Dirk Schaeffer from Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe writes about what happened in Germany to mark International Remembrance Day on July 21st this year. Germany has been doing events across the country to mark this day for many years now and has been an inspiration for many other countries to begin their own events to mark
Dirk from Dirk Schaeffer – Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe writes about what happened in Germany to mark International Remembrance Day on July 21st this year. Germany has been doing events across the country to mark this day for many years now and has been an inspiration for many other countries to begin their own events to mark International Remembrance Day each year.
“In Germany we are celebrating the 12th International Remembrance Day. With events in 40 cities and with more than 100 organizations involved, we have had the highest attendance ever.
The day was founded by parents and other supporters who fight for more liberal drug policies, heroin prescribing, substitution treatment etc , although now, many user groups (JES) arrange events together with drug service and aids organisations.
The Remembrance Day has many “different faces” in Germany. The overall motto this year was “legalization – our goal”., but the participating cities and organizations are completely free whether they follow this motto or not.
The character of the Remembrance Day has changed over the years. It changed from a day of mourning into a day of political discussion and demonstrations, but of course, if you take a look at the pictures you´ll see that it is still about grieving for those who have died.
Just on July 21 2009, the new German law for the diamorphine prescribing comes into effect- so that was a very good opportunity for us to talk about the importance of this new treatment.
We’ve also got different stakeholders for the 21st July but it is important that we hold the remembrance day in our hands.
It is so important that the 21juli is arranged in many countries, Switzerland has also been celebrating this day.
For us in Germany the 21juli is the best chance to get in contact to the media, and the regional and German wide press to characterize our goals and our views for a human life with drugs- without criminalization and prohibition.
– Jason Farrell
Greetings INPUD members:
I am happy to report that International Remembrance Day in Amsterdam was a huge success. We had about 80 people
show up including press. It appears that International Remembrance Day has become a day to be honored again with pride and dignity in Amsterdam. What was most surprising was that the event received significant media attention; on TV news, radio and local newspapers.
The International Remembrance Day event was sponsored by MDHG, Amsterdam’s and I think the world’s oldest, user union, and Drugspastoraat, an NGO that provides funerals and spiritual support services including, counseling, referrals and emergency shelter for drug users.
Upon the event closing a few participants were interviewed including myself, the 2 directors of MDHG, and Nelly Versteeg from Drugspastoraat, who lead the group in spiritual remembrance. When interviewed they asked me how long has this day been honored in America, I said unfortunately never. ‘Didn’t you know that in America drug users are criminals, and it is unlikely that America will agree to have a nationally acknowledged day remembering people who died from drugs?’ Although in the US they do honor World AIDS Day, which has become more of a prevention / education day than a remembrance day for those who died from AIDS.
International Remembrance Day is acknowledged amongst a growing number of European countries, as well as Canada and Australia. The reporters added they were surprised that an American suggested this. However a colleague of mine from the UK, an INPUD member, brought this annual International Remembrance Day event to my attention. The International Network of People Who Use Drugs (INPUD) has encouraged as many user groups as possible participate in this important day of remembrance.
It was really nice for MDHG and Drugspastoraat to acknowledge International Remembrance Day by offering a service for drug users here in Amsterdam. The 3 hour event started with a walk from the MDHG office to the meeting space in the Red Light District known to many as the Crypt, a short service was then led by Nelly Versteeg, memories of deceased friends/family members and loved ones were shared by participants, and then drinks and sandwiches for everyone. It was sad to learn that this day was never honored here before, let alone to my knowledge never even discussed or conceptualized in the US.
This day showed the importance and the emotional value for people who had loved ones who died from drugs and/or AIDS to mourn and grieve. Although when speaking with people who attended today, many have said that they themselves, including their family members have tried to mourn and have been told to stuff their feelings, deal with it (tough love crap) or not pay attention to the death because it was disrespectful and brought shame to the family. Therefore many attending today were being misled into believing that disowning the person who died because it was related to drugs or AIDS is acceptable. Unfortunately the culture of today’s society sets a precedent that people, because they have died from drugs and/or AIDS, are worthless and expendable when in fact they are human beings, family members, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends, lovers, etc. They count and it hurts. This day allows us to feel the pain and mourn along with others on the same day throughout Europe. Next year we will do it again and I hope to read about all the new participating countries and cities experiences acknowledging International Remembrance Day.
