Book PreRelease & Final Reading 2019

v.l.n.r. Hamed Baluch, Amira Gudegast, Muska Karimi, Helena von Beyme, Robina Karimi, Shahzamir Hataki, Rojin Namer, Zoё Matt-Williams, Theresa Rüger | Foto © Rottkay
From left to right: Hamed Baluch, Amira Gudegast, Muska Karimi, Helena von Beyme, Robina Karimi, Shahzamir Hataki, Rojin Namer, Zoё Matt-Williams, Theresa Rüger | Photo © Rottkay

18.12.2019 • 18:30 • The Poetry Project e.V.


What a brilliant evening! Even though we had learned over the previous four years that our literary project had the power to give a bit of freedom to troubled souls, we could hardly expect that this Wednesday before Christmas would demonstrate joy, friendship and simply happy togetherness with such intensity. From the bottom of our hearts we are grateful that this was possible.

60th Münchner Bücherschau

Münchner Bücherschau | Foto © Rottkay
Rojin Namer, Ali Alzeem, Anne Bontemps, Robina Karimi, Muska Karimi, Michael Schröder | Photo © Rottkay

The Last Reading Tour of 2019

23.11.2019 • 16:30 • Black Box Gasteig


Following a rousing review in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, almost all of the 240 seats of the Black Box im Gasteig at the 60th Munich Book Show were taken.

Theresa Rüger gave a short introduction to the workshops held by the Poetry Project. Then Ali Alzaeem, Rojin Namer, and Muska and Robina Karimi presented their texts about their old and new home countries – as usual in their native languages, Arabic and Farsi. Anne Bontemps and Michael Schröder read the texts in German. The audience was especially impressed by Muska’s poem about being a woman in Afghanistan: »A daughter hears from her mother: You are a piece of white cloth. But you get dirty quickly.«

In the subsequent questions session, the audience participants were enormously surprised to see how outstandingly well our poets already speak German. In keeping with the continuing #MeToo debate, much of the discussion revolved around the experiences of women.

It is a delight to see how strongly the self-confidence of growing young women is already developing. When asked about the differences between Syria and Germany, Rojin quick-wittedly raised a laugh: »Of course I see differences. As a woman in Germany, you have considerably more freedom. But equality does not exist here, either. For example, I would not simply urinate at the side of the road…«

After applause that lasted some minutes, there was an opportunity to buy our book of poems and have it signed. This gave our poets a close-up impression of the enthusiasm that they had generated in the audience:

Münchner Bücherschau | Foto © Rottkay
Book signing | Photo © Rottkay

We would like to thank Edith Offermann for the organisation and for looking after us superbly, and also the Schauburg – Theater für junges Publikum (Young People’s Theatre), who provided the two actors.

Literaturfest München Opening Gala

Literaturfest München | Foto © Rottkay
Shahzamir Hataki, Samiullah Rasouli, Cathrin Störmer | Photo © Rottkay

A deeply moving evening

13.11.2019 • 19:00 • Gasteig


In the Carl-Orff-Saal at the Gasteig, whose 608 seats were fully booked, our young authors Rojin Namer, Shahzamir Hataki and Samiullah Rasouli read out, in their mother tongues Farsi and Arabic, their texts: about expulsion from the paradise of their homelands, their flight and new beginning in Germany. The wonderful reader in German was Cathrin Störmer from the Residenztheater.

This gave hope to everyone at a difficult time. Rojin, who is sixteen, is attending high school;  Shahzamir, eighteen years old, is taking an apprenticeship in nursing at the Charité hospital; Samiullah, who is twenty, is in the third year of training for the hotel trade. Today these three have a future that is good for all of us.

After his brilliant speech about events since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the historian Timothy Garton Ash, filled with inspiration, twittered : »Most moving the readings at #literaturfest of poetry by young refugees from Syria & Afghanistan – all speaking excellent German. Maybe, after all, ‘wir schaffen das!’....?«

literaturfestival berlin 2019

Shahzamir Hataki, Thanhha Lai, Ada Bieber Foto © Rottkay
Shahzamir Hataki, Thanhha Lai, Ada Bieber | Photo © Rottkay

13.09.2019 • 09:00 • James-Simon-Galerie 


Following the award of the 2019 Theo Prize to our poet Shahzamir Hataki, he was invited to the 19th internationales literaturfestival berlin to read his award-winning poem »The Only Son«.

