Turkish Diaspora: Erdogan's Paternalism Proves Counter-Productive

By Maximilian Popp

Photo Gallery: A Wedge between Germans and Turks Photos
REUTERS

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a self-styled patron of Turkish immigrants in Germany. But critics say that his aggressive diaspora policy is increasingly driving a wedge between immigrant families and mainstream society.

The young woman from Melle, a town in the northern German state of Lower Saxony, was received like a guest of state. A government representative and several photographers met Elif Yaman in Ankara. A limousine took the 19-year-old to a hotel, where she fell, weeping, into her mother's arms. It was all captured on live TV.

The Turkish journalists and politicians had been waiting for these images, and for what Yaman then said: "I think it would have been nicer to grow up in a Turkish family."

It was the sort of thing Bekir Bozdag loves to hear. Bozdag, 48, is Turkey's deputy prime minister and, even more important in the Yaman case, head of the Office for Turks Abroad.

Seven years ago, a German youth welfare office deprived Yaman's stressed single mother of custody for her daughter. The girl was sent to live with German foster parents and grew up in the German family. Her mother moved back to Turkey.

A few months ago Bozdag began to take an interest in the Yamans. His boss, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is running a Europe-wide campaign against the supposed forced conversion of Turkish Muslim foster children.

In fact, when Muslim parents lose custody of their children, German youth welfare offices try to place them with Muslim families. Only when this is not possible are children entrusted to parents of other faiths.

"You are my family"

Bozdag denounces this practice as "assimilation." "We are facing a great tragedy," he said last year, promising to do everything possible "to rescue our little ones."

But his position is only fueling immigrants' suspicions of German authorities. The Turkish media have been all too pleased to hone in on Bozdag's accusations. "So they're Nazis," the tabloid Takvim wrote. German youth welfare offices are "destroying families," Zaman, Turkey's largest daily newspaper, remarked.

The Turkish authorities hoped that the Yaman case would lend credence to these claims. When officials in Bozdag's office organized a reunion between the mother and the daughter, they staged the encounter like the return of a missing child, as if the Turkish government had heroically fixed something the heartless German authorities had broken.

In the dispute over foster families, Prime Minister Erdogan is placing himself in a role in which he likes to be perceived: as the patron of Turks worldwide. During a campaign appearance in Germany in 2011, he told his supporters: "I am here to represent your interests. You are my family, and you are my siblings."

The most recent campaign is typical of Erdogan's increasingly aggressive policy on the Turkish diaspora. While claiming to support the integration of Turkish immigrants and their children, his government is in fact achieving the opposite effect.

In 2010, Erdogan created the Office for Turks Abroad, an agency in Ankara staffed with about 300 employees, responsible for roughly four million Turks around the world. "We are wherever one of our countrymen is," Bozdag's office promises.

But in recent months the deputy premier has attracted more attention with his attacks against the German government. During a meeting with German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich in February, he criticized language courses for immigrants as a "human rights violation." When two Turkish immigrants died in a fire in Cologne, Bozdag derided the authorities' information policy as "ridiculous." In the dispute over access to the NSU trial for Turkish journalists, he questioned the judges' credibility and said: "From our perspective, this court is finished."

Self-Serving Goals

In this fashion, the Turkish government is using the fact that many immigrants have lost confidence in the German government, as a result of the Sarrazin debate and the NSU murders, to drive a wedge between immigrant families and mainstream society.

Politicians in Ankara have always tried to exert influence on Turks abroad, says Ali Dogan, general secretary of the Alevi Community of Germany, which does not align itself with the Turkish government. But no one, he says, behaves as shamelessly -- and yet strategically -- as Erdogan.

In 2005, the prime minister opened the headquarters of the Union of European-Turkish Democrats (UETD), a lobbying group of his conservative Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP). The organization aims to drum up votes for Erdogan among immigrants, as well as preparing the prime minister's speeches in Germany.

In a speech Deputy Prime Minister Bozdag gave at the dedication ceremony for the UETD office in Berlin, he said: "We intend to address their concerns and search for solutions day and night."

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1.
atheist_crusader 05/08/2013
Zitat von sysopTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a self-styled patron of Turkish immigrants in Germany. But critics say that his aggressive diaspora policy is increasingly driving a wedge between immigrant families and mainstream society. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/erdogan-hurts-turkish-integration-in-germany-with-aggressive-policies-a-898116.html
He is not. He doesn't even pretend to be. He basically said: Do not integrate. Integration is treason. As a most arrogant person Erdogan is the perfect representation of the turkish spirit of the early 20th century: Always assume that you are superior to everything and never admit that you have done somethin wrong. Sooner or later this WILL turn out bad. We've already seen a return of xenophobia and right-wing extremism in europe over the past years, and rampant nationalism and unwillingness to integrate like the ones Erdogan is promoting, are going to paint a target on the turks.
2. Germany makes it easy for Erdogan
felixcm1 05/08/2013
I am appalled by Erdogan's colonialist attitudes. But for the sake of fairness, one has to concede that the German institutions and society at large make it very easy for him. It would be easy to defeat Erdogan if the institutions had a more healthy relationship with the Turkish community in Germany, but they don't. Where do I start? There is rightwing Minister of the Interior Friedrich. His insistence to re-frame the regular Islam Conference (originally an open forum to talk about various issues of religion and society) as an instrument to make Islam as a whole an issue of security policy, thus criminalizing Muslims in general, alienated many Muslims. Meanwhile the only ones who actually died were immigrants, mostly of Turkish origin, at the hands of a neofashist terror group. Not only did the authorities do nothing to stop them (allthough they could have, on many occasions, to a degree that even the well meaning observer has to suspect intent), instead the families of the victims themselves were criminalized. The murders were blamed on some obscure ethnic mafia idea, the families themselves were turned into suspects. When a Turkish woman in Germany runs her own business, she will encounter, on a daily basis, disbelief and admiration from Germans, who find it incredible for a TURKISH, MUSLIM woman to be so daring - totally neglecting the fact that Germany lacks far behind Turkey in terms of equal opportunities for women. The recently establihed citizenship model forces children of migrants to choose between German or another citizenship at the age of 18 (up to 22 max). The message is clear: You can't have two souls beating in your chest. And then, of course, there is the infamous Thilo Sarrazin, a clear-cut racist, whose pseudo-genetic claims about the inferiority of migrants and verbal abuses of Muslims ("Kopftuchmädchen", "scarv girls") are met with cheers. He is treated as "the only one who dares to speak out the truth". That can't be very helpful, even if you set aside the countless non-verbal discriminations against Turks and Muslims in general in German public life. The court's handling of the distribution of seats for journalists in the Nazi murder trial was, to say the least, clumsy. So, in total, it really looks like German institutions are doing most of Erdogan's work, and they are doing it well. Given the situation I admire the migrant community's sustained commitment to Germany.
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