Here’s to you Johnny and Joey, hey ho lets go
Be safe and stay healthy – Jason Farrell email Jason at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copenhagen – Denmark.
Written by Eliot Albert. Copenhagen, 21st July 2009
Six years ago the Danish Drug Users’ Union (BrugerForeningen) established a memorial site at which to mark International Drug Users’ Remembrance Day: An inscribed stone and a tree on the corner of a small, triangular piece of grass, on a street parallel to Copenhagen’s main open drug scene.
I’ve attended all but one of these ceremonies and every year a new visual device is used to indicate the number of officially recorded ‘overdoses’ in Denmark in the preceding year. This year the grass was covered with rows of small white crosses, 275 of them. Each marking a sad, utterly gratuitous loss of life.
Sitting amidst the crosses before the ceremony trying to think of what to say I was struck by the sheer obscenity of the spectacle and what it represented. 275 victims of the utterly immoral, pointless, war on drugs. Each of these crosses didn’t represent a drug related death but a prohibition caused death – collateral damage.
I imagined the day sometime in the future when the International Court of
Justice in The Hague will convene a session to try war criminals from the war on drugs which celebrates its grisly centenary this year (marking one hundred years since the 1909 Opium Convention in Shanghai). Antonio Maria da Costa will be denounced as a war criminal, Thaksin Shinawatra will be denounced as a war criminal, as will Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush I and II, and so many other nameless bureaucrats ‘just following orders’ whilst they destabilize states, drive peasants from their lands, pump countless billions into the hands of organized crime, all the time driving an epidemic of blood borne viruses.
Billions that could be used to provide clean needles to all those who need them, treatment to those who want it, and cheap, clean heroin, cocaine, and stimulants to those of us who want them. I tried to speak of these things but words failed me.
Vito Georgievski the Macedonian General Secretary of INPUD and Mikael Johanesson from the Swedish Drug Users’ Union each spoke of the plight of drug users in countries with particularly harsh drug control regimes and Jørgen, President of BrugerForeningen spoke of the imbecilic politicking surrounding the upcoming heroin trial in Denmark.
Johnny Cash’s great onslaught on prisons, ‘San Quentin’ was given a rousing rendition, and the day was wound up by a communal, and sometimes less than tuneful, singing of a song popular amongst the Danish Resistance (to the Nazis); its final verse is especially poignant and appropriate as we, out, proud, drug users continue our resistance to the war that is being waged upon us. The lyrics are:
Fight for all that you hold dear,
Fight to the death if necessary
Then neither life nor death will seem too hard.
(If you did something you would like to share on remembrance day, please do get in touch, comment below).
International Remembrance Day is held in many cities and countries around the world, and although the day only began in the UK one year ago, when it was hosted by Black Poppy, members from Lambeth Service User Council and GLADA Womens Voices, this year it has been picked up by numerous groups and services around the country. Black Poppy sent out via mass emailing, a basic DIY kit that contained 4 simple items; a poster that could be printed out and pinned up, a statement to print out that said what IRD was for and about, national statistics for informing press releases, and a small document that outlined ideas people could implement on the day – from lighting a candle at home, putting a remembrance book in a local drug service, to holding an event.
It seemed to be an excellent way to raise the profile of the day and many services and groups across the country took up the opportunity to pay respects and remember.
Birmingham drug/service users and local services held a range of commemorative events and activities to remember friends and colleagues who have passed away. Reception areas in clinics were redesigned, one clinic put up a symbolic branch, where people could hang their remembrance message on it. Another scattered black poppy seeds to pay tribute to those who died. Overdose prevention messages were employed, training other users to save lives. Birmingham’s service user and drug using community unveiled a plaque to remember loved ones and a one minute silence was held at midday by all staff within the Birmingham Drug & Alcohol Action Team, and by the treatment services across the city.
Across the country, lunches were held, memorial gardens produced, art was created, messages were written, wristbands produced in memory, events staged and candles were lit in loungerooms, churches and clinics. It has been wonderful to see it take off with such care and commitment across the UK, it is clear people need and want to remember. There is a need to give these often forgotten and hurried deaths, the proper time and dignity they each deserve, for one of us – for all of us.
Thanks to Black Poppy, Steve Freer and Si and Sue from Morph, who really pushed the day forward and did wonderful work in their regions.
Did you do something on remembrance day? Please let us know and we can post what your country did on our INPUD blog site.