Early in the morning, the hall was filled with pupils from an international primary school. Ada Bieber was the assured moderator for this unusually young audience.

The children listened spellbound to Thanhha Lai and Shahzamir Hataki, and at question time not only asked the authors several times whether they had really experienced what they read, but also what papaya tastes like. Thanhha Lai promptly gave them all some homework: try one – but please don’t eat the seeds or the skin.

Authors: Thanhha Lai, Shahzamir Hataki

Moderator: Ada Bieber

Conference of School Heads

Meet | Foto © Rottkay
Photo: Rottkay

09.07. and 24.07.2019 • Meeet Mitte

»Why do you want to take this life away from me, to deny me freedom? I too am a human.« – Robina Karimi

In July The Poetry Project received two invitations to be part of the programme for a conference of school heads from the USA who had come to learn about social projects in Berlin. In addition to reading in Rachel Clarke’s Storytelling Arena, whose tandem format is also a stage for poetic dialogue with young refugees, the authors of The Poetry Project first read their works in their native languages as usual. Theresa Rüger read the German translations. For the second time since the TEEME Conference at the Freie Universität in 2018, the English translations were then read by the young author and singer-songwriter  Anne Genberg from New York. The positive reaction of the audience made a deep impression on those who read the poems. We would therefore like to express our sincere thanks to the audience for their warmth, and also to Aidan Bartley for the invitation and organisation, and to Ali Alzaeem, Rojin Namer, Robina Karimi, Reza Hossaini and Hamed Baluch for sharing their personal experiences.

FU Berlin

Denis Abrahams, Robina Karimi, Rojin Namer, Theresa Rüger | Foto © Rottkay
Denis Abrahams, Robina Karimi, Rojin Namer, Theresa Rüger | Photo © Rottkay


Anniversary of the Institute für Philosophie und Geisteswissenschaften

04.07.2019 • 19.30 • Freie Universität Berlin


Colourful cushions had already been laid on the steps of the Beton-Theater in the theatre courtyard of the Freie Universität to welcome the readers on to the stage there. The rows of seats were empty, however, as the events on the programme had been transferred at short notice to the park so that guests at the anniversary of the Institute for Philosophy and Humanities could bask in the last rays of sunshine between bouquets of flowers and balloons.

Alongside other exciting presentations such as that by Erika Fischer-Lichte, one of the world’s leading theoreticians of theatre studies, our poets Robina Karimi, Rojin Namer, Ali Alzaeem and Matin Hosseini were able to read their texts. Their subjects were memories of summers past, of member of their families and friends, love, loneliness and genuine secrets.

Denis Abrahams, co-founder of the Lettrétage house of literature and an established member of the ensemble of readers at the internationales literaturfestival berlin, read out the translations. We would like to thank him for his sensitive interpretation of the texts, and Carolin Hehn for inviting us.

THEO 2019 Award

ThePoetryProject THEO 2019
Photo: Schreibende Schüler e.V.

28.04.2019 • Rotes Rathaus Berlin

In April 2019 the award of the THEO Prize for Young Literature took place for the twelfth time, chaired by Anke Stelling and Karla Montasser, in the Rotes Rathaus in Berlin. The invitation to write about the theme »Before the Storm« was addressed to children and young people from across the world. Prizes were given for various age groups and in the categories prose and poetry – and this year, for the first time, in the category SprachRäume (Linguistic Spaces). More than 650 entries were submitted in 2019, and the authors of the most promising texts were invited to come together for a workshop weekend. Among them were three authors from The Poetry Project: Shahzamir Hataki with his poem »The Only Son« about fleeing across the sea, Robina Karimi with »Violence and Pride« about the role of women in Afghanistan, and Rojin Namer with the text »Damascus« about her home city. Alongside five other texts, including a charming story by ten-year-old Anna Lena Gabriel about Susi Starfish, Fita Fish and Momo Mussel, and the hybrid text »Substantiation of a Relationship before the Storm« by the talented Lotti Spieler, prizes were awarded to the texts by Shahzamir and Rojin, in the categories poetry and SprachRäume. We are delighted for the award-winners and would like to thank Schreibende Schüler (Pupil Authors) and the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (Association of the German Book Trade) for their committed support!

