Panter award 2016: strong signal against right-wing extremism

Karo e.V. and Tobias Burdukat are awarded for "heart, courage tenacity, creativity and fighting spirit".

All award winners and nominees of the taz Panter Award 2016 Image: Hein-Godehart Petschulat

Moderator Hatice Akyun witnessed the awarding of the taz Panter Prize for the first time. Together with Andreas Ruttenauer, she guided the audience through the evening in the packed Deutsches Theater. Right at the beginning, she noted, "This is probably the biggest gathering of do-gooders since the AfD has existed." She was right about that, especially when looking at the nominees.

But she also quickly arrived at the party that is as beneficial to the social climate in Germany as stale beer. Especially against the backdrop of the shift to the right, this year’s taz Panter Award could be understood as an even stronger signal: For an open society, for more participation of minorities, the oppressed, the excluded – and refugees. The fact that citizens with "heart, courage, tenacity, creativity, and fighting spirit" (Akyun) work for this participation in everyday life is often overlooked.

There’s still something going on in Germany

Katrin Gottschalk, deputy editor-in-chief of taz, said: "You show that there’s still something going on in Germany, and we thank you enormously for that, for sticking with it, for instigating it, for being great." This applied first and foremost to the winners of Karo e.V. (Readers’ Prize) and Tobias Burdukat (Jury Prize), but no less so for the other four nominees (from 180 suggestions).

Peperoncini e.V., for example, provides refugees with professional legal defense in the form of mini-guarantees. Leonore Stangherlin and Katharina Enders are implementing the idea in Leipzig using crowdfunding. "The rights of refugees are melting like ice in the sun," said Stangherlin in conversation with Andreas Ruttenauer. Her greatest wish, therefore, is "No further tightening of asylum laws!"

Ron Paustian’s motto is: "Only those who are loud are heard." He, from the association Inklusion muss laut sein, enables many people with disabilities to attend concerts with a network of 500 volunteers. "For me, this is a profession and a vocation," says Paustian. He himself loves listening to AC/DC, Metallica – and Helene Fischer.

The intergenerational squatter project Our House #OM10 in Gottingen, which takes in both refugees and non-refugees, offers German language courses and exemplifies grassroots democracy, advocates for a more humane housing policy. On 5. The squatters will celebrate their anniversary in November 2016, by which time the house should have been bought.

Another house project is campaigning against the expansion of the Nochten II coal mine: Eine Spinnerei e. V. is committed to sustainability, initiates events and seminars – and has to fight the local authorities in the process. After all, the building inspectorate has now recognized that a building permit for a tent camp is nonsense.

Cathrin Schauer, Michaela Vasikova and Nicole Baumgartel from Karo e.V. Image: Hein-Godehart Petschulat

taz Board of Trustees member Elke Schmitter mused on the actual definition of freedom, which lies in action. The fact that the taz Panter Prize of the readership then went to Karo e.V. speaks precisely for this. Since 1994, the association has been working in the Czech-German border region on behalf of women affected by forced prostitution.

Cathrin Schauer, Michaela Vasikova, Nicole Baumgartel and their comrades-in-arms offer housing or psychosocial counseling and help people leave prostitution. For them, the focus is on the individual. Maritta Strasser, coordinator at Campact e. V., held the laudatory speech and stated: "Get out, get involved – that requires true panther courage. Looking the other way is not an option for the award winners!"

A real everyday hero

The same is true for jury prize winner Tobias Burdukat. He practices humanism in the best sense in the "Village of Youth" in Grimma, Saxony. "I’d rather be for something than against something," says the 33-year-old social worker, who runs a container cafe and organizes cultural events in collaboration with local youth.

In the face of opposition from the local civic movement, he opposes racism and sexism. "Tobias Burdukat is a real everyday hero," said Julius Deutsch, himself a Panter Award winner in 2008, in praise of his commitment. "Heroes like him are the prerequisite for keeping the region livable."

Jury prize winner Tobias Burdukat Image: Hein-Godehart Petschulat

The award winner was visibly moved, accepted the prize with thanks – and in return left the "Waterkant" for the Deutsches Theater, a small wave that shows how agile the young people are. A strong sign for the future.

By David Joram, taz Panter Volunteer

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