The Turkish Labour Movement in Germany: Homeland and Host-land Nationalisms, Identity Crisis and Ghetto Conflicts
By Faruk Arslan
Turkish migrants still experience many hardships but they often do succeed in building a better life in Germany, escaping poverty and hopelessness and finding new opportunities better than in their place of origin (Castles, Miller, 2009: 51). I‘d like to explore the Turkish Labour Movement in Germany within four different timelines: the 1920s to 1950s as the start of Turkish nationalism identity; the 1960s to 1980s as the strong labour movement; the 1980s to 2000s as the Kurdish identity crisis; and the 2000s to 2010 as the emergence of new Turkish Diaspora culture. The Ottoman Empire and Germany allied in World War I and lost it together, and the labour movement reconnected the two nations again. Until the 20th century, Turk-Ottoman state nationalism was not based on race, ethnicity, colour or blood; but the goal of the state was to provide a common peaceful living of the people within the empire (Bilir 2004: 2-15). Before the emergence of the Nation State called nationalism at the end of the 18th century, the Ottoman Empire was multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-juridical and multinational. One of the most successful examples of religious tolerance and co-existence in the population of history was the Ottoman administration. The Ottoman government did not compel anyone by force, nor make them assimilate until the nation-state emerged (Kitsikis, 2009). Economic and cultural modernization did not play a crucial role in the rise of the Turkish nation-state in the 1920s, for instance, the Kurdish identity was erased, although was restructured again (Yilmaz, 2010).
In this research paper, I will examine the Turkish Diaspora in Germany that has been struggling and confronted with the problem of integration or assimilation and has yet to find a true grounding in Germany; whereby I will explore the tension between homeland and host-land nationalisms while facing an identity and a generations crisis and ghetto conflicts occurring within a transnational community.
The map of the Turkish Diaspora in Germany is confusing among scholars because it differs from (1) that of the Turkish people currently living in Northern and Central Asia and the Caucasus for hundreds of years, or because (2) the people had stayed out of the borders of Turkey (and still accepted as Turkish natives) within such countries as Northern Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Syria, Iraq, Macedonia, Romania and Kosovo after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and rise of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 (Native Turks). These two categories are not regarded as parts of the Turkish Diaspora. Diaspora here refers to the Anatolian Turks and Kurds who do not live in modern Turkey and have migrated outside of the country mainly because of social and economic reasons. Most of the Turkish and Kurdish workers in Germany had originally come from Southern and Eastern Turkey. There are five main types of emigration among Turkish citizens: family-related emigration; asylum-seeking emigration; irregular (undocumented or clandestine) labour emigration; contract-related (low-skilled) labour emigration; and international professional emigration. First-comer Turkish citizens as migrant workers in the 1960s who are now nearly at the age of 70 are called the first generation, their children at the age of 45 are called the second generation and those at the age of 20 are called the third (Diraor 2009: 1-3).
Before explaining the tensions and conflicts within the Turkish Diaspora in the host country and the homeland, it is crucial to be aware of historical evidences in the 1920s in Turkey. The founding father of modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, had sought a Western-oriented, secular, modernizing state which avoided foreign adventures or territorial claims, whereas within the 1920s what Ataturk sought was one united country centred on Turkish people-hood, a unitary and highly centralized state (Rubin, 2008). During the 20th century, the Turkish nation-state formation had been similar to that of other nation-state constructions by which nation states were structured because there were political and economical problems and the lack of integration among institutions and elite groups; whereas the Turkish nation-state was formed to maintain social order and allow social growth and development through mandatory education, and forcibly approaching the ethnic model of ―Turkishness‖ which is highly contested (Canefe 2002:3).
