. Curtin was freed on appeal after 3 years, due to the judges’ failure to summarise the police interview.
His death was just one of multiple killings that happened near to the BNP headquarters, as well as Stephen Lawrence and Rohit Duggal.
We have footage of the march and speakers representing:
The speakers are announced but it is difficult to work out exactly their names or how to spell them, so if you have any idea of who they are please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
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The project’s events, which were held online due to the pandemic, included a public premier of a new fully German version of ‘The Truth Lies in Rostock’. The screening was followed by a Q&A with director Mark Saunders, which focused on the participatory production process through which the film was created. For more about the process or the archive footage, see the bottom of this post.
This screening also launched a unique workshop designed to connect Rostock’s past, present, and future.
The Truth Lies in Rostock
This 1993 film depicts the events which occurred in August 1992, at the Lichtenhagen estate in Rostock, in the former East Germany. Over the course of three nights, a fascist crowd assembled. The police withdrew as the mob petrol bombed a refugee centre and the home of Vietnamese guest workers while 3000 spectators stood by and clapped.
The film uses material filmed from inside the attacked houses and interviews with anti-fascists, the Vietnamese guest workers, police, bureaucrats, neo-nazis and residents. Through these perspectives, a story of political collusion and fear unfolds.
Thirty years later the question has become, how can the memory of the ‘Lichtenhagen Pogrom’ help fight new waves of fascism in Germany?
Participatory Video Workshop
This two-day participatory video workshop offered the chance for young adults from Rostock to dig into the film’s questions about the nature of fascism, racism, and the roles and responsibilities of the city, state, and federal governments.
By working with archive footage and filming a live commemorative demonstration, the workshop was designed to bridge the past and present issues of racism and anti-racism in Rostock. The workshop’s second aim was to offer new skills in media and filmmaking to these young adults.
The workshop launched the weekend of August 20th. A group of young Rostockers were split in two groups, one working with archive footage, and one filming the live demonstration.
Before the workshop began, Spectacle digitized a portion of our extensive archive footage from 1992. The material selected was of the anti-nazi demonstration that followed the pogrom. This group worked with Spectacle to edit a new short film from the material.
Meanwhile, the rest of the participants went as a small group to film an event which echoed the archive material – the Lichtenhagen Commemorative Bicycle Demonstration. This group of participants learned about filming techniques and edited footage from the demonstration into a short film which focused on the landmarks which have been built to commemorate the events thirty years before.
Read more about the project from the German perspective.
The Aims of the Project
Provide a safe space for reflection about the events in Lichtenhagen, specifically for different groupings that were involved in the events at the time. This includes, but is not limited to the Vietnamese community in Rostock, some of whom had to fear for their lives and lost their homes in the events, and Rostock residents, some of whom were appalled at the unfolding events and other who were cheering at, or maybe even participating in the attacks.
Provide skills training in workshops, teaching participants how to use video cameras, record sound, and conduct interviews.
Potentially encouraging dialogue between diverse groups and contributing to a more sustainable community through a process of reconciliation.
Preserving the oral history of the 1992 events by creating Zeitzeugen (witness/bystander) documentation for future generations, through the production of a series of films including original as well as new footage. These footage shot in these workshops will be made available online as well as on DVD and can be used to educate younger generations.
Spectacle has an extensive archive of footage from Rostock between 1991-93. The archive grew out of a programme of participatory video workshops run by Spectacle. After the unification of Germany, all the East German media outlets were taken over or replaced with Western media. Spectacle’s series of open workshops were designed to establish an independent, community-based media group in Rostock and to document the effects of unification on the city.
All participants in the workshops were beginners, with little experience in photography or filmmaking. The practical exercises concentrated on how the unification was changing the physical urban landscape. At the close of the first sessions, each participant was interviewed about their experiences as well as their hopes and fears of “Die Wende” the unification of Germany.
One of the objectives of the workshops was to establish a community media group to that end we formed the Jako Media Co-op. Just six months later Jako E.V. and Spectacle would rejoin to make ‘The Truth Lies in Rostock’.
The production process created over 200 hours of footage that did not appear in the final edit of the film. These scenes of daily life in 1991-1993 have become an historic archive of the city at that volatile time. The aim of the 2020 project was to re-work and revisit this archive together with a new generation of Rostockers who were not even born at the time of the pogrom.
Unfortunately the experience of unlawful detention in mental health care institutions and the effects of the stereotype of being “black and dangerous” is still relevant today. We hope this document from the ’90, will raise awareness and contribute to make mental health care better.
