12 sq km of fear

by Blu at Beni-Enzar, Melilla

Melilla is a fortress. And what happens to the fortress? It gets attacked. Constantly. Otherwise, what is the use of it? Fortress appears around the clusters of insecurity and fear, its construction is driven by desire to protect the territory and people, who inhabit this territory. The very presence of fortress signifies the constant presence of threat. When the threat is not present, it materialises in the environment of fortress. Rephrasing Heidegger, the fortified wall does not simply define the limit of the fortress, it defines what fortress is inside. The walls of Melilla don’t simply mark its limits, they construe the city space. Hence, the outside danger doesn’t have to be present, it can as well be imaginative, produced by the presence of the fortress. Danger doesn’t come alone, it creates the opposite vector, which, in this case, is achingly real. Danger from the outside evokes an actual fear from the inside. This fear determines the behaviours and everyday lives of Melilla’s citizens. One has to always stay vigilant. Living in a fortress, and, moreover, in a largely porous and unreliable fortress, as it is maintained by the media, requires constant attention towards one’s surrounding and to constantly watch out for pickpockets, or any suspicious person.

Fear in Melilla is maintained through various channels. First of all, through the urban geography of the city. Melilla is full of walls and fences. The majority of the governmental and business buildings are surrounded by the wired fences, which do not contribute to the city’s coziness. Surprisingly, the locals see this excessive urban fortification as something normal and even necessary. This proves my point that fear and sense of insecurity form a part of each person’s everyday experience. Secondly, the wall generates fear. The wall determines the content of the city, contributes to its image of a fortress. Therefore, the inhabitants of Melilla get converted into inhabitants of the fortress, which implies certain behavioural patterns, dictated by the perceived outside danger. Finally, fear is constructed by the media. Images of african migrants sitting on top of the wall, disturbing reports regarding the Moroccan kids, who live on the streets in Melilla, speculations about the terrorism’s threat, migrant crisis — all these make people concern about their own security and security of their loved ones. Melilla has a media fame of being one of the least safe cities of Spain. When I was sharing my plans of visiting Melilla with my Spanish friends, all of them asked me to be very careful. Melilla is famous for being unsafe, therefore fear is naturally expected from its citizens.

The logic way to challenge this fear is to reveal the perceived nature of danger that provokes it. Melilla’s citizens are not living in a fortress, and there is no wild army troops standing outside their walls, waiting to attack. The fear is constructed by the imaginaries, which are more powerful than common sense. Deconstructing these imaginaries means deconstructing danger. Fear is a curious phenomena: driven by imaginaries it obtains real power, defines people’s behaviours and possesses a huge transformative and destructive capacities. Fear drives violence. Spreading the knowledge and creating new cultural and social practices can eradicate the perceived danger, fear, and, ultimately, violence.

street art in Melilla