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THE PROTAGONISTS

Ramsis Kilani

Ramsis was born in 1991 in the working-class city of Siegen, North-West Germany.

He is a student at the University of Siegen, working towards completing a Masters in German and English and a teaching diploma. He lives with his partner in a student apartment in the outskirts of the city by the forest. 

As a child, Ramsis quickly developed an understanding of what it meant to be a German-Palestinian in Germany, yet never perceived himself as different in any way. He claims he always had a leftist worldview “as a gut instinct”, participating since a young age in demonstrations against racism and social injustice. But it was only after the death of his family that he plunged himself into activism and developed his critical view of the situation in Palestine. Since the killings of his family members, he deeply reconnected to his Palestinian roots, travelled for the first time to the West Bank and now regularly speaks at political events on Palestine and activism and is involved in political organizing and campaigning well beyond the issue of Palestine – he is an outspoken critic of racism and sexism in Germany, an anti-capitalist and a staunch vegan. 

Ramsis also began engaging in a frustrating process of seeking justice through the German court system in a long and tiring battle against the State of Israel of which the outcome is yet undetermined.

Ramsis Kilani Demo

Layla Kilani

Layla was born in Siegen in 1993. At the time of filming she studied mathematics and religious studies and acquired her teaching qualification for people with special educational needs at the University of Siegen. She is vegan and an avid advocate of animal rights. She lives in her childhood family home, with her cat Willy, who recently passed away, and her mother, a home which was partly built by her father Ibrahim.

Like her brother Ramsis, Layla also never paid special attention to her identity as half-Palestinian. Memories relating to her Palestinian identity mostly included her feeling proud of her father making falafel for the other children in school events or telling her stories about the beauty of his homeland.  Two years younger than Ramsis, her childhood memories of their father are much vaguer. 

Until their parents´ divorce Layla and Ramsis were not the closest of siblings – “if you would leave us alone in one room one of us would soon be dead,” she says about her early childhood. But this all changed after Ibrahim left forPalestine, and again, terribly, after he was killed. Today, Layla and Ramsis are as close as siblings can be, and support each other through the mourning and trauma as well as all aspects of their everyday lives. 

The terrible death of Ibrahim, his wife and their children has led Layla to view her roots and her place in the German society in a different manner and confronted her with the injustices of the world. She embarked on a journey of political awakening and connecting to her Palestinian roots by having the chance to visit the West Bank  for the first time as part of a student exchange between her German university and a Palestinian university near Ramallah. This journey brought her only a mere 80km from her family in the Gaza Strip, but she could not reach them due to the ongoing blockade. Back in Siegen, she became much more aware and proud of her Palestinian identity.

layla-kalini

Saleh Kilani

Saleh was born in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip in 1956 where he has spent all of his life. A hard worker since childhood, he is very proud of having been able to help all of his children to get high education and four of them being able to move abroad. The family’s home in Beit Lahiya is only 6km from the border; over the hills they can see the wall separating Gaza from Israel. Like two million other Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, they try to continue living as best as they can, despite the siege, recurrent attacks and lasting trauma, as well as the everyday hardships of the siege such as having only a few hours of electricity per day, problems accessing clean water,and the dire economic situation.

Being the eldest child of six siblings, whose father died when they were still very young, Saleh always felt a special responsibility towards his younger brothers and sisters. He and his brother Ibrahim developed a special connection and looked strikingly alike. Beginning to work at a young age as a skilled worker, specializing in making aluminium window frames, Saleh did all he could to support Ibrahim’s dream of studying architecture abroad, collecting and sending him money for his journey and family.

Saleh cherishes the very fond memories of a trip he made visiting Ibrahim in Siegen,and got to spend time with the very young Ramsis and Layla. After Ibrahim returned from Germany and remarried, Saleh vividly remembers how the extended family used to go to Ibrahim’s plot of land by the sea and how they celebrated the simple joys of being together. Years after the tragedy struck, the family is still struggling with the grief and will never be the same. They can hardly bear to go to Ibrahim’s flat and his land, both left untouched. 

Having witnessed several attacks on the Gaza Strip, and having lost his brother, sister-in-law and nieces and nephews, and living under an inhumane siege for over a decade, Saleh sees the entire world as complicit with the Israeli occupation. He still bitterly recalls how fond his brother was of everything German, and denounces Germany’s silence in the face of the killing of its citizens. 

Although nothing can replace Ibrahim and his children, Saleh still finds some comfort in knowing that Ramsis and Layla exist, always wishing to reunite with them – “if I ever come out of Gaza, I will visit you in Siegen first, even before visiting my own children”, he tells them.

SALEH KILANI

Roger Waters on "Not Just Your Picture": "When I watch Ramsis and Layla banging their hearts against the intransig… https://t.co/j8c7NMaPRo
about 3 months ago | @NotJustYourPic1

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