Until the 1950s, there had been an authoritarian one-party rule strongly backed and protected by the Turkish army that was uneasy for pluralist democracy, and inference into politics in the name of national unity, security and secularism. Since the 1950s, the multi-political system has not brought democracy right away, as Republican Turkish history is full of military coups and unproven accusations justifying a coup against the government (Yilmaz, 2010). Since the 2000s, Turkish Muslims have been democratizing a rigid, nationalistic, and French-styled, Jacobean top-down laicise state doctrine inside out within their country‘s mentality. For instance, their fight for a greater freedom of speech while promoting the universal utilitarian style, a soft, anti-authoritarian, oppression- free, and bottom-up secularism which offers a clear religion and state separation. The old paradigm has shifted from the incomplete old structural nationalistic, insufficient model to a new democratic and modern paradigm that has been transmitted to the Turkish Diaspora abroad during the 2000s and continues to raise consciousness.
A strong Turkish labour movement had been started in the late 1960s towards Germany and other Western countries, and today, more than 4.5 million Turks live in the European Union (EU), which is similar to the population of Ireland, and this Turkish Diaspora is largely concentrated in Germany (2,300,000), France (423,000), the Netherlands (364,000), Belgium (130,000) and Austria (110,000) (Sen, 2003). Due to Germany‘s restricted dual citizenship rules, only 1.3 million Turkish immigrants have taken citizenship in their adopted countries (Schaefer et al. 2005). Turkey has changed its approach on citizenship and nationality rules to maintain links to its nation abroad (Castles and Miller 2009: 47). This trans-nationalism produces interconnectedness and is constituted in a variety of ways by means of the mechanisms of social, political and cultural affiliation among migrants, and this creates a Diaspora culture. It also challenges to change the state‘s policies, regulations, and laws, and also affects the global market economy, changing the nature of capital and international politics. Turkish Muslims‘ attachment to Germany grows and they start to identify themselves with their place in Germany, thus not only changing the Turkish identity under current German tendencies, but also changing Germany by means of the Turkish Muslim identity (Isgandarova 2009: 69). This Turkish Diaspora tries to keep its collective identity while the host country seeks distinct patterns of trans-nationalism and ways of incorporating political practices and producing new cultures; but Turks and Kurds are the victims of injustice and inequality in the trans-nationalism practice because of current systemic racism, social exclusion and discrimination. Germany‘s laws and regulations apparently have still shown disrespect towards a migrant‘s human and labour rights through criminalizing migrants.
There are several theories wherein trans-nationalism and transnational communities have been linked to globalization, which is involved in rapid improvement and the technologies of transportation, an electronics herd, and communication devices making it increasingly easy for migrants to establish close links between the host and home countries. Migration is a collective action, arises out of social change and affects the whole of society. Since the1960s, the Dependency Theory has focused on human and natural resources and explained the exploitation of migrant labour through new economic colonialism or imperialism, whereas the World System Theory refers to less developed peripheral regions that were incorporated in the global world economy and controlled by core capitalist nations. The Trans-national Theory ignores the special experience of gendered migrants, through sexism, racism, discrimination or class dominations, who have participated in transnational communities that are based on migration and the migration asylum nexus. Ethnicity and culture play important roles which are becoming politicized in all countries of migration where migrant experiences are wasted, no job security is provided and resistance occurs based on social injustice, inequality and inequity. The Migrant System involves with the constitution of migrant exchange between two or more countries, and the Network Theory is more common and useful today wherein the family and community are the parts of a crucial network, a description which more likely suits the Turkish Diaspora abroad and in Germany (Castles and Miller 2009:27-31).
Historical Background, Nationalism and the Identity Crisis of the Turkish Diaspora
The Ottoman government had been shifted to have its direct rule led by nationalist mobilization by peripheral elites in 1908, who resented from being governed by ethnic others and sought to re-establish self-rule through reformation, state bureaucratization and the rise of print capitalism (Wimmer and Feinstein 2010: 6). There has always been a power struggle between the modernizing and Westernizing foreign ministry, the reactionary army and Islamic scholars who were divided between modernizers and the reactionary army (Yilmaz, 2010). According to Anderson‘s nation-state theory (2001), the complex dynamics of political mobilization, contestation, repression, diffusion, and imitation had changed the balance of power and created great tension, fragmentation and the division of class formation from the 1920s to1960s, whereas the Turkish labour movement has challenged a new conservative class and caused the Kurdish ethnic‘s formation in the Turkish homeland since the 1990s when globalization began (Wimmer and Feinstein 2010: 23).
