Topics of the day right in the middle: How Iserlohn deals with grave desecration

#in the middle

Status: 02/01/2022 12:01 p.m

On New Year’s Eve, unknown persons desecrated 30 Muslim graves in Iserlohn. The Muslims in the city do not want to be defeated by this and are demanding more security at the cemetery.

The tombstones of the Hallah couple consist only of individual pieces. Someone must have deliberately smashed them and numerous other Muslim tombstones in the Iserlohn cemetery. In the meantime, the relatives have pushed the individual pieces together, but the cracks are still clearly visible.

Huge solidarity

“Of course it was frightening,” says Abed Hallah, describing the sight of his parents’ grave immediately after the crime on New Year’s Eve. At that time, the family had many questions going through their heads, he says. “Are we at home here?” Hallah and his siblings would have asked themselves. They also had doubts as to whether it was right that they had their parents buried in Iserlohn. Because many Muslims from Germany find their final resting place in their countries of origin. In the case of the Hallah family, that would have been Lebanon.

#right in the middle of Iserlohn: the fear of many Muslims that graves will again be desecrated

1/31/2022 10:53 p.m

But then the family experienced tremendous solidarity. The city of Iserlohn and many Muslim and non-Muslim citizens have sided with them, says Hallah. “That made us strong again, so I definitely want to be buried here too.”

The tombstones of the Hallah family were smashed by unknown assailants.

Image: David Zajonz WDR

“Of course it was frightening,” says Abed Hallah, describing the sight of the graves.

Image: David Zajonz WDR

Cemetery with video surveillance?

Aylin Bakirtan only had to say goodbye to her mother three months ago. She had cared for them until her death. After New Year’s Eve she found footprints on the fresh grave. Bakirtan is still angry at the unknown perpetrators. She fights for more security in the cemetery and demands, among other things, surveillance by video cameras.

She has already discussed this with the mayor, who, however, refers to the pending legal examinations. Independent Mayor Michael Joithe argues that the city already checked video surveillance at the cemetery a few years ago. All-day video surveillance in a “public green space” is not legally permitted. “But of course we now have to legally check again whether this is possible during the night hours,” says Joithe.

The city of Iserlohn wants to clarify these questions together with the relatives and other participants at a round table. Bakirtan finds this disappointing. She had actually wanted quick decisions to protect the graves: “That has now been postponed to the round table.” At least the mayor agrees that a security service will guard the Muslim part of the cemetery next New Year’s Eve.

Aylin Bakirtan at her parents’ grave. Her mother just died three months ago.

Image: David Zajonz WDR

Regression in integration?

Ercan Atay, who sits on the city’s integration council, calls for a stronger signal from the city to strengthen the trust of the Muslim community. Actually, living together in Iserlohn works well, says Atay. After the incidents on New Year’s Eve, however, the Muslims were agitated, and some are now considering whether they should perhaps not be buried in Germany after all. In terms of integration, that would be “not a step forward, but backwards,” says Atay.

Iserlohn has a large Muslim community. The Alliance of Muslims in the city estimates that around 12,000 of the approximately 94,000 inhabitants are Muslim. Iserlohn doesn’t actually have a problem with organized right-wing extremism, say many of the Muslims living here.

They don’t want to let the desecration of graves get them down. After all, he is from Iserlohn, says Hallah. “We’re not going to be put off by people like that.”

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