Position Paper on the PEGIDA Movement in Dresden

On Saturday the 28th of October, PEGIDA, the self-acclaimed movement of “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident” have celebrated their 3rd anniversary. The weekly demonstrations bring to the streets a melange of grim people, ranging from so-called “concerned citizens” all the way to radical neo-Nazis. Their agenda and slogans go far beyond the conservation of Europe’s christian-judean heritage and target migrants and migration policies, political leaders, left-wing and conservative media outlets alike and call for a society that leaves no space for anyone who does not fit their image of an authoritarian and nationalistic, unified people.While numbers of protesters are on the decline, in January 2015 PEGIDA gathered 25.000 participants in one of their rallies. Even if since it has become more quiet around the movement, continuing protests have a damming effect on our city with tourists scared away and hate crime and politically motivated violence surging to an unprecedented scale. At this point in time, the city is essentially divided into three groups: people who welcome refugees, people who openly go after them and people trying to ignore the issue altogether. The rise in crime and violence can be directly tied to the hate speech and racial slurs at these rallies as they have made discrimination, open racism and occasional outbursts of violence an eerily normal part of everyday life and brand the image of Dresden on a national and international level.

And PEGIDA’s target scope is wide. Not only migrants in general but also members of the LGBTQ community and people with opposing political views have repeatedly fallen victim to the (verbal) attacks of the movement. Constitutionally protected rights such as “freedom of speech” or the “freedom of assembly”, often referred to by PEGIDA itself, do not seem to hold the same value when it comes to people holding views contradicting those of PEGIDA.

Amidst all of this, AEGEE-Dresden e. V. proudly takes a stand for an open-minded society that welcomes people regardless of their origin. We are striving for a Europe united around the values and principles that we understand to be AEGEE-Europe’s values and principles.
These values are the diversity of Europe (people from different cultures and all backgrounds living along each other in tolerance and sharing common values) the cooperation between people and communities (the need for peaceful and civil dialogue and mutual understanding by bringing together people from all parts of Europe and creating friendships that break stereotypes and prejudices), freedom and human rights (spread and strengthened by our work) such as respect, tolerance and solidarity (for an inclusive society where citizens enjoy equal opportunities and rights). These principles are incompatible with the ongoing situation in Dresden. Instead of spreading hostility, planting distrust and instilling hate amongst people, we are dedicated to work for social peace and respectful treatment for all people living in Dresden, Germany and Europe.

In pursuit of this ambitious goal, the support of civil society is a key element. The prominent image of PEGIDA and its respective media coverage has long eclipsed the other face of Dresden. Long before numbers of refugees coming to Europe and Germany have increased, professional and voluntary associations, organisations and projects had already started taking care of the needs of migrants and refugees. With the rising intensity of the refugee crisis an impressive number of civil society projects and associations were popping up all across Europe.

This development did not leave out Dresden where countless volunteers began giving free German lessons, organising sportive and musical projects, donating clothes, holding meetings with locals, assisting with bureaucratic challenges and consulting on job and study opportunities.

Many of our AEGEE-Dresden e. V. members are actively supporting local refugee projects. Furthermore, we founded a refugee project group within AEGEE-Dresden e. V., whose members supported the development of the IDA “Buddy Programme for Refugees”, sTUDents “Mentoring for Refugees by students of TU Dresden” and helped organise the international event “From West to East: Crisis in Europe”, where young people from Poland, Ukraine and Germany joined in discussing challenges and opportunities regarding their country’s perspective on migration.

The increasingly vocal calls for barb-wiring all European borders, the rise of right-wing populism and the racist treatment and discrimination refugees and migrants are subjected to every day, are dangerous for all citizens of Europe and contradict everything AEGEE stands for.

We, as AEGEE-Dresden e.V., are working tirelessly to support projects that strengthen social solidarity in Dresden and Europe. Because of that, we strongly oppose the xenophobic ideology spread by PEGIDA and their fellow political arsonists around the world. Furthermore, we are denouncing any kind of discrimination, hate speech and persecution in the strongest terms possible.

On that note, we would like to stress that we are looking forward to welcoming guests from abroad in our city and invite everyone to come here without fear in order to experience the cheerful and welcoming face of Dresden. We believe that the best way to erase the negative image PEGIDA has imposed on this city is to take concrete action by supporting other initiatives and to continue organising international events and activities for students and other people.

Dresden is not PEGIDA. Dresden is colourful, international and diverse.

AEGEE-Dresden e.V. 28.10.2017