Despite forming one of the largest minority communities and contributing heavily to contemporary German economy and culture, Turks in Germany have often complained of racist discrimination.

With a relationship going back half a century, Turkish migrants have left an unmissable mark on German culture and its economy.

Walking the streets of any German city today, it’s possible for a visitor to find themselves eating Doner in a Turkish cafe while watching a Bundesliga match featuring a number of German players of Turkish origin.

Their impact on the German economy has also been immeasurable, as a large proportion of Turks living in the county have roots in the ‘guest worker’ programme that vitalised the German manufacturing sector from the 1960s onwards.

Today German nationals of Turkish background are found in every sector but that success story does not come without some caveats.

Turks have been the target of frequent racially charged outbursts, including from individuals in respected office and the media, have faced murderous attacks by Neo-Nazis, and the German government has often treated the Turkish state with a double standard it deploys against no other of its allies.

Operation Peace Spring

Such treatment was most recently on display during Turkey’s operation to secure part of its shared border with Syria, which had been seized by the YPG, Syrian branch of the PKK terrorist group.

The European Union, in which Germany plays the dominant role, considers the PKK a terrorist organisation for its campaign of terror, which has killed more than 40,000 Turkish citizens.

It’s Syrian affiliate, known as the YPG,  has an intertwined organisational structure with the PKK - A fact firmly established among any credible academic or observer.

Nevertheless, like its counterparts in other Western states, Germany was voraciously against Turkish moves to protect its citizens. 

As was the case elsewhere in Western media outlets, the German media also gave up any pretence of impartiality and falsely portrayed Turkey’s mission as one against all Kurds and one aiming at ethnic cleansing rather than security.

“For eight years the war in Syria has been raging with endless suffering, death and misery. But the outcry has never been greater than in the last eight days since Turkey launched its military operation,” German-Turkish lawyer Fatih Zingal told TRT World.

“If Turkey were to wage war against the Kurds, they would first have to march into Istanbul,'' the lawyer added, referring to the fact that the transcontinental city is home to the largest single Kurdish population centre in the world.

But what also distinguished the German reaction more so than other countries was the expansion of criticism not just to the state but also to ordinary Turks, such as sportsmen.

When Turkish footballers, playing in European Championship qualifiers against France and Albania, performed military salutes to honour victims of terror - German outlets lumped it together on the same level the Hitler salutes performed by Bulgarian fans during their country’s match against England. Thereby equating Turkish support for their country’s struggle against terrorism with the admiration European racists feel for the genocidal Nazi regime.

Past incidents

It’s tempting to look at such incidents as one-off outbursts by excited activists but history begs to differ.

In 2018, German national team footballer Mesut Ozil quit his international involvement in disgust citing ‘racism and disrespect’ after having being targeted by the German Football Federation and its president, Reinhard Grindel, for appearing in a photograph alongside Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“I am German when we win but I am an immigrant when we lose,” Ozil said in a statement.

“For me, having a picture with President Erdogan wasn’t about politics or elections, it was about me respecting the highest office of my family’s country,” he said in a separate tweet.

Speaking of his time as a national team player, Ozil said: "When I left the pitch, German people told me, 'Go back to your country', 'F*** you', 'Turk pig’ and things like that.”

The racist sentiment that affects one of Germany’s greatest football talents has also been unforgiving when it comes to ordinary Turks in Germany.

Turks suffer discrimination in the job sector, with applicants of Turkish origin having to put in more applications on average to get a call back from prospective employers than those with German names.

While not targeting Turks specifically, discriminatory measures targeting Muslims, such as headscarf bans in some German states, are also likely to affect those of Turkish origin.

With this societal discrimination, Turks face the added threat of an ascendant Neo-Nazi movement and the political repercussions of far-right parties like the Alternative for Germany.

But such hatred against Turks is not limited to the fringes. In 2016 after the failed putsch attempt by Gulen terrorists, one German journalist spoke out against anti-Turkish propaganda finding a home in mainstream German news outlets.

“German journalists failed to the ethical and moral standards of journalism while they have been reporting about Turkey in the recent for days, weeks, months and years," German freelance journalist Martin Lejeune said in a letter to Turkey’s Anadolu Agency.

Referring to smears spread about both regular Turkish people and the Turkish government, Lejeune said: "These terrible lies about the brave people of Turkey and the country [whose] people proved their will of freedom, have to stop.”

Ali Tulasoglu takes a photo of his Turkish restaurant after it is burn out in the easter German town of Chemnitz, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP)
Ali Tulasoglu takes a photo of his Turkish restaurant after it is burn out in the easter German town of Chemnitz, Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. (Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP) (AP)
Source: TRT World