Per la libertà di movimento, per i diritti di cittadinanza
PH: Mem.Med

The Palamilone: when the space of emergency and pain becomes a space of struggle and resistance

The days of Cutro told from within


Traduzione: Silvia Collesi

(N.B.) Just outside the Palamilone’s iron fence, which takes its name from a famous Greek wrestler, flowers, messages, stuffed animals, and objects from all those who couldn’t enter the arena but wanted to leave a sign of solidarity and speaking up in this story that delivers one of the most dramatic events of the structural violence of the border.

Inside that sports hall, those who had the privilege of entering did so with respect for a pain that was also ours, respecting those tears that were also ours, in the service of a struggle and resistance that we immediately recognized as our own. Thanks to the family members who were able to resist inside that hall and to all those who supported them, everyone was able to be part, in various ways, of a great collective machine.

That place of emergency will soon return to being a sports hall, and this story will leave the news. But the memory of this massacre will not fade away; it will be up to us to keep this memory alive. Other struggles and resistances will arise from here.

Because the desire for justice and truth, the desire for freedom, no, that cannot be stopped even by the worst decree; no one can stop it.

Silvia’s words from the Mem.Med project give us back the Palamilone experienced from within.

PH: Mem.Med

by Silvia Di Meo

This place was the main stage of pain, anger, and struggles during the days of the Cutro massacre. The PalaMilone: a gymnasium with a silent audience that for 17 days watched from above coffins, flowers, the living and the dead, outrage, prayers, discussions, and the operations of death experts. I remember the resistance of every family member who entered, who sat on the ground to pray for their loved one or for another victim. I remember the coffins lifted to be taken to Bologna, against the families’ wishes, and then brought back inside after the street fight of the relatives. I remember the men and women who sat outside the gate of the Palamilone and blocked the road and the exit of the hearses.

I remember the smell of death that, as Lalouma said, we don’t hide under that of rotten flowers.

I remember Saif’s anger towards the Prefecture officials who made so many promises without keeping them.

I remember our friend Zahra, who always remained strong and never negotiated her demand.

I remember Amarkhail’s tears as he identified his brother, wondering why his life had ended like this.

And then young Farzaneh and her concentration as she tried to study sitting on this floor.

And Rafi, who silently identified his two nieces, two little girls, with his search for peace amidst the war.

Hassan’s constant prayers for his mother. Haroon, who served as a language interpreter for everyone, while carrying his own pain. The coffin with the “Palestinian” plaque of the man identified through a document lying with a nationality that in itself is a symbol of a struggle. I remember the gaze of the survivor who saw 16 loved ones die in an instant and was left alone in the world facing this massacre. Susan, who rushed back from Germany yesterday because she couldn’t bear to wait far away to reunite with her cousin.

In many ways, these people have been depicted by many journalists and politicians who have sketched distorted caricatures of men and women who came from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria.

They have been described as criminals and smugglers, damned and passive beings who precariously inhabited this emergency space, through securitarian and paternalistic rhetoric that attempted to swallow the essence of these people.

I don’t know if these names and these people will remain in history, I doubt they will enter into the official documents of those who have the power to establish what these deaths represent. The border regime does not want to see these bodies. There will be no space for them in the memories of that criminal government that promulgates murderous decrees and that one day will have to account for the collateral effects of its policies of death.

I don’t know how long it will take to recover all the truth from the sea and have justice, as the families requested today during their visit to the Italian Prime Minister. But I do know for sure that all these people will enter our collective memory, a Mediterranean Memory that fights against the oppression of free movement, for self-determination, for freedom.

A memory that we have started to share, write and archive, a memory of interconnections and relationships, of solidarity and care, of mutual respect, of counter-narratives, of Stories that cross our sea and our land.

So today I leave as I arrived 15 days ago: with a punch to the stomach, a lot of anger and pain.”

One last report from the extraordinary team of forensic experts for today’s assessment. Still 5 unidentified bodies. Still 14 bodies to be repatriated. Still 17 missing people. We record every detail, every photo, every trace, hoping to sketch the face of someone who is now familiar to us, in the collective genealogy of this mosaic of survivors of the border.

Only one certainty, like a relief, accompanies me on the return journey: the promise contained in the words of a relative who calls me from Rome – just after the meeting at Palazzo Chigi – and tells me: “we want justice for everyone. We can’t forget.” The structural violence of the border leaves deep wounds but also produces marginal spaces of resistance and struggle. This Memory, ladies and gentlemen, you cannot let it die at sea.