Ümit Satır

My name is Aynur Satır.

In 1984 I was 13 years old. On 26 August, my family was wiped out by a racist arson attack.

My mother Ferdane would be 78 years old today. My brother Ümit would be 44 years old today. My sister Çiğdem would be 46 years old today. My sister Songül would be 43 years old today. My sister Zeliha and her husband Rasim would be 57 years old today. Their son, my nephew Tarık, would be 39 years old now.

I have lost my loved ones. There is pain, anger, disappointment inside me. And I was left alone by the authorities and the city.

Map data ©2023 GeoBasis-DE/BKG (©2009)

By chance, the current members of the initiative found out about the arson attack in Duisburg and conducted in-depth research. During this research, many inconsistencies, indications of racism, a lack of clarification and reappraisal emerged, which led to the founding of the Initiative Duisburg 1984 at the end of 2018.

In August 1984, a racist arson attack occurred in a migrant neighbourhood of Duisburg. The target was a house where only migrants from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia lived. In the 1980s, the house was pejoratively referred to as the "Turkish House". On the night of 26-27 August, seven members of the Satır and Turhan families died in an arson attack there. Many other family members and other residents were injured, some seriously. Two members of the Satır family, Aynur and Rukiye Satır, were only able to save their lives by jumping from the first floor. Life changed from one day to the next, and to this day this attack still defines the lives of the survivors and relatives.

Evidence that pointed to racism in the arson attack was disregarded in the investigation and later in the court case. However, the search for suspected perpetrators among the residents was not neglected. A Yugoslavian resident of the house was accused without evidence and had to spend several months in pre-trial detention. Duisburg 1984 was forgotten after a short time, made forgotten. In 1994, a shelter for asylum seekers was set on fire in Duisburg. During the investigation of this case, almost 10 years later, a woman was arrested who also confessed to setting the fire in 1984. In both 1984 and 1994, the investigation failed to establish a political motive. The perpetrator was committed to an institution for mentally ill people as a pyromaniac.

While the neighbouring German family that provided help on the night of the fire in 1984 was praised and appreciated for this by the then mayor and NRW Prime Minister Johannes Rau - which was absolutely right - the survivors and bereaved families were not even asked how they were and whether they needed anything. This telling ignorance on the very first day after the arson attack became a reality of life for the families in the decades that followed. The victim families were left to their fate. The survivors and relatives were alone for 35 years with their physical and psychological pain, struggles for survival as well as fears - they were neither listened to nor believed nor helped. The affected family members are convinced that it was a racist attack and dare to say it out loud today.

The survivors and relatives have many unanswered questions after almost four decades:

  • Why was the fire brigade at 301 Wanheimer Str. the day before the arson attack?
  • Why was the fire brigade on site too late on the night of the fire?
  • Why was the swastika on the facade of the house not investigated?
  • Why were the racist calls received by the neighbouring family (who provided assistance on the night of the attack) ignored?
  • Why did the Office for the Protection of the Constitution take an interest in the case in the late 1980s?
  • Why, above all, was the fact that the alleged perpetrator set two fires in houses of immigrants (in 1984 and 1994 in a shelter for asylum seekers) not a reason for comprehensive investigations into a political motive?
  • Why was the family not supported and left alone after the event?

The first dignified commemoration of the victims did not take place until 35 years after the crime. Barely 9 months earlier, the initiative had been founded in 1984. The decades of silence had thus come to an end. Since then, those affected have organised commemorations and events together with the initiative and have tried to draw attention to Duisburg 1984 through various formats such as film, podcast, publications, exhibitions and web documentation and to raise awareness of racism and anti-Semitism in society. An important pillar of our work is networking, both at NRW level and nationwide. We participate in unique networking together with other survivors and affected relatives as well as initiatives that do active work with them. We take part in networking meetings, work on a common list of demands, organise events and projects, and above all we empower and support each other.

Political recognition of what we have experienced in the city of Duisburg and nationwide is very important. We want to establish a dignified culture of remembrance in Duisburg and ensure that discourses critical of racism are not only discussed on anniversaries. Racism, anti-Semitism and related acts of violence are bitter realities for millions of people in Germany. Only by sincerely listening to the perspectives of those affected is a proper confrontation and coming to terms with them possible. As a first step towards recognition, a commemorative plaque will be placed on the families' former home this year (2023). This plaque will commemorate the victims of the racist arson attack Ferdane, Çiğdem, Ümit and Songül Satır as well as Zeliha, Rasim and Tarık Turhan and act as a reminder for the future. The survivors and relatives also want streets and squares to be renamed and a memorial to be erected so that the topic is constantly visible and dealt with in the city and Duisburg is not forgotten again in 1984.

Initiative Duisburg 1984 https://www.inidu84.de/