Berlin, Germany – On Friday night German activists from a group called “PixelHELPER” illuminated the Qatari embassy in Berlin with a projection, saying “Qatar 2022 – Build by Slaves,” to protest the exploitation of workers in the Gulf state.
“I think this is an excellent way to protest exploitation and unfair treatment of workers,” says Tobias Müller, a 24-year Berlin resident. “People always see the beautiful stadiums and tourist destinations during these sports events, but they don’t know about the circumstances of the workers who build all these places.”
One day earlier the PixelHELPER group had also projected the banner of the Islamic State on the Saudi embassy, to protest “Saudi-financed terrorism.” The team also added the header “Daesh Bank” to their illumination.
“We did that to draw attention to the Saudi money sources of terrorism and to protest for the release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was unfairly imprisoned in 2012,” says Oliver Bienkowski, who is the head of PixelHelper.
Saudi-Arabia and other Gulf states like Kuwait or Qatar have often been accused of turning a blind eye to wealthy citizens of their countries, who exploit foreign workers and actively support terrorist groups around the world.
It was not the first time for activists of PixelHELPER drawing attention to global political issues. In early May, the group illuminated the Turkish embassy in Berlin with two portraits – One of Adolf Hitler and the other one of Turkish President Erdogan, whose orders led to massive clashes between his military and Kurdish rebels.
Bienkowski says: “In the Turkish case we wanted to draw attention to the persecution of opposition members, to suppression of press freedom and spring guns at the border to Syria.”
“It didn’t last long, but it had an immense symbolic power,” says Karim Abdulqadir, a Kurd with roots in Western Kurdistan, about the creative protest. “Turkey has to acknowledge that the world watches every step of the government. Suppressing free speech and persecuting minorities can’t be just ignored.”
European protests against repressive regimes in the Middle East increased considerably in the last years. With the massive media coverage of the Islamic State’s rise and the Kurds’ resistance, many people in the West realized for the first time the current situation in the Middle East and started to engage in politics and social work to improve the region’s living conditions.
The protesters at PixelHELPER can only hope for the responsible authorities in these countries to change the situation, even if it is only to maintain a certain, positive reputation.