IWS was formed in December 2012 during the Refugee Movement’s occupation of the former Gerhart-Hauptmann School in Berlin-Kreuzberg. We created a Women’s Space there, which remained open until the summer of 2014. We worked to form a women’s front within the Refugee Movement that brings the fights against both racism and sexism together. After the eviction of the school, International Women Space continued working, with new members joining us. In 2017 we founded a registered association.

We are fed up with people speaking about us and not with us. Women’s resistance is often oppressed, and Women’s history hidden or ignored. We take on the responsibility to counteract this by documenting, making visible, and publicising our stories in our own words. 

8th March Demo 2016

We organize politically to defend ourselves against the issues and attacks that we as women are facing: as refugee women, as migrant women and as non-migrant women. Sexism, racism, the violence of the asylum system and migration policies influence our lives. Our learning and our self-education is part of our emancipatory struggle. In our group, we stand in solidarity with each other and we support each other on an everyday basis.

We collaborate with feminist and anti-racist groups and have formed alliances in Berlin, in Europe, and beyond. Within our networks, we host workshops and organize demonstrations to bring our demands to the street.

Every year on the 8th of March – International Women’s Day – and on the 25th of November – International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – we call out to join us in protest and say: every woman has the right to live a life free from violence! Every act of violence against women is an attack on our freedoms! We call for an end to isolation and deportation – and for freedom of movement for all! We welcome every woman that joins our fight. Our unity is our strength.

No woman is alone! Freedom of movement for all! Stop deportation! Freedom for all Women! Break isolation! Abolish Lagers!

IN OUR OWN WORDS

Refugee Women in Germany tell their stories


Our book, IN OUR OWN WORDS, was published in 2015 and contains texts by and about women, including 10 testimonials of refugee women in Germany. It is a documentation of brave women who have fought difficult realities.

Find out more

When I came to Germany


The International Women Space was born as a group inside the refugee occupation of the former Gehart-Hauptmann School in December of 2012. The story of this occupation begun with the suicide of Mohammad Rahsepar, an Iranian who was seeking asylum in Germany and hung himself in a Heim in Würzburg, Bavaria. After this tragical death, a group of refugees from the same area decided to protest by marching more than 600 kilometers from Würzburg to Berlin.

In October, the 6th, the March arrived in Berlin where a Camp in Oranienplatz, district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg was already being built to welcome the refugees. A few months later, in December, the movement of refugees decided to occupy the former Gehart-Hauptmann School, which was empty and was near to Oranienplatz.

Not longer than a week after the occupation, the women activists of the movement, announced we were reserving a few rooms on the second floor only for women. During 17 months many women passed through the Women Space, many lived there, others came to attend the meetings, the workshops, the german classes amongst other activities we regularly organised.

In July 2014, the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg made an offer to the school’s inhabitants: they could move to special refugee houses (Heim) for a certain time. Around a thousand police officers were called to help securing the area during the moving out of the people. Not everybody accepted the offer. Around 40 people decided to resist inside the house in order to keep the space and continuing on developing the idea of creating a self-organized International Refugee Center. The resistance lasted 9 days and in the end an agreement between the refugees living in the school and the district was signed. (see agreement on the link to video “Nine Days on the Roof“).

For us women of the International Women Space the whole process of leaving the house and imagining how to continue in another place was hard. It was not only the question of finding a new place, but more important: to re-channel our energies to ourselves as migrant and refugee women, as women of colour, as third-world feminists in full agreement with Audre Lorde „For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.“