The Sari Squad were a group of activist women, mostly South Asian, who helped to defend multicultural clubs and gatherings from racist attacks in the early 1980s. Based in East London, they campaigned to raise public awareness for Afia Begum, a young Bangladeshi widow who was deported from London with her child, Asma, in 1984, despite there being no concrete justification for such action. Her treatment was harsh, described by the European Parliament as ‘callous and showing the racist and sexist nature of the United Kingdom immigration laws’. In April 1984, the Sari Squad took their case to the European Commission of Human Rights. However, in the same year, and before the Commission could rule, the UK Government arrested Afia in a dawn raid and deported her.
In a Commons sitting on 11 June 1984, MP Harry Cohen condemned this deportation as a ‘disgraceful action’. He pointed out how the Home Office’s haste to deport Begum, and their total disregard for her situation (recently widowed after her husband died in a slum fire in Brick Lane) reflected how she had become a ‘victim of prejudice of the worst kind and at the highest level.’ Responding to Cohen, David Waddington MP essentially dismissed all the issues raised as missing the point, arguing that ‘the vast majority of people do, however, accept the need for immigration laws and for adequate machinery to enforce the control required by these laws’
Just what he means by ‘adequate machinery’ is unclear, but if this recent interview with Benjamin Zephaniah for The Guardian is anything to go by, it wasn’t so much machinery but bigotry in the form of attacks, especially from the National Front, that operated to control immigration. Retaliation was a means of survival (‘we still had to fight them on the street’), and Zephaniah praises the ‘legendary’ Sari Squad for the way they fought against racism.
In this extract, taken from our video magazine, Despite TV 3, various members of the Sari Squad discuss how they go about fighting for tolerance and justice, and why Afia Begum’s case is so important to them. Although the footage was shot in the 80’s, it remains just as current today, in our increasingly unsettled, multicultural, yet ironically intolerant society. The post-Brexit climate of casual racism and violent racist attacks makes it all the more crucial to raise awareness that this kind of intolerance is just as prevalent and unjustified today as it was then, and we must continue to raise awareness.
This video is available to watch on Vimeo, and is part of a new series of archive material from Despite TV, which will be re-circulated over the coming months.
Twenty five years ago Despite TV filmed the documentary, ‘Out of Line’, on the subject of London Pride 1991. Having already taken an interest in documenting the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) political struggle as it was happening (Despite Clause 28 – 1988). This longer documentary film takes a celebratory approach to the community’s political and social wins.
The events of 1988 seem almost forgotten as 25,000 LGBT activists and allies gathered in London to take part in Pride 1991. The event, a march through the streets of central London ending with a party in Kennington park, had grown in popularity since 1988, thanks to activist groups such as LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and Stonewall who worked hard to achieve greater acceptance, giving more people the courage to come out, even if just for one day.
Opening with footage of the celebrations on the streets of London, the film gradually takes on a more political tone, interviewing individuals about their experiences of homophobia and discrimination. The filmmakers talk to the Lewisham Lesbian Mothers group, who march in the parade with children and babies in tow. One woman is interviewed about her struggles conceiving and raising a child as a lesbian mother – a subject rarely discussed in the early 1990s.
The film also incorporates several interviews with BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) LGBT individuals and groups, who discuss the particular challenges they face living at the intersections of numerous forms of oppression – often facing homophobia in Black communities, and racism in LGBT communities.
As well as being an insight into London Pride from 25 years ago, the film succinctly summarises the struggles still faced by LGBT people in 1991, and the social and political strides they had made in changing a society which dismissed them.
The full film is available to rent or buy here.
A DVD of the film is also available here.
Both films, Despite the Sun (1986), an investigation into the year-long dispute, which shook the print industry, and The Truth Lies in Rostock (1993), one of the rare documents about the riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen in August 1992, will be shown on Saturday 21 as part of the film programme ‘The truth of memory and the fiction of history: the politics of representation at the interface of anthropology, art and film making’. Furthermore, there will be a third screening of Spectres (2011), a film essay by Sven Augustijnen that explains one of the darkest pages in the colonial history of the Belgian Congo, around 1960.
This film session focuses on recent anthropological works that have argued that standard anthropological accounts can be inadequate to engage with contemporary socio-economic and political transformations. In questioning standard ethnographic practices, anthropologists have started to explore the relationship between facts and fictions, between truth and representation, and between individual and collaborative or collective projects. These new strands at the convergence between art, anthropology, history, film making and literature raise important issues concerning the limits of the production and representation of anthropological knowledge. This session aims to engage with these debates by presenting three films that in different ways respond to many of the wider conference themes.
