Events | “Confronting the Past Abroad:" A Conversation with Ayham Majid Agha, Mohamed Amjahid, Olga Grjasnowa and Josh Kun

Online | June 14, 2020 | 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

A quarter of the population in Germany today has a migrant background. Many refugees and migrants seek protection from the violence and war atrocities they have experienced in their countries of origin. Their experiences of injustice have so far played only a minor role in the German political discourse.

In the western German city of Koblenz, a process is currently underway which could help change this. There, the former head of investigation of the Syrian State Security and another former official are accused of torture in several thousand cases and multiple murders. The trial is a sign that the world will not forget. As in the United States, crimes against humanity can be prosecuted by the German justice system even if they were neither committed in Germany nor if Germans were among the perpetrators or victims.

Thomas Mann Fellow Mohamed Amjahid has reported on the groundbreaking trial for the German weekly DIE ZEIT. Together with the writer Olga Grjasnowa, the Syrian theater maker Ayham Majid Agha and the music scholar, author and curator Josh Kun, he will speak about the violent experiences of migrants in Germany and the US and discuss how these are reflected in contemporary literature, theater and music.


Ayham Majid Agha is a theater director and actor at Gorki Theater in Berlin. He was trained as an actor at the Academy of Performing Arts in Damascus and studied in Italy and the UK. After a successful career at home, he left Syria. He has been affiliated with the Gorki Theater since 2016. In the season 2017/18 his play “Skelett eines Elefanten in der Wüste” premiered at the Gorki which was invited to the “Radikal Jung” Festival where Ayham Majid Agha won the Young Critics Award. He is married to the novelist Olga Grjasnowa.

Mohamed Amjahid was born as the son of so-called guest workers in Frankfurt am Main. He studied political science in Berlin and Cairo and conducted research on various anthropological projects in North Africa. During his studies, he worked as a journalist for taz, Frankfurter Rundschau and Deutschlandfunk. He has worked as a political reporter for the weekly newspaper Die Zeit and the Zeit Magazin. Anthropologically and journalistically, he focuses on human rights, equality and upheaval in the US, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Mohamed Amjahid is a 2020 Thomas Mann fellow.

Olga Grjasnowa was born in Baku, Azerbaijan. In 1996 her family emigrated and settled in Germany as “quota refugees”, where she learned German at the age of 11. After studying abroad in Leipzig, Poland, Russia, and Israel, Grjasnowa took up dance studies at the Freie Universität Berlin. Her critically acclaimed debut novel “All Russians Love Birch Trees” won the Klaus-Michael Kühne Prize and the Anna Seghers Prize in 2012. Her latest book “City of Jasemine" came out in 2017. Grjasnowa is married to theatre director and actor Ayham Majid Agha.

Josh Kun is a music scholar, author, and curator exploring the ways in which the arts and popular culture are conduits for cross-cultural exchange. He is Director of the USC Annenberg School of Communication, where he holds the Chair in Cross-Cultural Communication. His work has an emphasis on the impact of displacement, relocation, deportation, and immigration on contemporary global music practices. In 2016 he was named a MacArthur Fellow and in 2018, he was Bosch Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.

The event will be streamed online on Sunday, June 14, 2020 at 11 am (PST)


Sunday June 14, 2020, 11am PST


An event by the Thomas Mann House in collaboration with 1014 and Miry's List.

Go back