Peter Storm: Joke Kaviaar sentenced – solidarity needed

Joke Kaviaar, activist and publicist against the oppression, detention and deportation of refugees in the Netherlands , has been sentenced to a four months jail sentence for “incitement”. Solidarity with refugees should know no borders; solidarity against efforts to censor Joke Kaviaar, and all the ones speaking out against this repression should know no borders either. Joke Kaviaar will not shut up. Neither should we.

Lots of attention is being spent on repression in, uh, repressive countries, or, to be more precise, countries officially recognized as being repressive. Purely accidentally, these often are countries that “our” countries- which obviously are freedom living, non-repressive to the core – consider as rivals or enemies. Russia is a case in point. That horrible Mr Putin and his Medvedev sidekick, they only tolerate demonstrations when permission is asked for and being granted, within state-imposed limits. Otherwise, riot cops come and start beating up and arresting people. And remember what the Russian state is doing to the feminist punk activist band, Pussy Riot? Peaceful activist, doing an action in an church in order to expose the ties between conservative church and authoritarian regime . The horrible court system of the horrible Putin regime sent two Pussy Riot members to jail, to work camp (the sentence against a third activist was suspended). How horrible! Never would such things happen in our freedom-loving countries! Or..?

Now, don’t understand me wrong. The Pussy Riot trial is an outrage that is rightly and furiously opposed. The clampdown on demonstrations in Russia should be opposed as well. But the same should be applied to “our” nice freedom-loving countries. Here, its is entirely relevant to look at the way demonstrations are treated in the Netherlands. No, you do not need “permission”. But you DO need (officially, that is) to announce them to the authorities, who can then impose regulations concerning location, concerning what you can (banners) or cannot (sticks to put banners on) take with you on the demonstrations, concerning how you dress (no face-cover). Demonstrations that do not officially announce themselves can be attacked, with demonstrators beaten up – as happened to]the May Day anarchist demonstration in Amsterdam 2012. Demonstrations that DO announce themselves, are sometimes attacked as well, in which case small breaks of (imposed) regulations is being used as an excused, as happened with the May Day anticapitalist demonstration in Utrecht, 2011 – a demonstration that was kettled for hours and repeatedly attacked. Yes, you can peacefully demonstrate in the Netherlands – as long as you play by their rules – rules that get more stringent by the day. The difference between Amsterdam and Moscow is not that big. And it looks like getting smaller.

The same applies to the juridical treatment of dissidents. I mentioned the Pussy Riot case. A few weeks ago I wrote of a case in the Netherlands that is not that dissimilar: the trial against Joke Kaviaar, an activist against the repression of refugees and people without papers in general. She writes articles against this repression, and the state considered four of her writings illegal. You see , they contained ‘incitement’ against ‘public authority’. The trial was on 8 January, the court delivered its verdict on 22 January: a four months prison sentence. Joke Kaviaar has already filed an appeal against this verdict.

The trial and its verdict are a scandal – an attack on serious criticism and activism against state oppression, a dangerous precedent that the state can use against other critics of state policies. The fight against this repression continues, solidarity beyond the border is much appreciated. There is information in English on the case in the “Press release support group Jan 22, 2013 – Joke Kaviaar sentenced to four months in prison for incitement”. And the texts that Joke Kaviaar wrote and that the state considers incitement, have by now been translated as well. They are:

“Rara, whose legal order is it?”

“Leers, fire and death”

“The Netherlands is being swept clean”,

“Where is the Dutch rebellion?”

Then, there are Joke Kaviaar’s final words on the trial, a long, impressive speech:”Each word a spark!”

By the way, RARA, was a militant anti racist action group the Netherlands in the 1980s and 1990s, taking responsibility for attacks against Shell and Macro being active in South Africa; Makro withdrew its investments after a number of fire attacks on their buildings. Leers was the minister for refugee and immigrant affairs, and as such responsible for detention and deportation.

The texts deserve to be read – and spread! Joke Kaviaar will not shut up, and neither should we. Creating a bit of hassle and bad publicity for Dutch authorities outside the borders, would also be nice. Refugee struggle knows no borders, solidarity with fighters against the oppression of refugees should know no borders either.

Peter Storm

(Originally appeared at