In 1961, Turkey had signed a bilateral Labour Export Agreement with Germany in response to an acute labour shortage during the post-war economic recovery, during which Turkish labour exportation had become a significant turning point for both Turkey and Germany (Centre for Studies 2007). The German government started the recruitment of the Guest Workers Program in the 1950s, which required large numbers of low-skilled workers as temporary labour units (3 years maximum) and the grant of residence and labour permits for restricted periods, which were often valid only for specific jobs and areas, and thus the entry of dependants was discouraged, preventing family reunion and settlement. The Federal Government stopped labour recruitment in 1973, although its reason was not only the oil crisis; the main reason was the emerging of family unification through employer permissions because families had already settled down, children were born, and the social mobility of cheap labour became awkward, while new social costs could no longer be avoided (Castes and Miller 2009: 100).
As a matter of fact, poor and low-skilled, uneducated villagers among Turkish or Kurdish migrants were seen as temporary guests or foreigners as ―auslanders‖ until the mid 1980s, with the assumption that they may return to their homeland in a short period of time in the perspectives of both the German and Turkish governments. Both countries‘ officials hadn‘t focused on any form of integration policy because the deportation tradition existed to stop undesirable migrants in Germany. Many of Turkish and Kurdish cheap labourers had been single fathers, sending money back home regularly with a high degree of connection to their home countries. The German Guest Worker Program had recruited about 4 million labourers as foreign residents until the late 1970s; most of them were Turkish, Kurdish, and Moroccan and the number of foreign women increased by 12 percent in the early 1980s, by around half a million, through family unification in Germany (Castles and Miller 2009: 108). Surprisingly, the German government supported the Turk or Kurd family reunion even though the Turkish Diaspora population reached to 1.4 million by 1981 as the largest migrant community, and the country was forced to change labour rights to improve working conditions and built many mosques, reducing xenophobia about Muslim and Islam (Agartan 2010: 4-19).
However, highly contested Turkish nationalism identity has created tensions between Turks and Kurds in Germany after the emergence of PKK as the Kurdish separate or terrorist organization in the 1980s, because many of Turkey origin guest workers had come from the poor Kurdish areas of Eastern Turkey, whose residents weren‘t aware of their identity until they settled down in the host country. There has been a long-term struggle over the ideologies of ‗Turkishness‘ and ‗pan-Islamism‘ that have not yet been resolved by the success of Turkish nationalism since the 1930s through synthesized Kemalism, nationalism, and Islam. It became a political issue when PKK has started to lead armed insurrection against the Turkish republic, especially during the 1990s. Over 35 thousand Turkish and Kurdish civilians, police, and soldiers were killed in the period of 1993 to 1996, and violence had never stopped until today.
Up to one-third of the over 2 million Turkish citizens who were residents in Germany by the 1990s were of Kurdish origin. Up to 12 thousand of them were active members of the PKK; although around 50 thousand of them sympathized. PKK has organized many terrorist attacks in Germany and other EU states, and only since 1993 has Germany recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization, after the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan sent suicide bombers against German targets (Castes and Miller 2009: 208). The Turkish army has fought against PKK and forced the relocation of millions of Kurdish civilians that immigrated to EU nations and particularly Germany as refugees because of previous family and relative networks. PKK has already constructed a new Kurdish identity and is possessive of an extensive organizational structure in Germany and other neighbouring European countries. In 1996, the Germany government banned PKK street protests, while deporting Kurdish separatists became an important legal and human rights issue that polarized German public opinion. The arrest of Abdullah Ocalan by Turkish authorities in Kenya in 1999 and the Iraq invasion in 2003 had sparked massive wave of Kurdish protests in Germany. Northern Iraq declared its own autonomy state status as Kurdistan, since a minority Kurdish party leader, Jalal Talabani, was elected as the president of Iraq, and other legal Kurdish parties broke up with PKK and started to collaborate with the Turkish government and global hegemonic power. However, the Iraqi war caused at least 2 million refugees to flow to nearby states and some of them fled to Germany, while some of them were of Kurdish origin. Germany hadn‘t wanted to accept them, although Sweden had (Castes and Miller 2009: 209).
