İsmet Tekin has lived and worked in Halle for 12 years. Together with his brother Rıfat Tekin, he is the current owner of the kebab shop “Kiez Döner”, where he was previously an employee. At the time of the attack, he wasn’t at the shop. His brother called him and told him about the attack. He rushed to Rıfat to help him and was only a few metres away from the entrance of “Kiez Döner”, the assassin took aim at him. İsmet remained unhurt, the shot missed him.
On October 9th, 2019, an armed assailant attacked a synagogue in Halle and the nearby kebab shop “Kiez Döner”, murdering two people and injuring several others. On July 21st, the trial against him begins in the city of Magdeburg.
The following conversation is part of an interview series with some of the co-plaintiffs in the trial. Rachel Spicker spoke with them about their experience of the attack, why they have decided to become a co-plaintiff, and what they expect from the trial.
Belltower.News: What was your experience of the attack?
İsmet Tekin: It was the worst day of my life. I’d only ever heard about such attacks on TV. I never thought that it could happen here in Halle. Now I can understand people who have had to experience such a thing, their feelings, their pain, their shock and the difficulties in dealing with it. I often think there are no words to describe how I experienced that day and how I feel today. I thought that it is a day like any other. I was out of the shop for a short time and suddenly I got a call from my brother, telling me that there the store was being attacked. I wanted to get back to the shop as soon as possible to help my brother. I was very afraid that his life was in danger – so I ran. It felt like an eternity and I had the feeling that I couldn’t move forward. At first, I had no idea of the situation. When I arrived at the pharmacy a few metres from our store, I heard a shot that bounced off the wall of the house next to me. Then I realised that the shooter was aiming at me. It felt as if my whole life was passing by within a few seconds, like in a movie. So many questions were racing through my head and I was very scared. I remember looking for cover behind a car, but the car was very small, so I went three cars further to a larger car and hid there. Then the police exchanged fire with the shooter. I looked under the car and saw the shooter go down when he was hit. A few seconds later, he got up, got back into his car and drove off in the direction of Schillerstraße, with the police cars behind him.
Afterwards, I went to my brother to make sure that nothing happened to him. When I think that he could have died – I wouldn’t be able to withstand that pain. After we briefly talked, I went to the shop and called to see if anyone was still there. I saw Kevin lying there and immediately called the emergency services. I could see that he was already dead. I wouldn’t wish for anyone to have to experience something like that. Two people, Jana and Kevin, died that day. Many were hurt and are still in shock.
How do you feel about the attack today?
I’ve lived in Halle for 12 years and have always felt comfortable, but living here now feels different. Sometimes I feel good, sometimes I have no motivation, no strength and feel nothing, not a single emotion. Sometimes I can’t breathe. The days are very different. Everybody has had difficulties in their life, even my brother and I. But the difference is that since the attack, we have only had difficulties. This is mainly due to the financial situation of the shop we took over after the attack. As a result of the attack, we’ve had less business. Then winter came and now we’re faced with the coronavirus pandemic. It’s been very difficult for some time now to pay bills, staff and rent.
In the weeks following the attack, there so many people here and so many politicians who gave us the feeling that life goes on. That was very important and gave us a nice feeling, so I’m grateful for that. Afterwards, however, it was different. Two things happened after the shooting, which for me were almost worse than the attack itself. The Minister of the Interior of Saxony-Anhalt and the Mayor of Halle had given us their word that they will stand by and support us. Since then, nothing has happened. Furthermore, the court didn’t even want to admit me as a co-plaintiff at first. The Attorney General’s Office said that the attacker didn’t want to kill me and didn’t aim at me. I was at the crime scene before the police did, so how can they say that he didn’t want to hit me? During the attack, he aimed at so many people and I am one of them. If I’d have been closer to the shop, he might have hit me. My lawyer then appealed against this decision. Only two days before the start of the trial was I accepted as a co-plaintiff. I don’t understand either of these two points. They are both great disappointment, something I didn’t expect. I don’t feel taken seriously. I feel insecure and often in despair, but I also know that you can’t live with fear, because life goes on. You have to find ways to deal with the fear. And as the Germans like to say, “hope dies last”. In that spirit, I say that you have to think positively and look to the future. I can’t forget, but we can make an effort to come to terms with what has happened and think together about how we can move forward.
Why did you decide to become a co-plaintiff?
Before the attack I had courage, I had my strength and I could do and achieve everything I set as my goal. With the attack, everything is gone. I would’ve wished not to have experienced this, but I did experience it. Now I want to exercise my right to be part of clearing up the circumstances of this crime. I have many unanswered questions. It’s important to clarify who’s behind the shooter, who supported him, who helped him or knew about his plans. How can no one in his family have known about it if he lived at home, planning the crime there and building weapons and explosives? How can an unemployed person buy and build so many weapons? What money did he use to buy them? I can’t believe that nobody knew anything. To this day, I can’t explain how the police could have taken so long to arrive at the scene. The attacks at the synagogue and “Kiez Döner” were ten minutes apart. And the police station isn’t far from our shop at all.
I also want to know what is happening in the trial, who is being invited and heard, and what questions are being asked. I want to know how the trial will turn out and what the verdict will be. I want to see with my own eyes and hear with my own ears what is happening in the courtroom. That’s why I go to the trial every week and will personally follow the proceedings to the very end – that’s important to me. I want to prevent the shooter from being given a stage or platform, as well as him being labelled as “ill”. The perpetrator was and is not ill. He did this out of an ideological motivation and conviction.
Since the attack, it is become all the more important to me to do good, to give my support and offer assistance. That’s why I’ve been travelling to Hanau, for example, whenever they need me there. The relatives of the Hanau shooting have had similar experiences with the authorities and society at large to us. There are parallels between the shooters and the attacks are connected with other killings. That’s why solidarity with one another is important. I have great hope that good times will come afterwards.
What do you expect from the trial?
I want there to be a just verdict and for the shooter to get a life sentence. But I also wish for the fronts between minorities and mainstream society not to harden further. Germany calls itself a diverse country but fails to recognise its own diversity. The experiences, achievements and talents of migrants and minorities are often ignored – and yet we keep this country going. We’re all part of this society and we must learn more from each other and find our way to one another. We need good ideas for the future of this country. Perhaps this trial can help contribute to that.
Further information on the trial: Together with NSU-Watch, the VBRG is documenting the trial in German, English and Russian. The initiative democ is covering the trial in English, German and Hebrew. On the blog halle-prozess-report.de, you can find information, reports and perspectives on the trial from co-plaintiffs and their lawyers, with support from activists and supporters.
At the beginning of the trial, a group of co-plaintiffs published a joint declaration in which they have called on media representatives not to mention the attacker’s name to deny him a platform. We have respected this wish in this interview.