The play that Feijóo should see

The play that Feijóo should see
The play that Feijóo should see

“If you ever meet someone like me, from another country, know that there, behind those eyes, is a story that, in a few years on Earth, contains many lives.” With that phrase he ends. 14,4the play written by Juan Diego Botto and directed by Sergio Peris-Mencheta, which is currently being performed at the Max Aub hall in the Naves del Matadero in Madrid (until 28 July). The title refers to the distance that separates Spain from Africa, and the person who says it is not just an actor. He is not someone who has learned a text to recite it by heart.

The person who asks us, the spectators, to change our perspective, to remember everything that has been told to us in the moving play when we meet someone from another country, is a person who knows what he is talking about. A child who was wandering the streets at the age of three, who at the age of ten had tried to cross the border seven times to seek a decent life. He did not come to steal our jobs. He did not come to threaten our women. He did not see him doing anything that the extreme right, and now the right, say he is coming to do in Spain.

It is impossible for anyone to listen to Ahmed Younoussi in 14,4 and not only feel excited, but embarrassed. The actor – who triumphed with the series Prince and who has also experienced racism in the industry—interprets the text written by Juan Diego Botto, but which is based on his entire life since he fled from his parents’ belts until he arrived in Spain as a child. He did it under a truck, risking his life.

Watching Peris-Mencheta’s work, one cannot help but think of the statements made hours earlier by the PP through its parliamentary spokesman Miguel Tellado, where he called on the Government to deploy Navy ships to prevent migrants from reaching the Canary Islands. Feijóo’s party fully adopted the arguments of the extreme right, criminalising immigrants and asking the Army to prohibit the arrival of foreigners. As if they were the danger. As if we had to protect ourselves from people who only seek hope.

I would invite Mr. Feijóo and Tellado to go see 14,4 to the theatre. I think it is impossible that if someone hears Younoussi’s story they could say such an outrage. That someone who at the age of six lost his childhood, risked his life and had to beg to survive is told to his face that the solution they propose is to put the Navy in charge of preventing him from entering another country. I wish Ahmed Younoussi would look Feijóo in the eye and say that final line. “If you ever meet someone like me, from another country, think of my story.” That a country like Spain, whose citizens had to flee during the Civil War and the dictatorship, who also had to seek a better life elsewhere, allows itself to see thousands of people die in those 14 kilometres of distance is an insult to our memory and to our humanity.

If you ever meet someone like me, from another country, know that there, behind those eyes, is a story that, in a few years on Earth, contains many lives.

The play is a slap in the face of reality. And although there are some who need to see it more urgently, it is a slap in the face for the whole of the West, including those who do not want to deploy the armed forces but look the other way when people die just a few metres from our country. The text underlines European hypocrisy. Good feelings and empty words in the face of actions that show that, deep down, no one wants to change anything.

Aylan’s photo appears in front of the screen where images are projected during the performance. Ahmed Younoussi asks people if they remember him. His name. Almost everyone does. That image, of a three-year-old boy who died on the coast of Turkey, opened all the news programmes and newspapers in 2015. Almost a decade has passed. Nothing has changed. “It was going to be the last one, it was going to raise awareness in Europe. It seems that Europe suffers from narcolepsy,” says the actor.

We soon forget about Aylán. Perhaps Europe’s leaders never wanted to change anything, because doing so means changing an economic system that everyone lives off of. “Let them not come, but let their resources come. We want their minerals, their diamonds, their coltan, their fish, their fruit. We can do without them,” they say in the play.

They do not want to accept that we are guilty of the situation that forces them to come here. A situation that begins with colonization (another thorny issue for the right, which denies that Spain had colonies) and continues with economic exploitation and the sale of arms to countries from which people flee but then we do not want to welcome their citizens: “In the end it is a vicious circle. I take your resources, your country becomes impoverished and people start to leave there. Then I give money to your corrupt president so that he can start beating up those who want to leave. If the president in office turns out to be a dud, I will take charge of supporting a candidate who will behave well with us.”

A hypocrisy that continues when the map of the countries that receive money from Europe to control the borders is shown. Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Mali… In the end, as they say in 14,4, “It is easier for a kilo of coltan to enter Europe than for a child working in the slave mine that produces it to enter.” Feijóo would never say that the Navy should be deployed to prevent coltan from entering Spain, but rather to prevent those who have been exploited in its extraction, or affected by the guerrillas in the area, from entering. Perhaps it is asking too much of the leader of the PP to go and see a play written by one of those “subsidized” by Spanish cinema — another false mantra fueled by the right — but it is hard to believe that if someone looks into the blue eyes of Ahmed Younoussi they could go back to thinking of migrants as problems and not as human beings.

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