70th Frankfurter Buchmesse

Samiullah Rassouli, Yevgeniy Breyger, Aarash D. Spanta, Amira Gudegast, Rojin Namer, Mahdi Hashemi, Yasser Niksada, Theresa Rüger  |  Photo: Tina Pfeifer/Tina Bernhard

Opening of the Bookfest

9.10.2018 • 19:00 • 25hours Hotel The Trip

Every year hundreds of thousands of literature lovers, authors and publishers make their way to the modern city of Frankfurt on the river Main for one of the biggest events on the German literary scene. This year too, the Frankfurt Book Fair drew visitors with its varied and  international programme. In addition to high-calibre award ceremonies such as that for the Deutscher Buchpreis (German Book Prize) and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis (German Prize for Youth Literature), book-signing and other events, this year for the first time the BOOKFEST, a flanking programme, was initiated outside the trade-fair grounds. 

We were extremely fortunate to be able to open the BOOKFEST with our reading at the  25hours Hotel – The Trip. On the evening of 9 October, a large audience came to hear poems by our authors Amira Gudegast, Mahdi Hashemi, Rojin Namer, Samiullah Rasouli and Yasser Niksada. Our translator Aarash D. Spanta also spontaneously took part and moderated the event. The German versions of the poems were read by the author and poet Yevgeniy Breyger, whose work as an organiser and provider ensured that we felt extremely welcome.

38th Erlanger Poetenfest

Rojin Namer | Foto © Rottkay
Rojin Namer  |  Photo: Rottkay

25.08.2018 – 26.08.2018 • 13.00 • Schlossgarten, Erlangen


Every year at the beginning of the autumn book season in Germany, the Erlangen Poets’ Festival is held. With one hundred events and more than eighty participating authors, literary critics and publicists, the Erlanger Poetenfest is one of the biggest and most prestigious literary festivals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

This year, at the 38th Erlangen Poets’ Festival, the Poetry Project was represented. 

Visitors to the festival gathered in the beautiful palace garden to attend numerous readings, panels and discussions.

Alongside Christoph Ransmayr, Daniel Kehlmann and Nora Bossong, our young poets Shahzamir Hataki, Rojin Namer, Robina Karimi, Yasser Niksada, Samiullah Rasouli and Mahdi Hashemi touched and delighted a large audience with their poems.

 The event was about more than simply reading and listening, however. All festival guests had the opportunity to visit us in our three tents. In the Quiet Tent, the premiere of our new film »To Europe Alone« was celebrated, in the Poetry Tent visitors could try their hand at writing poetry themselves, and in the Exhibition Tent they could read the award-winning works of The Poetry Project authors in peace and quiet. We had the opportunity to talk about the project to many interested persons and to exchange views. During the two days of the festival, we had a lot of fun with our Poetry Lottery. Every lottery ticket was rewarded with both a poem and at the same time a prize from our new merchandise collection.



Morgenland Festival Osnabrück

Robina Karimi | Foto © Rottkay
Robina Karimi  |  Photo: Rottkay

Focus on Central Asia: music meets poetry

20.06.2018 • 20.00 • Felix-Nussbaum-Haus, Osnabrück


Since 2005 the Morgenland Festival (Orient Festival) has been devoted to musical but also other cultural work from the Near East, whether cinema, photography or literature. This year’s programme from 5 May to 24 June, with the participation of artists from countries including Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan and Russia, shifted the focus to Central Asia.

On the evening before the Poetry Project reading, the shamanistic sounds of Raushan Orozbaeva and Ulzhan Baibussynova from Kazakhstan were heard, and on 20 June seven young poets took the stage themselves. The Felix-Nussbaum-Haus, between paintings by the Jewish artist and prints by Andy Spyra from Afghanistan, a photographer of conflict, provided impressive surroundings for the moving poetry; this was complemented by the unmistakable architecture of Daniel Libeskind, clearly related to the deportation of Nussbaum to Auschwitz. 

In the museum hall, where every seat was taken, texts were read about the horrors of forcible expulsion, about being alone, and also about strength and love in the face of all adversity. The poems were read in Farsi, Arabic and German; translations into German were read expressively by the actor Oliver Meskendahl. At the close there were some minutes of standing ovations, signalling recognition and respect for the courage of the young authors.

