GHDI logo

Reasons for the Alienation of Turkish Youths (June 3, 1993)

On May 29, 1993, young skinheads in the city of Solingen (North Rhine-Westphalia) set fire to the home of a Turkish family, killing five of its members, among them three children. The following article by the German-Turkish author Dilek Zaptcioglu-Rogge was published on the day of the official memorial service for the victims. In it, she expresses the shock, sadness, and anger that young Turks felt about the wave of right-wing attacks on foreigners. The violence, she argues, undercut their willingness to integrate into German society, because they continued to feel discriminated against as second-class citizens.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 3

“Now I Know That I Don’t Have Any Real Friends Here”
Turkish self-confidence is now mixed with bitterness, anger, and aggression

The murderous attacks in Mölln and Solingen have profoundly shocked the Turks. The past years have also seen their share of Turkish deaths: Ramazan Avci in Hamburg, Mete Eksi in Berlin, and Mehmet Demiral in Mülheim were all attacked and killed by right-wing extremists. But they were attacked individually; often there was a fight or a scuffle, at least each could look into the eyes of his murderer and try to defend himself. With these cowardly nighttime arson attacks, the whole thing has assumed a new quality.

It was actually possible to see Mölln coming. For the past two and a half years, homes for asylum seekers have been set on fire in Germany (in both East and West). The mistake of the Turks was that they failed to see themselves as targets of the growing hatred and thought that it was primarily directed at asylum seekers. After demonstrations you could hear people say “thank God we’ve been spared such attacks” or “it’s a good thing the Germans have such a terrible history they can learn from.”

The attacks in Mölln and Solingen have come at a time that also marks a turning point for Turks in Germany in various respects. For one thing, Turkey is playing a new role in its region, and the political and economic improvements back home have given the Turkish population a new sense of self-confidence. The Turks were never a colonial power and have never in their history suffered any subjugation. As a nation they feel strong and proud. The second great change in recent years is that the majority of Turks in Germany have decided to stay here permanently. In particular, the second and third generations, who grew up here, view Germany as their home and don’t want to leave.

Sadness and anger are the correct words to describe the current mood among Turks in Germany. They are grieving not only for their dead compatriots, but also for themselves, for the years they spent in Germany, and for their future. They severed ties to their homeland in the belief that they could feel at home here in the long run. Now they are gazing into a deep abyss that is opening up before them; one that bears the quintessentially German names of Hoyerswerda, Hünxe, Rostock, Mölln, and Solingen. The murderers have driven a wedge between the Turks and the Germans.

“I applied for German citizenship, but now I’m withdrawing my application,” said a young woman. Another woman has been suffering from depression ever since she received her German passport. A man said: “I thought I got along well with the Germans. Now I know that I don’t have any real friends here.” Above all, the younger Turks are deeply hurt. “Our parents worked here, they paid taxes and were good consumers. They contributed to Germany’s economic miracle. Today, we’re helping to finance efforts to build up East Germany. And this is our reward?!”

first page < previous   |   next > last page