The screenings will be followed by a talk and discussion with Mark Saunders, film maker and director of Despite the Sun and co-director of The Truth Lies in Rostcok. All film sessions will take place in the Lecture Theatre of the Symposium Hall.
This powerful and emotionally distressing documentary tells the story of black former mental health patients caught up in a psychiatric system reputed to be institutionally racist. These black patients became increasingly vulnerable to unlawful treatment and discrimination once The Mental Health Act (1983) permitted patients to be detained against their will.
These brave survivors speak out about their personal experiences and describe what it means to be black and mentally ill. You get the feeling that these people were misunderstood, misdiagnosed and racially stereotyped as “black and dangerous”. Furthermore, the disturbingly low lack of patient support for black patients also denied them the comfort and security of which they were entitled.
Their stories examine the harsher side of a typical mental health institution, in relation to the measures of control used upon patients. This includes factors concerning higher doses of medication, seclusion, control, and constraint.
In this documentary, former patients speak out about their life before, during, and after their incarceration. You follow them through their journeys of confusion and turmoil. Firstly, their struggles to understand their illnesses, and how they cope with the side effects of medication. Then secondly, their attempt to rebuild their lives and overcome their dreadful experiences that they suffered.
Listen to Us, filmed in the late 90s is an insightful and important viewing, and its a topic still widely relevant today. Little has changed within the last decade which indicates that the problem hasn’t gone away. However in spite of this, treatment received by various black ethnicities is continually less widely reported.
Statistically black people are more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health problem, and are three to five times more likely to be diagnosed or admitted to hospital for schizophrenia than any other group. Also when it comes the populations of prisons and secure units, black people are again over-represented.
There is still a way to go before this group can get the support and understanding they need to secure successful treatment. This documentary highlights these points and demonstrates that their voices still need to be heard, as the title Listen to Us indicates.
Far-right violence against immigrants has become endemic in parts of Germany and that won’t change anytime soon. The public and the police are too often indifferent to extremism, despite the risk it poses to the country’s reputation. Deep down, Germany still hasn’t grasped that it needs to embrace its minorities…
The exposition focuses on the history of the Holocaust as well as on the current right-wing extremism in Germany. Furthermore it shows initiatives to protect minorities and promote democracy in every day life .
The exhibition also features a picture of “The truth lies in Rostock“. The film was produced in 1993 and is one of the rare documents about the riots in Rostock-Lichtenhagen 20 years ago.
“Germany after 1945”, which is designed as a touring exhibition, opens its doors on Tuesday, August 21 in Berlin. Next spring the exhibition can be seen in New York.
John Carlos, who marked his medal at the 1968 games with a raised fist ‘black power’ salute, will speak about inequality, resistance and struggle in London on Monday 21st May 2012 at a meeting organised by members of the RMT trade union on the London Underground and sponsored by the Fire Brigades Union. The famous gesture by John Carlos and fellow medal winner Tommie Smith epitomised resistance to racism.
The world is under the spell of the Olympics 2012. In these times of global gathering around an sports event, resistance is the best Olympic spirit according to Olympic athlete Carlos. Resistance against inequality and being pro human rights.
At the Olympic Games in Mexico City John Carlos created one of the most powerful images of all times. When the American anthem started, he and Tommie Smith bowed their heads and raised their fists to represent the Black Power movement of that time. Their way of dressing and posing represented symbols for working people, black poverty, peace, and lynch mob victims. In defies of the important Olympic rule: no politics. This controversial gesture created huge debates about politics. Carlos’ athletic career was over, but his human rights spirit did not die. He represents personal sacrifice for humanity and equality and this is your chance to hear him speak in real life.
John Carlos will be joined by activist and campaigner Doreen Lawrence, whose son Stephen was murdered by racists and whose long battle for justice brought the conviction of two of his killers earlier this year. Also on the platform will be Janet Alder, whose brother Christopher died in police custody, and Unite Against Fascism joint secretary Weyman Bennett.
Other speakers include Samantha Rigg-David from the Sean Rigg Campaign for Justice and Change and United Friends and Families Campaign, Sharhabeel Lone of the We are Babar Ahmad Campaign, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and Mac McKenna, an RMT activist on London Underground.