Joining The Party Germany Gets its First Turkish Carnival Society

Turks living in the western city of Dortmund have set up Germany's first Turkish carnival association. They want to prove they can party as hard as anyone else -- and to encourage immigrants to join in the peculiar festival which kicks off on Thursday.


If you're an immigrant in western or southern Germany, you will never truly arrive until you have embraced carnival. The national psyche cannot be understood unless one has taken part in this fancy dress festival with its strange rituals which include symbolic castration, mock assaults on town halls, binge drinking and singing along to nonsensical songs.

The founding members of Germany's first Turkish carnival society -- press spokesman Aytac Arman (L), Aykut Akköse (C) and Yalcin Bayram (R) at a news conference in Dortmund.
DPA

The founding members of Germany's first Turkish carnival society -- press spokesman Aytac Arman (L), Aykut Akköse (C) and Yalcin Bayram (R) at a news conference in Dortmund.

So it may seem surprising that even though more than two million people with Turkish backgrounds live in Germany and they started coming as long as half a century ago, they have only just now set up a carnival association of their own.

The 1st Turkish Fools' Association Dortmund 09 was formed in the western industrial city as an official registered group last week in a small but significant step to deepen their integration into German society.

"We Turks are capable of enjoying ourselves just as much as everyone else," Aytac Arman, the society's press spokesman who was dressed as a clown with sunglasses and a large fake moustache, told a news conference on Sunday.

The society's logo shows a smiling doner kebab spit with tomatoes for eyes wearing a carnival hat in the German national colors black, red and gold, and with a Turkish crescent emblazoned on it. The society's Web site said its aim was to allow Turks to celebrate carnival together with German revellers and that it had no intention of developing its own "carnival culture."

Belly-Dancing

It plans to have everything a self-respecting German carnival association boasts: a float for processions, a dance troupe, a carnival prince and princess and of course comedy speakers for carnival shows.

But the society also plans to draw on Turkish traditions to spice up its partying, and will be incorporating belly dancing in its dance routines, said chairman Aykut Akköse, a 33-year-old businessman who knows a thing or two about carnival -- he was elected carnival prince in the western town of Beckum for the 2008 season. "We'll cherry-pick the best out every culture," said Akköse.

The society is open to people from any ethnic background and it wants to encourage immigrants to join in carnival, which brings much of the country to a standstill in the six days before Ash Wednesday.

The fun begins this Thursday, called Weiberfastnacht or Old Wives' Day, when women run around with scissors and cut off men's ties in symbolic emasculation. It climaxes on Rose Monday with huge processions in Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz, all of which are broadcast live.

In the Rhineland, every hamlet has its own carnival procession. Southern Germany celebrates a more archaic form of carnival called Fastnacht in which revellers don wooden masks which in many cases are handed down from generation to generation.

The Turkish association won't be able to get its own float, prince and princess in time for this year's carnival but plans to be fully up and running for the 2010 season. German media were initially skeptical about the plan after comedians made a hoax announcement in Cologne last month that a Turkish carnival society had been formed.

A number of newspapers fell for the spoof and the far-right Pro Köln group, which has been campaigning against the construction of mosques in Cologne and elsewhere, commented that the society would probably try to ban alcohol or try to force women to wear burkhas at carnival.

It was the Cologne hoax that prompted Akköse and his companions to go ahead with their own society. He said there was nothing political or religious about the new association and that everyone was welcome to join. Many Germans have also registered their interest via the Web site, said Akköse.

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