Many thanks to Theresa Mattusch and to the festival director Michael Dreyer for the extremely attentive all-round care that characterised the event.

Poets: Rojin Namer, Robina Karimi, Mahdi Hashemi, Mahdi Rezaei, Yasser Niksada, Shahzamir Hataki, Michael Krasnov

Artistic direction: Michael Dreyer, Theresa Mattusch, Morgenland Festival Osnabrück

TEEME Conference FU Berlin

Kahel Kaschmiri | Foto © Rottkay
Kahel Kaschmiri | Foto: Rottkay

Textual Border Crossings Part III: Poetry Reading

25.05.2018 • 20:00 • Freie Universität Berlin

At the three-day TEEME conference, “Texts and Events across Borders” at the Freie Universität Berlin, everything revolved around the crossing of borders – whether of a metaphorical, geographical or linguistic nature. In numerous events related to the theme of transgression, international academic guests explored linguistic and cultural processes of translation, from William Shakespeare to Luís de Camões.

On the evening of the second day, under the heading “Textual Border Crossings”, The Poetry Project made up part of the programme – with a first reading in English, which was aimed at giving the polyglot audience direct access to the texts. Our poets read intimate poems on how they themselves crossed borders to leave their homeland – both national borders and highly personal borders. Their poems were also devoted to handling German culture, which appeared so alien at times, and the expectations of the families that they left so far away.

Works were read in German, Arabic and Farsi, as well as in English. We would like to thank Maxmarie Wilmoth and Hanna Baumann for translations into English and John Julian from the English Theatre Berlin for performing the English versions, which moved some of the audience to tears.

Organisation: Professor Dr. Sabine Schülting (Freie Universität Berlin)

Poets: Kahel Kashmiri, Mahdi Hashemi, Mahdi Rezaei, Michael Krasnov, Robina Karimi, Rojin Namer


Literature Initiative Berlin

Hanna Schygulla @ ThePoetryProject | Foto © Rottkay
Hanna Schygulla | Photo: Rottkay

Tuesday, 20.02.2018 • 19:00 • Schwartzsche Villa

Arrival - My home in my luggage.

Reading of The Poetry Project e. V. in cooperation with the project TalentCAMPUS 18+ of the VHS Steglitz-Zehlendorf

Introduction: Hanna Schygulla reads from Jenny Erpenbeck's »going, left, gone« and Bertolt Brecht's »Concerning the label emigrants«. As a companion of the Literature Initiative, Hanna Schygulla supports literary projects for young people. At the same time, the promotion of young refugees and the exchange with them are particularly important to her.

The young people of the writing group VHS Steglitz, the writing group Pfefferwerk and DRK, as well as two winners of the Else Lasker-Schüler Lyrikpreis will read their poems and lyrical descriptions of fate. They wrote about their flight, the arrival in Germany, about loneliness, longing, love, freedom, exclusion, responsibility and respect.

Readings will be in Arabic, German, and Persian. After the reading, a discussion will take place.

Artistic Direction: Steffi Eisenschenk, The Poetry Project
Reading of the German texts: Florian Goldberg

CityKirche Church Elberfeld Wuppertal

The Poetry Project | Foto © Rottkay
Samiullah Rasouli | Foto: Rottkay

Saturday, 10.02.2018 • Katholische Citykirche Elberfeld

Reading followed by a discussion: The young poets - Ghani Ataei, Mahdi Hashemi, Kahel Kashmiri, Samilullah Rasouli, Shahzamir Hataki, and Yasser Niksada - told us how difficult and at the same time exciting it is to come into our world from an entirely different one, how they try to overcome their fear of strangers, why writing is liberating for them, and also about their first heartache in Berlin. The Wuppertal poetry slammer Jan Philipp Zymny read the poems in German.

