The mural “Silence”, the city (Mannheim), and the joy of diversity


Last year, I decided to run for the city council election in the city of Mannheim this coming June, for the Green Party. I am grateful that the Greens have elected me to run on their 17th seat in this election.

In order to better present my positions and points of view to potential voters, I am now revitalizing my blog.

But before writing a new blog entry, I wanted to select a new header picture for my website. Previously there had been a picture of rose colored clouds illuminated by the rising sun. But now I wanted a photo that would show something that I find valuable about Mannheim. So I searched photos that I had taken on a walk through the city last March. I used the photo that I liked most for the header. Here is the complete photo:

It is one of the murals of the Mannheim project Stadt Wand Kunst (City Wall Art) a project that supports the creation of new murals every year on the walls of buildings in the city. These are interesting works of art that visitors can encounter as they exit the main train station, and that in various places in the city invite people to think or to have another look. I see it as a successful multicultural project, because it includes works by artists of numerous backgrounds. In addition, it is inclusive, because everybody who moves around in the city can look at these works of art. I see the project as symbolic of what a city can and should be: a place where people of many different origins meet each other, converse with each other, develop new ideas, create new things, and enrich each other. Cities were such places of encounter ever since the first cities of humanity. This, and not the population size, distinguishes a city from a village. And I enjoy living in a place like Mannheim, that is a city in this sense, where I hear many languages around me and not just one.

But back to the picture. What is that woman doing with the bell, ducking beneath the roof in the city block O4? What is she suggesting we do with the word „silence“ at the traffic-packed Kunststraße, where it is seldom possible to hear the silence after the sound of a bell has dissipated? What does she want to tell us at this place, above the bookstore Bender and across from the erotic store?

Every viewer can answer in their own way – that is in the nature of every work of art. But let us turn to the artists who created this piece. This piece, as also several more murals in Mannheim, was created by the Duo Sourati, who live in Mannheim. They are Mehrdad Zaeri, who hails from Isfahan, and Christina Laube, a German photographer, author and book illustrator. Zaeri fled with his family from Khomeini’s Iran, worked for some time as a taxi driver in Heidelberg, and finally became an artist. The two together have also created many other works, for example Imagine in Amman, Jordan, with the support of the project Stadt Wand Kunst. This piece encourages women to dream and not to lose courage. In the year 2022 the two together created an installation in the town of Göppingen, Dedicated to Tati“ – Tati being their friend Tatiana, as she had written to them as eyewitness of the Russian attacks on Kiev.

Aren’t Souratis pictures impressive examples of what exchange across borders can do for us? What enrichment occurs when people from distant countries come together?

On the one hand, I find it incredibly sad that people like Mehrdad Zaeri had to flee from Iran, because this country has been suffering so long under the regime of reactionary clerics (and before that under the murderous and repressive regime of the shah). In Iran there are innumerable creative people, and despite ongoing repression some of them write books, make movies and otherwise fight for their freedom. An example is the lesbian activist Zahra Seddiqi Hamedani, who was condemned to death but last month was allowed to come to Germany.i Since September 2022, many thousands of people in Iran dared to go on the streets to demonstrate for woman, life, freedom. In 2009, masses of people took to the streets as part of the „green movement“ around Hossein Mussawi, to demand free elections and civil rights. These are just a few examples of resistance in the country. In addition, Iran is home to numerous religious traditions such as Zoroastrianism, the Bahá’i religion and the mysticism of Sufis, that are being suppressed by the present government. What an enrichment would it be not only for Iran, but the entire world, if all these people could express themselves freely!

On the other hand I am extremely glad that Germany is a country where people seek and find refuge from deadly and repressive conditions. That can not be taken for granted. Not too long ago, countless people had to flee from Germany in order not to be gassed or otherwise murdered. I am deeply grateful that, despite this history, Germany has become a country on which people of all kinds of backgrounds place their hopes to build up a life of self determination. I want it to remain like this and I am shocked about the people who reject this achievement increasingly loudly and shrilly.

But does it have to be this way, that people have to flee from some countries in order to find refuge in others? Can we imagine a future when human rights are respected everywhere, when people can migrate without being forced to, and all kinds of exciting encounters are possible? As long as such a situation is mere imagination, it is no wonder to me that the woman with the bell hasn’t found enough space to stand upright, and that we do not hear the silence that follows when her bell has stopped ringing.




iI have attached a German-language link about Seddiqi-Hamedani’s release because I was not able to find an English-language report about the event. English-language sites (such as the BBC) as well as Amnesty International and Wikipedia reported about her death sentence, but not about her release to Germany.

P.S.: For interested readers: Link to the report by Correctiv regarding a conference of people from the AfD party and allies, about how they want to organize mass deportations.

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