Last week Sense Worldwide invited Nazima Kadir into the studio to talk about her experience of living as a squatter in Amsterdam for 3 years, as part of her Anthropology PHD.
It was a fascinating talk – getting a brief glimpse into a world which I doubt I will ever be part of.
As a landlord myself, one of my biggest fears is about squatters taking over my property (especially when, despite my best efforts my property was empty for 6 months last year and was repeatedly broken into and used as a drugs-den).
I learnt a number of key things about squatter life in Amsterdam (which has marked differences to squatter life in London) from Nazima:
• There is a *moral code* used when choosing which properties to enter (i.e. not family homes, or generally those owned by private landlords). Usually, squatters decide to enter and live in properties which have been empty for many years and are publicly owned.
• Squatters in Amsterdam devise a strategy for *breaking* into a property and securing it. During the break-in they enter the property with all the essentials they need to make it a home (e.g. mattresses, kettle etc.)
• Whoever decides on a property, breaks in and secures it is usually respected as one of the key people in that particular squatter community.
• Although there is no formal hierarchy in the Amsterdam squatter community – Nazima talked about an informal hierarchy which she called upon *Squatter Capital*. People can gain Squatter Capital in a number of ways, for example: through breaking, securing and maintaining and managing properties as well as being an activist / campaigning for global causes as well squatters rights.
• More vulnerable people in the squatter community are cared for by others. This tends to be in a collaborative/empowering way and not in a ‘nanny -state’ way.
• Different squatter houses are home to different tribes of people. Some houses are home to punk activists, some are home to older, less activist-type people… there is a varied mix.
• One of the only times Nazima felt scared was when their house was raided by the police and she was arrested. She lost around 2/3 of her belongings.
• Nazima lived on around €200 pm over the 3 years!
• She misses communal living – which has many benefits, especially in a city like Amsterdam where it can be hard to make friends, but is glad to be out of the madness too.