Turkey’s referendum causes division among Turks in Germany

Turkey’s referendum causes division among Turks in Germany
People are seen through a Turkish flag during a ceremony marking the 102nd anniversary of Battle of Canakkale, also known as the Gallipoli Campaign, in Canakkale, Turkey, March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
2 months ago

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FRANKFURT – Turkey's upcoming referendum on expanding President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power is causing deep division among Germany's three million-strong Turkish community and recent tensions between Ankara and Berlin have reignited the debate about the integration of Turks in German society.

Turkey and Germany have been locked in a deepening row after Berlin banned several rallies planned by Turkish ministers ahead of the April 16 referendum, citing public safety concerns.

The tensions have reached street level in Germany.

In Frankfurt, a group of Turkish expatriates have been pushing for fellow Turks in the city to back a "no" vote in the upcoming referendum.

The group are regularly confronted as they hand out fliers in the streets, with other Turks yelling support for President Erdogan.

However, in general, few people of Turkish decent have been forthcoming about whether or not they support Erdogan's proposed constitutional change.

At a local street market, a Turkish vendor voiced concerns that the political spat is keeping German customers away.

"The recent debate had a huge effect to us. Yesterday someone came and shouted at us. We're not responsible for politics. We live here; we work here; we pay taxes. We are more German than Turkish," said a Turkish expatriate who owns a street stall at the market.

Another said her family had been divided over the referendum, but she later changed her mind.

"We, as a family, had different opinions on the referendum, but recent developments in Europe and the fact that we Turks are still not fully accepted in Germany changed my view. For me, it is not about Erdogan. It is about Turkey," said Sukran Civelek, another Turkish expatriate.

Cemal Turan, an editor at a local Kurdish newspaper in Frankfurt, said the escalating diplomatic row risks splitting Turks and Turkish Kurds in Germany.

"My fear is that we will be divided in the future. At the moment, there's no division between Kurds and Turks in Germany - we live together in the same neighborhood," he said.

About 1.4 million Turks in Germany are eligible to vote in the referendum - more than in any other European country, and the campaign to win their vote is testing this country's largest immigrant community.