Young Leaders´ Forums

German Turkish Week

June 2009

Report of Day 1: Monday, 8th. A walk through history and the eyes set on the future

The opening event of the German-Turkish Week 2009 at the Amerika Haus Berlin

Turkish music and delicacies attracted a curious crowd to celebrate the opening event of the Turkish-German Week 2009 on Monday, 8th of June at the Amerika Haus. The Turkish ambassador Ali Acet and the foreign office, special representative for dialogue between cultures, Heidrun Tempel, set the tone of the evening with their humble yet festive welcoming speeches. After a brief introduction by Mark Donfried, founder and director of the ICD, a keynote speech was held on the Turkish-German friendship and its challenges. Cem Özdemir, leader of the Green Party, guided his listeners through the most important historic events which shape today’s relationship between Germany and Turkey. Being German with a Turkish background himself, Mr. Özdemir drew on his experience to illustrate today’s issues surrounding the German-Turkish identity. He included thought-provoking aspects about people’s perception of the German-Turkish community which is infused with stereotypes and prejudice. He argued that respect and tolerance are the keys to keep building a strong relationship for the German-Turkish community within German society. In conclusion Mr. Özdemir drew attention to the possibilities German-Turks have in today’s German society and finished with the optimistic reflection on his own journey from an immigrants son to a Member of Parliament.

The following panel discussion focused on the German-Turkish Image and was moderated by Nazmi Kavasoglu. His questions allowed Dr. John to contribute to the conversation with her expertise in working with immigrants as the Former Commissioner of the Berlin Senate for Immigration and Migration. She criticized the concept of multiculturalism as it describes a society made up by separate pillars of culture instead of recognizing the inevitable areas of fusion as well as conflict between different cultures and communities in one nation.

Dr. Bade and Dr. Goldberg discussed the influence of globalization on the development of the German-Turkish community. The audience gained an insight into historical processes and ideas of future developments for integration or assimilation. In general the panel discussion provided an overview of themes that feature in the development of the German-Turkish community as an integral part of German society.

The evening turned to night with a Live concert by the band Orientation. The performance highlighted the idea which underlies the whole event series, namely to celebrate diversity. Not only are the band members from Germany as well as Turkey but their music is a mix of Turkish rhythm, Reggae grooves and funk fusion and a soulful voice. The successful opening event promised an entertaining and inspirational German-Turkish Week 2009.

Report of Day 2: Tuesday 9th. A Meeting of Possibilities in the Foreign Office – part of the German-Turkish Week 2009

On Tuesday the 10th of June three very different groups of students met in the Foreign Office to gain an insight in the work of diplomats and foreign relations. Most students had an immigrant background just like the two advisors from the Foreign Office for Culture and Economic Affairs, Dr. Duncker and Mr. Sertcan. After a film screening which outlined the various departments of the foreign office they gave a lecture with the topic “Education, Immigration and new Career Paths”. The students showed interest but were too shy to ask questions until after the lectures were finished and they had the chance to speak one-on-one with the representatives of the foreign office; before that though Cigdem Ipek, a Young Leader of the Germany Meets Turkey Forum, spoke directly to the students about her experiences and her career path. She motivated her audience to become active and encouraged them to take interest in as many possibilities as are open to them.

This event exemplified the importance of getting people, in this case young people, together and open doors of thought. If only one of the students left the Foreign Office with an inspiration for his or her future the event proves a success.

Report of Day 3: Wednesday, 10th. Cultural Contributions of the German-Turkish Community.

Wednesday night began in the Amerika Haus with a reading by Hatice Akyün, Journalist and Author, from her book “Ali zum Dessert”, which dealt with the family pressure on young women to find a husband but also with the supportive and generous way of bringing up children which is the norm in Turkish communities but a norm not often enough portrayed in the German press. This set the tone for the entire evening, whose purpose was tolook at the depth and breadth of the cultural influence of the German-Turkish community in German society today.

