Germany: State Appoints First Minister of Turkish Origin

Germany: State Appoints First Minister of Turkish Origin

Germany has its first government minister of Turkish origin -- the governor of the northern state of Lower Saxony on Monday appointed Aygül Özkan, the Hamburg-born daughter of Turkish immigrants, as minister of social affairs in a coup for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

The governor of the northern German state of Lower Saxony has appointed Germany's first ever Muslim minister of Turkish origin at the government level. In a reshuffle announced on Monday by Governor Christian Wulff, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, 38-year-old Aygül Özkan became the region's new minister for social affairs.

"I am aware that I am a role model," said Özkan, who was born in Hamburg in 1971. Her parents moved to Germany from Turkey in the 1960s like thousands of other Turks invited by the German government as " guest workers" to help make up for a shortage of labor following World War II.

Özkan's political career has so far been meteoric. The trained lawyer only joined the CDU six years ago. She became a member of the city parliament of the northern city-state of Hamburg two years ago and joined the party's regional executive board soon after that. Before her ministerial appointment, she was economic policy spokeswoman for the regional parliamentary group in Hamburg.

Wulff called her appointment "a good signal for children and young people with immigrant backgrounds." Özkan quickly made clear that she does not want to be regarded as a "token immigrant." She once told German women's magazine Brigitte that she wasn't particularly Turkish in character because she always thinks at least two steps ahead. "That doesn't fit in with Turkish culture which is open and very spontaneous, but Germany puts more emphasis on planning ahead. And that's why I'm in exactly the right place in terms of my character," she said.

Nevertheless, she remains deeply attached to her Turkish roots. She is married to a Turkish doctor and they are bringing up their seven-year-old son bilingually. And she is accustomed to encountering xenophobia on occasion. "If I go shopping in a delicatessen in Blankenese (a wealthy district of Hamburg -- editor's note), I'm still treated differently from people who look obviously German," she told Hamburger Abendblatt, a local newspaper, a few years ago.


Source: Spiegel (English), h/t RK

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