In 2005, asylum seeker Oury Jalloh was tied to a bed in a jail cell in Dessau and burned alive. His killers have not yet been found. American playwright Evans premieres The Most Unsatisfied Town, a fictionalised take on Jalloh’s story at ETB on April 7.
Jalloh died 11 years ago. What’s your take on his murder’s relevance today?
Since I first heard the story of Oury Jalloh, there have been so many cases of police brutality. Sandra Bland, Michael Brown: unfortunately, the list is extremely long. But even before I started making those connections, I thought of Emmett Till. His death became kind of a symbol for what racism in the South looked like in the 1950s and 1960s.
So what Till was to the American South, Oury Jalloh is to Germany?
Yes. I think it’s extraordinary that the name Oury Jalloh has become something that carries this weight in Germany and internationally. It means that in spite of this consensus of silence on the part of police authorities in Dessau, there were enough people, many of whom associated with the Initative [for Justice for Oury Jalloh], who went to Dessau every year, who demonstrated, who kept the story in the media. There were enough people loud enough that not even the Dessau authorities, who have been trying hard to bury this thing, could do it.
You researched asylum seekers while writing this play. Any insights?
What struck me over and over again in 2009-2010 was my feeling that there was a concerted effort to hide the presence of people seeking asylum. Once, I had a teaching gig at a wastewater treatment plant, about as far out of the city as you can get. And across the street was a Flüchtlingslager. And I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me, really? This is where you’re going to put people who have come seeking assistance and support – you’re going to put them out across the field from where Berlin’s shit goes?” And that image has stayed with me.
THE MOST UNSATISFIED TOWN APR 7-10, 13-16, 19-22, 20:00 | English Theatre Berlin, Fidicinstr. 40, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Platz der Luftbrücke