portraits from berlin

October 19, 2012


Foreigners at Home in Kreuzkölln


Born in Kreuzkölln to a Kurdish father and a Turkish mother, Asli Ozarslan says she is a German. Ozarslan, 26, studied media and German literature at the University of Bayreuth. Now she works as a filmmaker in Kreuzkölln. She says she focuses on crossing cultures in art and literature.


Even though Ozarslan feels at home in Germany, she says she goes back to Turkey every year to see family and friends.

She says she likes her neighborhood, full of foreigners and students.


Ozarslan says it helps her think of new ideas for her work. But with all the new arrivals, rents are going up, and older residents are struggling to pay the bills.




Raised in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, Nazmi El-Dakhloul left for Germany in 1976. He said life in Lebanon was miserable for Palestinians, who study in separate schools and cannot get normal work.

When he first arrived in Germany, Nazmi, 51, says his dark curly hair stood out in a country of blondes. He says Germans would ask him to touch his curls.


Nazmi is married to a German woman. Their daughter was born and educated in Germany. He says his family is conservative, and that he managed to balance his Arab religious traditions while integrating in German society.

Since he arrived in Germany,


Nazmi worked in a local business until it closed five years ago. Now he is jobless, and spends his time volunteering at a charity for new Arab arrivals in Germany.




Muhammad Ali came to Berlin to escape poverty in Lebanon. In Germany, tries to make use of his Arab roots when finding temporary jobs while he waits for the government to give him permanent residency status.


Ali, 23, is from Kariya, a small village in southern Lebanon. He is the second of six children. He said he could not find a job, and that he hoped to help his family by finding work in Berlin.

In Lebanon, Ali played traditional Arabic music instruments like the tabla, a drum, and the gerba, a large wind instrument.

When he arrived in Germany two years ago and applied for asylum, the government funded his German language study. But Ali says it is taking longer than he hoped to get working papers. In the meantime, he is struggling to make ends meet with a monthly grant from the government.


Recently, Ali joined a troupe of Arab musicians who play at German weddings. He wears a traditional Arab wedding costume and plays the instruments he learned in Lebanon.

Ali says he hopes that once he gets his papers, he can get a well-paid job and send money home. In the meantime, he is frustrated.


“I left Lebanon to save my family from poverty and suffering,” he says. “Now I found myself in Germany, under from the same conditions.“



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