Else Lasker-Schüler-Lyrikpreis – Award Ceremony

Günter Wallraff | Foto © Rottkay
Günter Wallraff | Foto: Rottkay

Friday, 09.02.2018 • Stadtsparkasse Wuppertal

Günter Wallraff honored the touching poems of the young poets with a flaming and, as it were, insightful speech. He also took the opportunity to criticise  the German government and its policy vis-a-vis refugees of war. Germany is not suffering from a »refugee crisis, but from a humanitarian crisis,« Wallraff said, recalling the summer of 2015, when many Germans had welcomed refugees. These helpful and liberal citizens were »still the majority,« but only then a short time later were drowned out by right-wing populist forces critical of foreigners. The author praised the promising talents of the award winners - »Your poetry opens the hearts of the people,« the Westdeutsche Zeitung quoted Wallraff's appeal: »Let us work together for a better future with those who seek refuge with us.« Westdeutsche Zeitung
The Mayor of Wuppertal Andreas Mucke read the poems in German.

»The texts are devastating, amazingly mature lyrical descriptions of fate by 14 to 18-year-old adolescents documenting the story of their escape. These poetic signs of life recall the work of German exiles such as Else Lasker-Schüler.« rbb

Else Lasker-Schüler-Gesellschaft

Sasha Waltz & Guests

ThePoetryProject @ Sasha Waltz & Guests Shahzamir Hataki | Foto © Rottkay
Shahzamir Hataki | Photo © Rottkay

One Step Closer – Listening

Sunday, 26.11.2017 • 16:30 • Radialsystem • Studio A

Three refugee teenagers have been rehearsing with dancers of the Kindertanzcompany Berlin since September 2017. They are part of the open third room LISTENING, by Sasha Waltz & Guests, which creates an intersection between art, politics, public and private. The voices of the poets, the different languages ​​- Persian and German - the imagery of their poems and their thoughts overlap with the music, move through the space in dance. The atmosphere inside the room becomes denser, as contrasts emerge between the lightness of the dancers and the melancholy of the texts, and dissolves again as the melodies unite. The voices of Shahzamir, Yasser, and Mahdi open up a dialogue and take the audience into their world of thoughts, their experiences, their view of things.

From November 24th to 26th, Sasha Waltz invites artists, activists, and the audience for a programme of dance, music, film, conversation, and joint meals at Radialsystem V. The main topics are »The Art of Resistance« and »Empowerment of Communities«.

International Literature Festival Berlin 2017

ThePoetryProject @ ilb 17 | Susanne Koelbl | Foto © Rottkay
Presentation: Susanne Koelbl | Photo: Rottkay

Refugee Authors’ Literary Reports on their Arrival in Germany

Saturday 16.09.2017 • 14:30 • 17th Berlin International Literature Festival

Young refugees presented their reports on experiences, worries and hopes associated with their arrival in Germany - Kahel Kashmiri with »The Torn Shoes«, Mahdi Hashmedi with »Shedding Skin« and Shahzamir Hataki with »Lionhearted«. The actor Matthias Scherwenikas read the reports in German. Excerpts of the reports could be read during the festival as part of an exhibition at the Haus der Berliner Festspiele.

Gedächtniskirche / Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church

Yasser Niksada, Mahdi Hashemi und Samiullah Rasouli bei einer Lesung in der Gedächtniskirche | Foto © Rottkay
Yasser Niksada, Mahdi Hashemi, Samiullah Rasouli | Photo: Rottkay

10 Years of the Foundation Telefonseelsorge / Telephone Counselling Services

12.06.2017 • 19.30 • Memorial Church

Renate Künast spoke in the Gedächtniskirche (memorial church) on the anniversary of the founding of the Telefonseelsorge crisis hotline, an event at which the young poets Mahdi Hashemi, Yasser Niksada, and Samiullah Rasouli also recited their poems. Full of respect for the dedicated work of the telephone counselors and visibly touched by the readings by the young poets, the politician shared her ideas of successful cooperation in Berlin. The philosopher Florian Goldberg read the poems in German.

Long Night of Ideas

The Poetry Project | Banner | Foto © Rottkay
Photo: Rottkay

12.05.2017 • 19:00 • Auswärtiges Amt

An event of the Federal Foreign Office on the occasion of the Long Night of Ideas, in which contents of Foreign Cultural and Educational Policy were presented, showing links to culture and education in Germany. The Central Office for Schools Abroad has developed the language learning program »German language diploma« for Welcome Classes. During the long night, various language and cultural projects with Welcome Classes were presented jointly with other partners. The philosopher Florian Goldberg read the poems in German.

