About 21 million people of foreign origin and over 11 million people with a foreign passport live in Germany. In some large cities, more than half of the population is not of German origin. D + C / E + Zs Sabine Balk spoke to three immigrants living in Frankfurt about why they came to Germany, their experiences and how they find life in the country. (Part 1)
I am Kurdish and I left my hometown of Istanbul about 25 years ago. I couldn’t stay there anymore. I had been active in the left opposition for years and had worked as a journalist. The crackdown worsened and I was arrested two or three times. I was detained for several months in total. I don’t like to tell this story because for Germans prison sounds like a crime. But in Turkey, it can mean that you are politically undesirable and that you have been arbitrarily imprisoned.
I had lost hope that things would change in Turkey, so I decided to leave. I had knowledge in Germany and that’s why I first went to Nuremberg. It took me a few years there to figure out where I wanted to go in my life. I worked in Nuremberg for a few years as a social worker with young Turkish people in a drug rehabilitation center. I didn’t need to speak German for that. I only started learning German after five years in the country.
In my late twenties, I decided to stay in Germany and study here. As I had studied radio, film and television arts in Turkey, I was only allowed to study a similar subject in Germany – although no certificate from Turkey was recognized. So I studied theater, cinema and media at the University of Frankfurt, although I would actually have preferred to study sociology or social work, an area in which I work today. In 2005, I met my husband, a German of Greek origin. Our children were born in 2010 and 2016.
Turkey and especially Istanbul, I miss the sun, the sea, the culture and especially my parents, my family and my friends. I haven’t been there since 2015. It was also the last time I saw my parents. Since I criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, I no longer dare to go to Turkey.
Homeland – what does this mean to me? A real homeland, where I am accepted as I am, unfortunately does not exist. In Turkey, as a Kurdish, Alawite and leftist, I have never really been part of Turkish society; I have always been a stranger. In Germany, at least, I am accepted as I am by law. But there are unwritten laws in society, and I don’t always fit into the German model. Even in Germany, I still haven’t figured out how to express my opinion “correctly” or diplomatically. This is why there are sometimes misunderstandings and prejudices against me. It happens at work as well as in private life.
I see the concept of integration with a critical eye. Who is supposed to integrate where? The idea creates hierarchies and perpetrators and victims. Everyone brings their own experience, whether immigrant or German. The Germans are not a homogeneous mass either. Integration is certainly a task for society as a whole.
I also cannot identify with my Turkish compatriots in Germany. Many live in very closed societies, in a world parallel to the Germans, perhaps also because of Germany’s integration policy. I only get along with a few German Turks. But I don’t have the feeling that I belong to the Germans either. I feel most like a European. Unfortunately, I defend the values of Europe today more than Europe itself, such as refugee and migration policy, labor rights and women’s rights.
Single Yalcin-Ioannidis works as an educational facilitator for refugees and migrants and as a family assistant. She plans to found an association to provide educational and professional support to migrant women who want to escape domestic violence.
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