Is Connewitz racist? – Guest in the “Pause”

The operator of a chicken grill is accused of being a Turkish nationalist in chat groups. The windows of a pizzeria run by migrants were smashed because they called the police. In the „Pause”, the store where the Späti “Lazy Dog” was located for years, there was glass breakage – the new store is avoided, operators and guests are looked at askance. Last but not least, we may have contributed to this with an article on tenancy law for tradespeople. This is another reason why we dare to take a second look at the conflict in Connewitz, and the change of perspective tempts us to self-critical reflection.
 
It seems busy in the “Friseur Akademie” on Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse. Through the salon, we make our way to the outdoor seating area in the backyard. The parasol has burn holes. “There were tenants who deliberately threw down their cigarettes when we opened our business. They have since moved out. We get along well with the others in the building. We’re even friends with some of them,” Aysel says casually. Her cell phone vibrates every minute, yet her alert and warm eyes are focused on us most of the time. Only when her husband, Ugur, doesn’t understand something or can’t find the German words do they turn to him. 
 
 

How long have you been in business? 
Aysel: I came to Germany in 1993 to join my brother. In 2011, I opened a small hair salon next to the Sparkasse bank in Connewitz. After my husband came to Germany in 2014, we rented the bigger salon on the “Karli”. We are tenants here, we do not own the store. Until then, we always had to book hotels for our seminars. That was no condition.
 
The salon looks very upscale – and diverse
Aysel: We do what we can. I have experienced firsthand that it is not easy to gain a foothold. At the moment, we have ten trainees with migration biographies, some of whom are being saved from deportation by means of a training permit. During the lockdown, they had to pay for this out of their own pockets. In addition, there are the loans, the one from the store and our new project. 
 
That brings us to the point. The image of the evil capitalists suppressing a late sale.
Ugur: I see myself as an artist. I have no idea about late sales or real estate business. We work hard to survive, to service the loans. The rent of our salon is increasing from year to year – the contract still runs for a few years and to save the rent in the future we bought the property in Connewitz. We wanted to create a secure future for our family. We are in the store 6 days a week from early morning to late at night, we only take a few vacations. We like to do all this, we love our job and have a very personal and intimate relationship with most of our customers. It really scared me a lot how I suddenly have to justify myself for this, get labeled as an evil capitalist. That really makes me sad.
 
Aysel: When I read the story of the “Lazy Dog,” how many times they had to move, I felt sorry for them. I didn’t know that. Regarding the weak position of commercial tenants*, we are even in the same boat. The constant insecurity. When a real estate agent offered us the property in Connewitz for sale and presented a calculation, we decided to buy it.
 
Originally, we wanted to let the rental contracts expire and use the rooms ourselves. Salon and living space. For our lease of the salon on the Karli, we were already in talks with a next tenant. Then came the lockdown. When my husband’s brother-in-law and cousin became unemployed and applications came to nothing because of their German language skills, we offered them the space for a snack bar.
 
In the meantime, the old Lazy Dog was advertised for rent for 2,500€.
Aysel: And that unrenovated. The realtor said that the price was in line with the market. I didn’t think about it at all. The pressure in the lockdown, the uncertainty: How will it continue for me and our employees. How am I supposed to pay the loans and the high rent for my store in the Karli. That put a lot of pressure on me, and I slept badly for nights on end, thinking back and forth. In addition, I was worried about my brother-in-law and cousin, one of whom is also threatened with deportation – and urgently needs a perspective. The offer was quickly removed from the network. I was against it from the start. Self-critically, I can say that I learned a lot.
 
Copy Cat?
OK, you obviously don’t seem like the evil real estate speculators, but it was still irritating that a copy of the Lazy Dog was created in their old premises. In the meantime, it looks more like a kebab store.
 
Aysel: If we were terminated because of own use and our business concept moved in here, I would be just as irritated. Since 1.5.2021, the “Pause” has a permit to sell food. The hygiene was only this Monday again, in order to co-ordinate last building measures. For the ventilation system is still missing the approval of the house. The “break” must adapt simply to the circumstances. The concept is not based on tough competition, and that does not fit in with our values. I didn’t want hot dogs to be sold, as in the old “Lazy Dog” – even if it was the beef version.
 
Ugur: We are talking about our future neighbors here, their children and ours. When I visit the store, I am looked at like a monster. When the store was attacked, employees were there. They were afraid, thinking only of their children at that moment. And the fear has remained until today.
 
Is Connewitz racist?
Aysel: I always thought Connewitz was multi-culti. Look at me, I am a modern woman and often enough I have conflicts with patriarchal structures – also within the family. So far, I’ve known racism mainly from stories – when women wear headscarves. After the topic “break” I am afraid to live with my children (3, 18) in Connewitz. 
 
At the keyword “family” a personal question comes up.
After these words we are a bit embarrassed to ask about the numerous companies that are said to be in your network. Among them are a former baker in Connewitz, a cafe at the HTWK, a waffle store on the Karli, two kebab stores on Prager Straße, a kebab store and a delicatessen in a shopping market – plus a company that deals with store fitting. – We show them a photo of a van of a store fitting company. 
 
Aysel: (laughs heartily) Naturally I received personally the order from Erdogan for it to buy up completely Leipzig. As a good woman I have to follow – straight with Kurdish background. Seriously: To the further circle of the family belong two kebab stores on the Prager Straße, as well as the kebab and delicatessen store in the shopping market. In each case the own stores of our relatives, partly rented themselves at high prices. But if this is family, it does not mean that we have to do with the stores. These are own families, who work with your children as hard as we do. By the way, during the research you forgot the store that really still belongs to us: the small salon in Arthur-Hoffmann-Straße. The trainees have to work somewhere after their training.
 
Aysel insists on publishing the passage. Her heartfelt eyes express concern. “This shows how enemy images are constructed via rumors. It’s unbelievable.”
 
Pause
We finish the interview in the salon and arrange to take a photo during the “Pause”. “Ugur can’t come with us. Someone has to stay at the academy” Aysel throws at us as she grabs her cell phone to head out. When we arrive at the “Pause”, we want to know what’s going on with the “assisted living” in the building. The rental contract there is also expiring. “That’s right. To date, the tenant has not contacted us to see if he is interested in staying there. There are rumors that we raised the rent. That’s a lie.” – We leave the bistro and chat for a while in front of the door, while being watched with suspicious eyes by passers-by. /MS