In the summer of 2015, the refugee child Reem Sahwil burst into tears in front of Angela Merkel. What has become of her?
With the press, Reem makes it like the Chancellor: she keeps her at a distance.
Her number does not give her out. Reporter no longer welcomes her at home. If you have them
Want to meet, says Reem, you have to come to the ice cream café Milano.
The Eiscafé Milano is a restaurant with bright lights and beige imitation leather seats, in the middle of a Rostock shopping arcade, next to Bijou Brigitte and Body Shop. Reem says the cafe is her favorite place. Only in the summer of 2015, after meeting with Angela Merkel'Since she had not come here, everyone recognized her. "Some people yelled at me," she says. "They pointed a finger at me and shouted: That must go!" Reem orders whatever she orders: ice cream with mixed fruits and cream.
Reem Sahwil, stateless, living in the prefabricated housing estate Rostock-Evershagen, born in Lebanon, in a camp for Palestinian refugees, became famous in the summer of 2015 because she burst into tears in front of Angela Merkel, in front of cameras. The encounter brought both, Merkel and the girl, a shitstorm. And it was the beginning of a political transformation that would change the image of the German Chancellor from the ground up.
Before Angela Merkel said "We can do it", she said: We can not do it. That was on July 15, 2015, in the gym of Reem's school. Merkel was visiting for a public discussion, she wanted to talk to the students, about Germany and democracy. The television was there, moderators handed around microphones. A standard date for Merkel. Until Reem spoke up.
Reem said, "I do not know what my future looks like." She talked about her life as a refugee child, the years of waiting for the asylum decision, the fear of being deported. "I have goals," she said. "I would like to study." She was 14 years old at the time.
Merkel countered that Reem was "extremely sympathetic", but politics was a tough business. People who do not flee from war and persecution would have to leave Germany again. "If we say now: You can all come – we can not do that either."
At this point, the story of Reem Sahwil and Angela Merkel could have ended, as one of those fleeting meetings that hardly anyone remembers later. But what followed remained in the memory of the Germans. As an example of what can happen when the ratio of those who do politics meets the feelings of those who endure politics: Reem started to cry. Merkel wanted to comfort, it looked helpless and awkward. The video went around the world, and many who saw it found Merkel heartless and cold. The hashtags #Merkelstreichelt and #NichtMeineKanzlerin trendeten on Twitter. The most powerful woman in the world tried to give comfort. She earned ridicule.
Reem is 18 years old today. She is wearing a glittering necklace and braces. Reem says she wants to study Psychology or German on Magisterium. She talks about her mother, who is a social worker in a refugee home. From her younger brother, who likes Bastian Schweinsteiger and wants to become a football star. She says you can talk to her about everything. Not only about politics.
Back then, when the video of the Weeping Reem was going around the world, reporters came to her home. The
Image-Newspaper printed a portrait that
New York Times
a home story, Reem in her nursery, on the bed, with plush dolphin.
When the articles appeared about Reem, some readers encouraged them. Others wrote: "Palestinian crybaby." Or: "Let's see when for a German child the Hartz IV sentences are raised, if it only howls media-effective enough."