Erdogan’s shadow looms over Turks in Germany
By Harald Dähne in Berlin
In Berlin recently, I came home from work by taxi.
The driver was born in Turkey, but has been living in Germany for about 30 years.
His German is perfect and he told me his daughter is studying economics at university. Then we talked about politics and he said he voted for Erdogan’s constitutional amendment.
“Why was that?” I asked. His answer: “Erdogan gave us Turks our pride back again!”
Of 80 million people living in Germany, 2.9 million are Turks or have a Turkish background.
A total of 1.43 million with Turkish nationality were entitled to vote on April 16 in the Turkish referendum about introducing a presidential system in Turkey. 63% of the German votes were ‘Yes’, much more then in Turkey itself. Only 37% in Germany were against the referendum.
Now a new discussion is starting in Germany about integration and the democratic attitude of the Turks living in Germany.
In public, they were reproached for (allegedly) living comfortably in a free and democratic state, but preferring a dictatorship in Turkey.
Other Germans pointed to the fact only 45% of the Turks in Germany went to the polling booths. In the end only 0.4 million Turks voted for Erdogan.
Nothing is said about the others with Turkish birth or background.
‘Gastarbeiter’ programme begins
The history of Turkish people in Germany started in 1961 when German and Turkish government concluded a treaty about working in Germany.
The German “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) led to a labour bottleneck. In industry, workers were needed for the assembly lines. So near one million “Gastarbeiter” (guest workers) came from Turkey up until 1973. Most of them were men and came from the poor and under-schooled agricultural areas in Anatolia.
Unlike many Italians or Greeks incomers, most of the Turks decided in the 1970’s to stay in Germany.
Later, the German Government, for social reasons, allowed their wives and children to immigrate.
And in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the cheap Turkish workers were still needed. Many came to the Ruhr or to West-Berlin.
Many Germans left the city, which was divided into East and West by the Berlin Wall, and the ‘Cold War.’
So the German Government decided to settle the Turks in old and run-down buildings in Berlin like in Kreuzberg or Neukölln.
Three million Turkish Germans
In 1981, about 1.5 million Turkish people were living in (West) Germany.
In 2000, it were 2 million and now it’s nearly 3 million.
Over the years more and more Turks were born in Germany. But German citizenship law only gave them the same nationality as their parents: Turkish.
For too long the Turks were regarded and treated only as unwelcome ‘guests’ and not as full citizens in an immigrant-friendly society.
Until 2000, German law demanded that Turks give up Turkish citizenship to become German.
Easier now to get dual citizenship
A reform took place and now it’s much easier to get the German citizenship and to hold Turkish citizenship at the same time.
It was a late effort to integrate people who had been living for more than 20 or 30 years in Germany. Now half of the people with Turkish roots people are Germans — some 0.5 million Turks are Germans at the same time.
So the question is: Where does their loyalty lie: With a new Turkish nationalism and an Islamist authoritarian state? Or with a liberal and democratic constitution in Germany?
Integration isn’t a one-way street.