Profile: Emrah Gürsel (KIgA)

18.02.2020

Emrah Gürsel leans forward in his chair as he is asked to describe the work of the Kreuzberg Initiativ gegen Antisemitismus (KIgA) that he is so deeply involved in. His passion for KIgA’s cause is obvious. “We do political education,” he says, “and our work with young people and teachers to combat antisemitism is grassroots work.”

Located in Berlin, KIgA was founded in 2003 as a response to the deadly attacks on synagogues in Istanbul earlier that year. Gürsel was born and raised in Turkey and has extensive experience with young people and the issue of intolerance, doing literal groundwork through memory walks in Istanbul and more. Eventually, this led Gürsel to Berlin where he now works with KIgA and its new initiative, European Network – Countering Antisemitism through Education (ENCATE).

"An intersectional approach is simply necessary if we are to create a safe environment for our audiences to tackle specific challenges such as antisemitism"

With ENCATE, KIgA aims to establish a truly international network for organizations engaged in education on antisemitism.

In KigA, we are now pursuing a broader approach to our work – political education in a diverse society, we call it – as we want to include other forms of discrimination and racism,” Gürsel says. “An intersectional approach is simply necessary if we are to create a safe environment for our audiences to tackle specific challenges such as antisemitism.”

This widened scope also means moving towards a greater online presence and focusing on the portals anders-denken.info and stopantisemitismus.de as multipliers of learning and exchange.

“ENCATE’s goal is to support civil society by providing actors with a platform for co-learning and exchange, as well as creating visibility,” Gürsel explains. “Thanks to funding from IHRA we were able to organize a Turkish-German exchange, which in turn has led to close cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and resulted in two international conferences.”

“In the process of building up ENCATE, having the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism already in place means that we will not continuously need to define a core aspect of our work when welcoming new partners. Instead we can focus our time and efforts on education, the exchange of practices, and creating visibility for our member organizations,” Gürsel concludes.

 

The Working Definition of Antisemitism was adopted by the IHRA in 2016 and has since been endorsed by many countries, organizations, and most recently football clubs.

Read more about what the IHRA funds. 

Photo: Management of KIgA (left to right), Emrah Gürsel, Silke Azoulai, Irina Kanitschew, Désirée Galert, and Joachim Seinfeld. Credit: KIgA.