Aylin Selcuk (19), the German-Turkish figurehead for the third generation, spoke with Erdogan.
Hundreds of Turks had come from Belgium and the Netherlands as well to a stadium in Cologne to see the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He praised Turkey as a growning economic power, demanded Turkish schools in Germany and called not to renounced the Turkish origins. He called assimilation a 'crime against humanity'. It led to a lot of irritation in Germany.
"I don't understand the excitement," says Aylin Selcuk. The 19 year old, born in Berlin to Turkish parents, had established the "Deukische Generation" association. With 200 others she's dedicating herself to the 3rd generation Turks who are still having difficult joining German society. "Nobody wants to assimilate. That word means namely that you give up everything of yourself and exchange it for something else. From eating habits and customs to belief. Nobody though desires all Turks to eat curry sausage?"
Selcuk had won prizes for her initiative and is also an adviser to the German government. By initiation of Merkel she was present to meet prime minister Erdogan at the Chancellery.
"I spoke with him about integration and he clearly said that my generation belongs in Germany and that we must therefore must choose a German passport. He says we have a duty and great responsibility towards Germany," she remembers.
Though Erdogan called two days later also in Cologne upon all Turks to learn German and to integrate, the comment about assimilation got much attention in the media. "It's about integration and he's not against it," says medical student Selcuk.
"Integration means that German with a Turkish background don't attract attention any more in the statistics about criminality and unemployments. And that they have an average education level and equal opportunities in the job market. Apart from the extreme right, nobody in Germany is against it."
Though it surprised her a little, Aylin Selcuk does have an explanation for the nationalistic show of Erdogan in Cologne. "The first and second generation Turks in Germany have been feeling for a long time that they've been abandoned. I have a German passport and may, wherever I live in the world, express my vote if there's elections in Germany. Turks with a Turkish passport may not. After the fire in Ludwigshafen it was a good moment for Erdogan to express brotherhood. Don't forget, three million Turks live in Germany. Almost every family in turkey has connections with Germany."
Selcuk will be in contact with Ankara, since Erdogan promised support for her association. She says they'll soon put out a commercial about young Turks and German and their mutual prejudices. "Our first big project. It will appear on television, internet and in the theaters. If the Turkish government would support that, they'll really be doing something for integration."
The Dutch branch of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD) says that Dutch media did not conveyed Erdogan's statements correctly and that various parliaments brought up the issue in parliament without verifying the reports.
For example the Elsevier website came out with a headline: "Erdogan to Turks: don't adapt too much". The article didn't report that Erdogan called on Turks to integrate well and to learn well the language of their new land. According to the UETD De Telegraaf, Spits and Trouw also contributed to the rousing of public sentiment.
Sources: BN De Stem, Trouw (Dutch)
See also: Germany: Merkel says immigrants need to come to terms with Germany's way of life, Germany: Erdogan calls on Turks not to assimilate, Germany: Erdogan calls for Turkish schools and universities