Syrian refugee becomes German-speaking YouTube sensation

Firas AlShater,a Syrian refugee who has been living in Berlin for the last few years has become a YouTube celebrity with his sharp, acerbic take on German culture and the ongoing refugee crisis. 

The filmmaker and actor released a video at the beginning of the year in which he partook in an experiment of trust on Berlin’s famous Alexanderplatz. Blindfolding himself and standing beside a sign which identified him as a Muslim, he asked passers by to embrace him. The results were incredibly interesting and AlShater uses them as a way to explain German characteristics from his unique perspective.

Jan Heilig, AlShater’s German co-producer recently spoke with Renuka Rayasam of Quartz about the work they do together on their YouTube channel Zukar, which addresses many of the concerns over Syrian refugees in Germany, from both perspectives:

Jan Heilig in the studio.

“Firas is the first,” said Heilig. “He’s not just answering the questions that people ask, but really saying what he wants to say.”

 The pair operate from Heilig’s ‘filmbit’ offices in eastern Berlin. The plan for the duo is to create a series of videos for Zukar, each with a poignant socio-political message. In the follow up to the hug experiment, AlShater uses cats as a metaphor for refugees of all kinds, in a humorous and satirical piece.

The third, and most effective thusfar, is a clip in which a group of (pretend) right-wing activists are put through a training exercise in which they have to touch a refugee baby. On the surface, this may seem a little crazy, but the underlying message is a powerful and resonant one. The video was made as a direct result of an attack on a bus of Syrian refugees which took place in Saxony in February of this year.

 According to Quartz:

“I’ve seen enough hate,” said AlShater, who said that he also spent time imprisoned by the Assad regime and help captive by Islamists. “It’s easier to approach people with laughs and humor.”

Colin J McCracken
Colin J McCracken

Director and Executive Editor

Colin J McCracken is an Irish editor and writer of both fiction and journalism. Coming from a background in education and film, his passions are split between the environmental and the entertaining. Constantly striving for a more sustainable existence and trying to balance it while simultaneously buying too many books.