A Turkish Family's Disintegration: European Dream Ends with Kidnapping, Prison

By Barbara Hardinghaus

Turkish-born Muharrem E. spent 34 years living the life of a respectable German in Munich. He was employed, raised his children and owned a condominium. Then his daughter fell in love with a German. The Turkish family kidnapped the boy, turning their story into a lesson about the limits of integration.

When the judge asks whether one of the defendants has anything to say, Muharrem E. stands up and says that he loves his daughter very much, despite everything.

His 20-year-old daughter Fatma is sitting on a plain metal chair. She has just testified as a witness, and in doing so she has accused her father, her mother and her brother, who are all sitting in the dock. When Fatma hears what her father has to say, she breaks down, starts crying, trembles and hides her eyes behind her black curls.

In courtroom B 309 of the Munich District Court, Muharrem E. and his daughter are separated by a space of only a few feet, by a small stretch of green carpeting and a wooden table. But what really separates the two is a fallacy: That Muharrem E., who left his home in southeastern Anatolia 34 years ago to emigrate to Germany, ever believed that he had integrated into German life. Because in his head, he had never left Anatolia.

Muharrem E., who is wearing corduroy trousers, sits down and places his thin hands in his lap. When his daughter leaves the courtroom, she is accompanied by a witness assistant. Muharrem E. lowers his head. Fatma's mother, Nimet, 54, lowers her head, and so does the brother. None of them looks at Fatma.

The family stands accused of having kidnapped a young German man one December morning at a Munich subway station, and of beating and threatening to kill him.

As they sit in the courtroom, they listen to what the judge has to say, and to the words of other witnesses, especially police officers, and of an expert witness. They listen to the story of their family being pieced together bit by bit, and the longer they listen to this story, the closer they come to understanding that it's a true story.

They left their apartment on Dec. 13, the date of the alleged crime, a Wednesday, shortly before 6 a.m. It was still dark out. They climbed into their white Fiat Tipo and drove away from their neighborhood in western Munich. The men sat in front -- Mehmet, the brother, and Muharrem E., the father -- both wearing caps and black leather gloves. They drove across the city's Central Ring and another eight kilometers until they had reached the subway station, where they waited.

They spotted Sascha as he walked along the sidewalk, passing the heavy traffic pushing its way into the city during morning rush hour. When Sascha reached the covered escalator, the two men grabbed him, first by his tracksuit and then by his right arm, and threw him onto his back.

"You know why," said the father, Muharrem E, even though he and Sascha had never met before.

Sascha, a 19-year-old blonde, his hair cropped short, a boy who liked playing football and was learning the interior decorating trade, had just packed his tape measure, a pair of scissors and his lunch into his bag. As was usual at this time of the day, he was on his way from his apartment to school, wearing tennis shoes with loosely tied shoelaces. And yes, he knew what they meant.

He was a German who had been dating Fatma, the family's youngest daughter, for two years. The couple had been living together for the past few weeks. Sascha felt the men's hands on his back and saw the car, with the mother sitting in the back seat.

"I'm not getting in that car," Sascha said.

Despite his protests, the men dragged him into the car and the father slapped him across the face twice. He then looked at the boy.

"Where is she?" he screamed.

Sascha knew that Fatma was at home in his apartment. She was cleaning the kitchen and getting ready for an appointment with a gynecologist. She was thinking about Sascha, and about the possibility that she could be pregnant.

Fatma knew that her parents had been trying to talk to her for some time, and that they had even threatened her. They wanted her to come home, but Fatma was no longer interested in going home.

"Where?" the father screamed again.

Sascha was silent. He was thinking of Fatma.

"Son of a bitch!" the father screamed at Sascha.

They wanted his mobile phone. Sascha, who was in tears by this point, kept insisting that he didn't have a mobile phone, until they pulled it from his pocket. They wanted to call Fatma, hoping that she would answer the call if she recognized Sascha's number on her screen.

They drove to a nearby athletic field in the Moosach neighborhood and parked the car. The brother turned off the engine, switched off the light and dialed Fatma's number.

But, as coincidence would have it, Fatma didn't answer. The men became furious. The mother sat in the back seat, saying nothing.

"I'd really like to kill you! The police won't find anything, I'm wearing gloves," the brother screamed.

"Give me back my daughter or I'll kill you!" the father screamed.

The family had already purchased one-way tickets from Munich to Istanbul, and one of them was issued in Fatma's name. Their plan was to return to the home they had left decades earlier and take their daughter with them. To them it suddenly seemed to be the best solution.

Muharrem E. sat in the car for a while and considered his options. It became light outside and started to rain. Then he ordered his son to drive to Sascha's apartment.

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