Half Turkish and half Korean journalist hopes to give voice to Germany's largely voiceless minorities.

Esra Karakaya is fast becoming a minor celebrity in Germany with thousands tuning into her Youtube shows every month. 

"Mainstream media perspectives not only alienate minority women but also permeate into wider society and become stereotypes," 29-year-old Karakaya told TRT World. 

Minority representation across German media outlets is minimal when compared to other European countries.

According to the New German Media Professionals (NGMP) group, which campaigns for further diversity in the media industry, nearly a quarter of Germany's population come from migrant backgrounds but make only five percent of the country's media landscape. 

"We are trying to change these perceptions," says Karakaya, "We want the wider society to understand that people of colour or those who come from religious minorities can do the job just as well as white, non-muslim women".

Karakaya hosts a current affairs YouTube show named Karakaya Talks, in which she features guests from across the ethnic and religious minority spectrum. Besides current affairs, they discuss issues such as discrimination, police brutality, inter-religious dating, and sometimes the latest fashion trends.

Karakaya Talks team with guests.
Karakaya Talks team with guests. (Courtesy of: Karakaya Talks)

"We are still in the development stage but have over 500 paying subscribers. Our target group is Generation Z and Millenials of colour -- that market is around six million people. Our viewers are very politically aware, they understand that mainstream media and politicians just pay us lip service, you know, politics of symbolism," she says. 

We are outsiders 

Karakaya was born to an aviation engineer Turkish father and an architect South Korean mother in the Berlin neighbourhood of Wedding. She is proud about having never lived anywhere else in Berlin but Wedding, 

Known as little Istanbul and popular previously with members of the Turkish diaspora, Wedding now welcomes most migrants who arrive in Berlin. While the savoury aroma of global cuisines wafts through its streets, the neighbourhood's legacy also tells the story of non-existent German inclusiveness.

Karakaya is very proud of her immigrant roots. "All my friends are kids of immigrants too, we jokingly call ourselves Auslanders (foreigners)," she says.

The jokes mask the pain of a constant struggle for recognition and acceptance from a society that was all too eager to ignore the 'second class citizens' that were the immigrants. 

And life became even harder when at the age of 11 Karakaya decided to wear the hijab.

While the ever-present question of gender inequality in the workplace is being answered in Germany,  hijab-wearing women all too often feel marginalised. 

"I still call myself a 'Kopftuch madchen' (headscarf girl) – because that's how we were referred to in derogatory terms in the past, only now when everyone wants to be 'woke' they calls us women who wear the hijab," says Karakaya.

Austrian researcher, Doris Weichselbaumer, suggests that women with a Turkish name wearing a headscarf had to send 4.5 times more applications than an identical applicant with a German name and no headscarf.  

"I very clearly remember that in 2005 when I was 15 years old, I wanted just a part-time job at a cafe, I kept getting rejected, and one of the cafes actually told me that they are fine with my hijab, but they fear their customers might not like to be served by someone wearing a hijab," Karakaya says.

"We are trying to break stereotypes about hijabi women that they are oppressed, that they are anti-feminist, the ones that need to be saved, victims of on-going Islamisation of Germany".

"I remember our first episode, in 2018, featured six hijab-wearing women speaking about a commercial on television which featured a model in a hijab and we talked about how authentic it was, because the model doesn't actually wear a hijab in real life, and that we thought was sad, because, in the name of inclusivity, they could have hired someone who actually wears the hijab," she says.

Karakaya Talks launched its first episode in 2018, featuring six hijab wearing women.
Karakaya Talks launched its first episode in 2018, featuring six hijab wearing women. (Courtesy of: Karakaya Talks)

Breaking Free

Amid calls for further inclusivity in German media, Karakaya's show was picked up by a public broadcaster; that partnership didn't go far. 

Confident of the quality of their content, Karakaya is back with a revamped Youtube talk show. "We're developing fresh ideas, getting more engaging guests, our viewers are increasing and now no one tells us what to do," she says. 

She has also figured out her target audience. "We have a persona, her name is Reema, she is 27-years-old and lives in Berlin, she loves deep and complex political discussions, she loves Instagram. After moving away from the public broadcaster we design our own content, according to what we feel would be well received by our audiences".

She says one of her best shows was after the Hanau terror attack in February 2020, which saw 11 people of immigrant backgrounds killed by a far-right terrorist.

"We try to show the other side of the argument to what mainstream media presents, when we conduct community research people tell us that they love the respect and empathy in our shows, they love how we are asking questions and raising topics of debate that you would never see on mainstream media," she says.

She has ambitions of being part of the global media movement. "I want to champion inclusion and empathy, highlight stories of the most vulnerable in society and I would like to connect with any hijabi women around the world who are trying to do the same, also I'd love to connect with any journalist from the global south who share the similar vision".

The tide is turning in Germany as people like Karakaya are raising their voices in the hopes of being heard and seen. Karakaya's talk show acts as a platform for such voices but there is still a long way to go before any semblance of equality becomes apparent in the broader German context.

Source: TRT World