Ziya Can Bayatlı

On the road at SPIELART

Five times at Ausländerbehörde

On October 26th I went to the Ausländerbehörde for the fifth time in my life, but this time to see Kavachi's performance of THE CARPET COVERS THE EARTH. Before I tell you my thoughts about Kavachi’s performance, I would like to tell you about my first four trips to the Ausländerbehörde.

The first three took place in the winter from 2019 to 2020. This is also the period when I moved to Germany and I did not yet have a residence permit, but a student visa that would turn into a residence permit. It is very easy to convert your student visa into a residence permit, you just need to make an appointment and show up with the necessary documents, if you can get an appointment. For me, it was not that easy to make an appointment. When I realized that it was not something I could get online as I was promised, two of my friends who needed to change their student visas into residence permits and I decided to line up in the morning before Ausländerbehörde opened. The first time I went to the Ausländerbehörde, it was two hours before it opened and I knew I was late because there was a queue in front of the door that went round and round and almost spilled out into the street, and it was not until my third visit to the Ausländerbehörde that I realized how big a problem it can be when a queue spills out into the street. After waiting for two hours that day, the doors opened and we all rushed in and were assigned to different lines according to the initials of our surnames. After about two hours, when it was my turn in a large group of people whose surnames started with A B and D, I found out that there was a separate line for students and scientists at the other end of the building and that we were supposed to be there.

Having learned the lessons from our first visit, which was a complete failure, we went to the Auslaenderbehörde for the 2nd time 3 hours before it opened and again we got in a line that was considerably longer than we expected. The door opened and we rushed in and this time we were in the right line, the only problem was that we were maybe the 300th people in line.

After these two times, when we went there for the third time, four and a half hours before the Ausländerbehörde opened, my friend and I (our third friend couldn’t wake up) were the sixth and seventh people in line. We waited for four hours at -7 degrees and there was only half an hour before the door opened. I remember the temperature clearly because I had never seen such a low temperature before. At the end of those four hours, the line had grown very long and almost covered the entire sidewalk. Unaware of this, my friend and I were talking about how it would not be right to pass the five people in front of us as we ran to the line we had to get into two floors up when the gate opened. At that point, security decided to intervene with the line that was blocking the sidewalk. The line was completely broken and we turned into a group of people piled up in front of the gate. My friend and I felt that we were quite far behind. When the doors opened, I didn't act like someone who thought it wouldn't be right to pass the five people who had just been in front of me. First I shouldered my way past a group of people as I went through the first gate - I don't think they were able to get an appointment that day, I apologize - then I pushed aside someone who was holding me by the shoulder as I went up the stairs, and then I kept moving forward, pushing aside everyone in front of me. I've never played American football in my life, but every time I think about that moment, I always felt like an American football player as I pushed people aside and ran to the front of the line with my documents in my right hand like I was holding a ball. When I reached the line, there were only two people in front of me, a bronze medal. When my turn came quickly, I made an appointment for February 12, about three weeks later. Just as I was leaving the line, I remembered that I had an exam on that date. I turned around, explained myself and they said ‘’okay’’ and gave me an appointment for half an hour later. I had reached my happy ending and within a short period of time I completed my appointment and received my temporary document.

My fourth visit to the Ausländerbehörde was indeed the most comfortable. At the end of two years, I went to the Ausländerbehörde with an appointment to renew my residence permit, handed in my documents and left. The conditions created worked by the pandemic worked in my favor combined with already obtaining residence permit before, and the advantage of being in the system.

My fifth visit was, as I said at the beginning, to see Kavachi's performance. In their performance THE CARPET COVERS THE EARTH Kavachi used donated red clothes and a long red cloth to weave a red carpet for everyone who would pass through the doors of the Ausländerbehörde. The Ausländerbehörde, which I thought I was visiting this time not as a foreigner but as a theatre studies student, reminded me that I was first and foremost a foreigner the moment I stepped out of the subway and saw the building. From that moment on, I don't think I had a chance to have an intellectual connection with Kavachi's performance. The fact that someone was laying a red carpet as a performance under the awning of the Ausländerbehörde, which protects a limited space on a rainy day, only filled me with anger.

While one part of me, the theatre studies student, was trying to think about what Kavachi was trying to convey with their performance, the other part of me, the foreigner, was forcing me to focus on the anger I thought I would feel if I had come here today to make or keep an appointment. On the one hand, I was nervous about the fact that my residence permit would expire soon and I had to renew it, and on the other hand, I thought about how angry I would be if I came across an artist weaving a red carpet and "intellectuals" watching him, as I nervously waited before my appointment.

For a long time I could not justify this anger. My sixth visit to the Ausländerbehörde and the things I had to do about it took over my mind and did not give me the opportunity to think about the performance.

When I sat down at the computer for this article, I was still thinking that this was irrational anger and that maybe I didn't have a logical point of view to criticise this performance. When I started to tell my own memories in this article, I found what angered me about Kavachi's performance. None of the problems I experienced were present in Kavachi's performance. Waiting outside the door for hours, the difficulty of getting information, the wild actions I had to make to get an appointment, the anxiety created by this whole process, there was just a red carpet woven without any mention of any of these. But when it comes to Ausländerbehörde, no one needs a red carpet, they just need to be treated like human beings. I don't think the "intellectuals" watching Kavachi's performance and the foreigners nervously waiting for their appointments are doing anything but further objectifying the foreigners instead of humanizing them.

As my sixth visit to the Ausländerbehörde approaches, I am not expecting a red carpet, just an awareness that I am a human being.