The following article from De Volkskrant, as translated by our Dutch correspondent Bolleke, is about the plight of one elderly couple in the culturally enriched neighborhood of Slotervaart:
Hiding in Slotervaart
by Peter Hilhorst
It is worse than during the war, thinks a couple in Slotervaart (Amsterdam) who are under attack by Moroccan neighbors. Their despair is gripping. They want to feel they are protected.
She came walking out in wooden sandals. I was recording for the television program “De Ombudsman” in the Amsterdam borough of Slotervaart. If I cared about injustice, I had to hear her story.
Her apartment looked more like a bunker. For the windows blinds were hanging. Through the half-closed blinds, I saw the windows covered with the unsavory remnants of eggs that neighborhood children had thrown against them. Sometimes rocks were also thrown through the window, she told me. “Since I opened my mouth as the only one.” Everywhere things were packed in boxes. She came towards me. Her husband remained standing. They want to move after forty years. They couldn’t stand it in this neighborhood any longer.
Next door to them lived a Moroccan family with seven children. These children had no respect for them. For anyone. On the street boys hung around and shouted at her: “Hey whore, you want to [satisfy] me for three euros?” Her husband was not happy that she had asked me inside. “They have already seen that he is inside.” I asked who “they” were. They were the street terrorists who intimidated them. “I lived through the war,” said the man, who must have been over seventy, “and this is worse than the war.” Then he began to cry. With his big hands he tried to wave me away, and left the room. They felt like hiding in Slotervaart.
She was homesick, the lady told me. Nostalgia for the days when Slotervaart was a teacher’s neighborhood. A white teacher’s neighborhood. “The people of Morocco have nostalgia for their country, but I have nostalgia for the neighborhood of the past.”
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Now they are leaving. But moving is not easy. They are afraid to let a moving van drive up in front of their house, because “then they will know where we go”. So every day they smuggle a few packed boxes out. But can their generous closets and television be transported unseen? It seems a problem that they have no answer for.
The desperation of the couple is complete. I asked what they wanted me to do. But their answer was as short as it was shocking: nothing. They didn’t want me to do anything. And they certainly would not tell their story on television. They were afraid of reprisals from the neighborhood youths. I offered to contact the police or District Chairman Ahmed Marcouch. But they didn’t feel like it. The police often came to them. It did not help. And in Marcouch they had no confidence whatsoever.
“But don’t you want something done against this harassment?” I finally asked in despair. The man got very restless. He wanted me to go away. When I asked whether I should come again, he shook his head no. Hastily I wrote my name and phone number. In case they changed their minds. They didn’t want to give me their names and phone number. When I went the door I tried to tell them again that what was happening to them was unacceptable, and that action should be taken. But with a conversation at the opened door, she got totally nervous.
Shelter or flee. These seem the only options these people have for themselves. They no longer believe that it makes sense to speak out or stand up for yourself. This is what they have learned. It brings only problems. They have also lost any trust in others. Nobody can even help them.
It is mainly this defeatism that makes their despair more moving. They behave like children who are so bullied that they dare not even say they are bullied, out of fear of being harassed even more. So they hide in their bunker in Slotervaart.
But that’s how bullies win. They can continue with impunity. To call a halt to them, it is necessary that the victims open their mouths. Without a formal complaint the hands of the police are tied. Without a complaint, the housing authority and the district government can do very little.
The first thing that should happen is that victims must know that they can open their mouths. That they feel themselves protected. This is not the case. Therefore it was a miracle that this lady in her sandals came out in the first place.
For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.