German Turks

Caught Between Two Worlds

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Turkish diaspora in Germany is caught between two political cultures as tensions between the two countries escalate.

  • Facts


    • There are around 3 million people of Turkish origin living in Germany, of which 1.4 million are eligible to vote in Turkey.
    • On April 16, Turkey is holding a referendum that would transfer massive powers from the parliament to the president.
    • A number of Turkish ministers have been prevented from holding campaign events in Germany to push for a yes vote.
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Serap Güler, a member of the center-right Christian Democrats and daughter of Turkish immigrants. Source: Frank Beer for Wirtschaftswoche

When Aziz Sariyar steps onto the stage in the Düsseldorf Congress Center, the audience expects to be bored with usual polite platitudes. It’s early March and hundreds of people who do business in the two countries have gathered together at the German-Turkish Business Forum. And that’s supposed to be the only subject today – business. But before things get started, it’s time for a round of applause for the chairman of the association, who, year after year, makes this unique network meeting possible, Aziz Sariyar.

Usually, one would expect just a few introductory sentences and that would be it. But Mr. Sariyar has something else in mind. “What unites us here isn’t the belief in a party, we stand for shared values like freedom of the press, freedom of religion and open markets.”

Now would be the moment for applause, but there is total silence. “Turkey cannot be allowed to further undermine the rule of law,” he adds. The silence becomes deafening. A couple of minutes later, Turkish Consul General Sule Gürel speaks and the mood is completely transformed. She demands Germany do something about the high degree of joblessness among Turkish youths. The clapping begins. She lashes out at the German export trade surplus with Turkey and the applause hardly dies down again.

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