Thursday, December 9

Private and unknown, the Turks of Germany remain an island


When Cansel Kiziltepe was growing up in Berlin in the 1980s, his parents swore every summer that this would be the year the family would return to Turkey.

“Every year would be ‘next year, next year’ until I realized that I was already in high school and that would never happen. We lived here. We belonged here,” Kiziltepe told Euronews.

The daughter of Turkish guest workers who came to Berlin in the 1960s, Kiziltepe is now one of the few German politicians with a minority background in the Bundestag. On Sunday she will defend her seat in Berlin as a candidate for the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

A recent study published by academics Şener Aktürk and Yury Katliarou found that, after France, Germany has the worst record of minority representation as members of parliament in Europe, with only 14 politicians of Turkish origin in the 709-seat Bundestag.

That shortfall is reflected in the number of Turkish residents in Germany who have voting rights, estimated at just 30% by Berlin-based consultancy Data4U.

Despite popular opinion, especially on the right, those disenfranchised voters are not newcomers or seasonal workers, many have lived and paid taxes in Germany for decades. Kiziltepe’s own parents, who moved to Berlin in the 1960s, still do not have the right to vote.

“It makes me angry that so many people cannot vote. My parents lived in Germany for 60 years and they are still not allowed to vote, not at the local level or at the state level, much less at the federal level, ”Kiziltepe said.

She favors giving voting rights to all permanent residents of Germany, giving Turkish immigrants the same rights as citizens of the European Union, who are allowed to vote.

Not surprisingly, Kiziltepe’s SPD wins an overwhelming share of the Turkish-German vote in national and local elections, and Data4U found in a 2017 pre-election poll that 60% support the left-wing party, 23% vote for the greens and only 10% of the vote for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party that Chancellor Angela Merkel has led for 16 years.

The CDU has always struggled to attract voters from Germany’s Turkish community, and not just because the Christian party does not attract a predominantly Muslim demographic.

As recently as 2016, the CDU voted to repeal Germany’s dual citizenship regulations. It was Merkel who had to intervene and close the discussion.

In many ways, the joint citizenship debate is a classic rallying cry for the right and the far right, given that it is a red herring that works well in the right-wing press, but is actually poorly based.

Only a small proportion, 7%, of Germans of Turkish descent actually hold German and Turkish passports. In fact, only 39% of Turks in Germany have a German passport, Data4U revealed in 2017.

That not only means that millions of Turks in Germany do not have the right to vote, but that they are excluded from certain professions, including teaching, the police and the armed forces.

Even as a well-known Berlin politician who has sat in the Bundestag since 2013, Kiziltepe has had to get used to discrimination when campaigning.

“You have to have thick skin,” he told Euronews.

“When the door hits you in the face and you realize why. These are not pleasant things. He has a lump in his throat. Your eyes get wet. But you have to get over it. “

It has not only been the conservatives and the far right that have contributed to the otherness experienced by the Turkish-Germans in recent years, but also the Turkish government in Ankara.

Before Election Day in 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Turkish-German voters to boycott not only the CDU, but the SDP and the Greens in a row on whether Turkish politicians were allowed do a vote count in Germany.

At the time, Kiziltepe said that Erdogan had “poisoned” the climate and “torn down” what politicians like her and the SPD had built for decades. In the years since, the SPD, which has 40 candidates of minority origin this year, has tried to rebuild it.

Part of that effort has been to reach the majority of Turks and Germans with Turkish backgrounds who speak mostly, or entirely, Turkish and 84%, according to Data4U, who only consume Turkish-language media, many of them speaking Turkish. Erdogan’s favor. and his AKP party.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, German authorities struggled to communicate with the Turkish minority in neighborhoods like Neukoelln, the busy immigrant neighborhood of the German capital.

The situation got so bad that a multilingual team of five street workers went out into the community to explain the dangers of COVID-19 to those who are often unreached by government efforts.

Kiziltepe recently released a bilingual video on social media that explains exactly how this year’s elections work. In his constituency, voters will vote in three separate races, including state and legislative elections and the Bundestag, as well as a referendum on whether the state should expropriate rental properties – a complicated process even for a German speaker.

“You have to dialogue, dialogue and demonstrate the importance of political participation, and have an inclusive approach,” he said. “Because these people also belong to us. They have lived here for decades. They belong here. “

_This article is part of our special miniseries to help you understand the German elections.
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