Trying to remember Theo van Gogh

13th November 2012 0 By Nandini

It was quite by chance that I saw Theo van Gogh peering at me – palm cupping his face, cigarette sticking out of fingers. I’d just raised my head at the right angle at the right moment. We made eye contact. He looked like he was smiling, just a bit. There he was on a bin to discard dog poop in Oosterpark in Amsterdam. How did he get there, of all places?

People want to remember him and would like others to join in a public ceremony scheduled for 2cd November, his death anniversary. They pasted him there. There’s going to be a reading from a book about why the Dutch secret police decided to murder their top secret agent, Theo Van Gogh.

I decide to go.

On that cold November afternoon, the excerpts read from the book without a microphone mingle with traffic on the road behind and noise from construction activity nearby. They seem to tell about scenes like this: A police agent, dressed in a burkha peers through binoculars from the municipality building in Amsterdam East while Theo van Gogh bicycles down the Linneausstraat, passing the Albert Hein. The agent speaks into a mobile ‘the Muslim dog is on his way – he just passed AH’. As he reads, Robert van Kelder drops his voice to a sinister level and twists his mouth towards the imaginary telephone. The message is then somehow picked up by a bunch of young Arabs in a car ‘the Christian pig is almost there’, says one of them into another phone….and so on. A little later, there’s Theo van Gogh’s plea, ‘can’t we talk about this?’ And then in graphic detail, the knives and how they were used. Another passage reveals how the news of his death is received in a certain room to which the author had access. There the mayor of Amsterdam is told that the job (no pun intended) is done.

Indeed, a whodunit, that’s clear. More on the author’s background. At the very beginning of the reading, Robert Jan Kelder, publisher and owner of Stichting Uitgeverij Willehalm Instituut) announces to the small audience present there that the author, Slobodan R. Mitric (Karate Bob) could not be present. He’s been receiving death threats and has gone into hiding. Slobodan, like Theo, I guess, is a champion of freedom of speech and expression. He mentions that the author comes from an esteemed family in ‘Yugoslavia’. At once someone in the audience adds that Slobodan had once stayed with him when was in trouble in Amsterdam and didn’t have anywhere to  go.

I notice that the conversation has little to do with Theo van Gogh. Instead, we seem to be remembering Slobodan (Karate Bob), his life and times. The book is on sale, right there and some people pay in cash and receive copies. We are around twenty people gathered around the monument called de schreeuw, (the shout); of which three belong to the police force. I ask them if I may take a picture. ‘Of course’ says the policewoman and laughs, ‘ but isn’t it a better idea to take one of these beautiful dogs’! She means, the ones frolicking beside the elderly lady on her scootmobiel.

But…back to those of us who came to remember Theo van Gogh. As Mr. Kelder reads on, I notice next to the portrait of Theo is the description of the book over him that Slobodan has written. This is what it says:

‘In the novel “The dead end”, by Slobodan Radojev Mitric, he describes how and why the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered. For every murder, it is important to write about the truth, whether people like this or not. It depends on you, dear reader to support this book (or not). But if we keep quiet, the murder machine of the dark force will, without any obstacles go ahead with murdering. Yesterday, Theo, tomorrow one of us. No one has the right, irrespective of whether they are supported by a religious community to kill another. Especially in the so-called democratic world that asks that we follow the road to freedom and justice. Let us help to bring all those responsible for the death of Theo van Gogh to court. This true crime is to be released on 3 February from the Wilhalm Instituut Press.