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Wednesday 13, December

Allegations against Oyoun: Left-wing space talks of “smear campaign”

Reports in the Spiegel and the Tagesspiegel allege wrongdoing by left-wing space Oyoun, while organisers talk of a smear campaign.

Oyoun is set to close at the end of the year. Photo: @natgass

Wednesday 13, December

Allegations against left-wing space Oyoun in the German press

Anyone paying attention to Berlin news in recent weeks has surely heard about what is happening at the left-wing Neukölln cultural space Oyoun. Still, there have been so many twists and turns that it might be worth a recap.

The first time Oyoun appeared in the news following Hamas’ attack of October 7 and the subsequent bombing of Gaza, the “decolonial, queer feminist” space drew criticism from Berlin politicians for hosting an event by a Jewish activist group – Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East. That criticism turned into action towards the end of November when the Senate announced that Oyoun’s funding (previously set to run until 2025) would be suddenly cut. Although no official explanation was given, Culture senator Joe Chialo (CDU) announced the cuts while speaking about his opposition to “every hidden form of antisemitism”.

Since then, Oyoun has run a successful gofundme campaign, achieving their goal of €72,000 intended to cover legal fees which could help them fight the decision. While the Berlin government wanted them out, it is clear that residents were willing to lend financial support to keep the centre running.

Enter two stories in the German press. First, in the Spiegel, Neukölln Mayor Martin Hikel (SPD) says that if he had his way, the place would have been closed a long time ago and claims that an Israeli was thrown out of an event held at the space. No further evidence was provided, but that claim has since been followed up by a report in the Tagesspiegel in which the person ejected is named as Tayfun Guttstadt – a musician of Turkish origin – who they claim was kicked out of the space because he “criticised Israel’s government but respected the Jewish state’s right to exist.”

However, the organisers claim that the actual incident was very different, with Guttstadt being told to leave because of aggressive behaviour towards other visitors. The Tagesspiegel makes further allegations against Oyoun, including antisemitism, bullying and having a “imperious management style” all of which are denied by the venue. The space have issued a statement refuting such claims, with they refer to as a “smear campaign”.

While the fate of Oyoun appears to have been decided by Berlin’s cultural administration, the space is still holding a three day festival this weekend called Threads of Resilience.

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