Hatice Akyün then joined three other panellists for a discussion on the cultural contribution of the Turkish community in Germany, namely DJ Ipek, author and popular DJ, celebrated actress Andrea Kurmann, and Jochen Kühling, Director of Plak Music. The discussion was moderated by Sirin Sak, moderator of Radyo Metropol FM. The speakers delved straight into a wide-ranging discussion on issues related to German-Turkish identity, the manner in which this is influenced by music, the need for wider understanding of the diversity within the Turkish community and the extent to which Turkish sound is changing contemporary German taste in music. The speakers gave many examples from their own backgrounds and long experiences of dealing with sensitive issues related to the influence of the Turkish community in Germany.

The panel discussion was followed by a performance from DJ Ipek who has a large local following and for whom many of the younger audience had been anxiously waiting, while traditional Turkish cuisine was provided in the foyer.

Report of Day 4: Friday, 12th.Tipping the Scales? Political parties and the German Turkish Community in Election Year 2009”

Party representatives as well as representatives from the public sector and civil society gathered in the Amerika Haus on Friday evening to discuss the importance of the German-Turkish community on the political stage in Germany. The panellists included Hanaa El-Hussein, Head of the Regional Committee for Immigration Policy for the FDP, Baki Irmak, Press Officer for the DWS, Serdar Yazar, Federal chairman of the Turkish Students’ Associations (BTS), Hüseyin Yılmaz, Chairman of the Association of Turkish Businessmen and Craftsmen, and Eva Majewski,representative for the CDU. The discussion was moderated by Ferda Atamanof the newspaperDer Tagesspiegel.

The approaches of Germany’s main political parties such as CDU, SPD and FDP towards the Turkish community were analysed by the panellists and received healthy criticism from the audience.  

The Berlin audience was very much interested in the subject and didn´t hesitate to express their worries about the future of the German-Turkish Community within the political system. One such question raised was ‘Is the German-Turkish community seen as a tool for many political parties during their election campaign or is this issue really at the heart of the integration process policy?”

The discussion centred for a while on the fact that the German-Turkish community has to be taken with more consideration and that the German-Turkish people’s involvement and participation in political life has to be more effective in order to pave the way for a better political consensus.

Serdar Yazar voiced his opinion that citizenship for German-Turkish people has to be simplified and that this will make them feel more aware of their rights and allow them to act for the benefit of the society in which they are living"

Political parties which had ignored the German-Turkish community in the past are now producing relevant policies and the panellists agreed that there are positive steps. However, they cautioned that it should be taken into consideration that this is not a one sided issue and that the participation of German-Turkish people is crucially important. Hüseyin Yilmaz explained that role models such as Cem Özdemir encourage the German-Turkish community to vote because they embody hope for this community, but also cautioned that rights are never openly given but must be demanded and seized.

At the end of the panel discussion Okan Frei, talented singer and songwriter performed a live set of R n´B, soul and hip-hop with his songs such as “Eins”, and “Chance” for a young and enthusiastic audience.

Report of Day 5: Saturday, 13th. Overcoming barriers in a Diverse Society?

The Saturday event was dedicated to the remaining challenges of the German-Turkish Community and to what the younger generation can do to overcome social barriers. The evening began however with a lively break-dance performance from Kadir “Amigo” Memis, giving children the opportunity to learn about break-dancing.

During the panel discussion major topics such as education and the German school system as a whole, citizenship issues, the role of the language, job chances for the younger generation and the key role of parents were mentioned.

In order to hit the right notes, experts in their fields such as Günter Piening, Special Commissioner of the Berlin Senate for Integration and Migration, Nihat Sorgec, Head of the Bildungswerk Kreuzberg, Prime Lee, Initiator of “School Talks”, Journalist, and Co-Founder of Kiez Tankstelle, Gül Yoksulabakan, Diversity Trainer, and Hilmi Kaya Turan, vice head of the Türkische Gemeinde in Deutschland, shared their experiences with the audience.

The fact that a high number of young people were also among the audience was a positive factor and demonstrates the hope for the future of the German-Turkish Community.

The program ended with a live concert of the artist Sefo, who mixes oriental, arabesque songs and rhythm n’ blues, as well as a music after party with DJ Murat of Metropol FM, the largest German-Turkish radio station in Germany.