Federal Office of Administration

versfest Berlin

Schreibworkshop mit Susanne Koelbl | Foto © Rottkay
Susanne Koelbl with participants of the versfest 2017 | Photo: Rottkay

Reading and Workshop

20.03.2017 • 11:15 • Collegium Hungaricum

The Poetry Project workshop at the Versfest marked the starting point for cooperation with schools that want to use the Poetry Project in their integration work. One to two Persian-speaking girls and one to two Persian-speaking boys from grades 8-13 were able to attend the workshop. In addition, up to 150 pupils from grades 8-13 as well as any other interested members of the public were able to participate in the event as audience members.


Box Freiraum – Iran

Ghani Ataei im Gespräch mit Erika | Foto © Rottkay
Interview with Ghani Ataei | Photo: Rottkay

Refugees in Iran

07.02.2017 • 19:00 • Box Freiraum

Iran is one of the most important host countries for Afghan refugees. Millions of Afghans have left their homeland to seek protection in their neighbouring country. But only one third of them have a residence permit; many move through the country illegally, working as day labourers. There are tensions between the Iranian majority and the Afghan community. Not only few see them as a burden on the system and as competitors for scarce resources. At a young age, the poets of »The Poetry Project« have crossed Iran as refugees. Today, they live in Berlin, expressing their experiences in poetry, thus building on Afghan and Persian traditions. Reading and conversation with Jamaluddin Sajjadi. The actress Lydia Schamschula and the philosopher Florian Goldberg read the poems in German.

Goethe Institut

International Literature Festival Berlin 2016

Mahdi Hashemi, Yasser Niksada | Foto © Rottkay
Mahdi Hashemi, Yasser Niksada | Photo: Rottkay

Children´s and Young Adult Program

16.09.2016 • 11:00 • Haus der Berliner Festspiele

The young poets performed for the second time at the International Literature Festival Berlin 2016, this time in front of a completely different audience, which mainly consisted of school classes. After this reading by the young poets, dozens of young people spontaneously formed long queues in front of the book table. Berlin students queued to purchase one of the poetry collections of the Berlin anthology The Poetry Project and to ask the refugees for an autograph. Many wanted to know more about the authors and even asked them for their phone numbers.

It suddenly became clear: if poems can foster this kind of mutual human interest, they will not only be able to do this at a literature festival, but elsewhere as well. Of course, the best place for this is the school and anywhere where refugees and German citizens regularly meet.

The actress Lydia Schamschula and SPIEGEL Foreign Correspondent Susanne Koelbl read the poems in German.

Berlin Literature Festival 2016 – Opening Event

Samiullah Rasouli beim internationalen literaturfestival berlin 2016 | Foto © Rottkay
Samiullah Rasouli | Photo: Rottkay

06.09.2016 • 21:00 • Haus der Berliner Festspiele

The opening event of the International Literature Festival Berlin 2016 was the »The Poetry Project«, in which Ghani Ataei, Mahdi Hashemi, Kahel Kashmiri, Samilullah Rasouli, Shahzamir Hataki and Yasser Niksada from Afghanistan and Iran recited their poems. The actress Lydia Schamschula and SPIEGEL Foreign Correspondent Susanne Koelbl read the poems in German.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reviewed the performance as one of »touching and dramatic poems that give an idea of ​​the journey and bring us closer to the people who wrote them ... Testimonies of the current humanitarian crises. But their culture is also transmitted through poetry, because - although some of the young poets only wrote their first poems and have not always enjoyed a continuous education - the texts reflect the cultural tradition they originate from. Similar to the better-known Persian style of poetry, these poems are narrative and prosaic without losing their poetic character.« FAZ

First Public Reading

The Poetry Project | Foto © Rottkay
Shahzamir Hataki, Susanne Koelbl | Photo: Rottkay

17.05.2016 • 19:00 • Box Freiraum • Preview

The first public reading with Ghani Ataei, Mahdi Hashemi, Shahzamir Hataki, Kahel Kaschmiri, Mohamad Mashghdost, Yasser Niksada and Samiullah Rasouli. The actresses Julia Huston and Mira Wichers read the poems in German.

»What they recited was not Oriental floridness but not Western cool either. It was shocking because it brought up experiences that would break others.« Süddeutsche Zeitung