Bilir clearly identifies Turkish nationalism and the nation-state identity crisis as having been involved with the influence of the ‗Turkish-Islamic Synthesis‘ on Turkish culture and educational politics all the way into the 1990s. After the ‗Turkish-Islamic Synthesis‘ lost its popularity at the end of the 1980s, the retired religious leader Fethullah Gulen introduced the new concept of ‗Turkey-Islam‘ in 1995, and for the first time, he used the expression Turkiye Muslumanlıgı (Turkey-Islam), which became the slogan of the discourse on a Turkish-characterized Islam wherein the Kurdish and Alevi identities were recognized and not excluded (Bilir 2004: 6-7). Gulen speaks of the unifying brotherhood between the diverse peoples within Turkey and abroad; furthermore, he speaks of the diversity of Anatolian Non-Muslim groups, such as Armenians, Jews, and Greeks, who have welcomed Gulen‘s approach, while in order to implement this together-in-peace-living again, the Turks should assume the leadership of this process of instigating tolerance between religions and cultures and make it institutional. According to Gulen, the Islam that flourished in Anatolia did so without Arabian influence; rather, it is defined by an Asiatic-Turkish character, since the Turks hold that the true source of knowledge of Islam is not Makkah and Madinah, but Asia, where the Turkish scholars purified the religion of Islam (Turgut 1997:19). In the ‗Turkey-Islam‘ presented by Gulen, the Shiite and Wahhabi receive clear disapproval, although the sects that are approved are Sunni or Alevi Turks and Kurds, except for the Marxist militias of PKK. ‗Turkey-Islam‘ contains a strong Islamic nationalistic character, and it is propagated by Gulen himself as well as through the activities of his community worldwide and the activities of his followers in the Federal Republic of Germany. The Gulen group has highly influenced the creation of a new transnational German-Turk identity since the 1990s. Gulen‘s nationalism is based on the Anatolian geography, not on an ethnic dimension as a leading representative of the Turko-Ottoman nationalism in modern Turkey—which is the opposite of the position held by the Grey Wolves as Turkish ultra nationalists (Bilir 2004: 10-17). The Turkish Diaspora was marginalized based on mosques and lived in their surrounding areas, although when the Gulen group had opened the first private Turkish school in 2007, it attracted the third generation‘s children and attempted to open the first Turkish private university and made intercultural dialogue between Diaspora Turks/Kurds and Germans for peaceful co-existence.
The generation conflicts and new transnational identity
Faruk Sen‘s (2003) research on generation conflicts and his findings explain how the first generation had struggled and confronted with the problems of integration and assimilation, and that it has yet to find a true grounding in Germany after retirement. In fact, the first generation of the Turkish Diaspora in Germany is more of a homogeneous group of male labourers who settled into the country in the 1960s. Sen also states that the second and third generations are more educated and qualified as skilled workers than the first generation and are more likely heterogeneous groups that have become better established their social and economic lifeworlds, and that a few of them are involved in politics at the local, national and EU levels. The original role of the first generation has shifted as the following, other generations play different roles in society as politicians, officers, artists, academics, journalists, actors and successful sports people who have changed their identities, values, and moralities, extended their social networks in the German society and become German-Turk as a new transnational identity, belonging to more than one destination four decades after their ancestors‘ immigration (Sen, 2003).
Achieving better social and cultural integration was not targeted by the first generation during the 1960s-1970s because of the lack of policies; however, the 1980s‘ generation had been more interested in political and economic ambitions, whereas the 1990s‘ generation more demanded equal treatment, social respect and tolerance, political representation and intercultural dialogue and was involved inter-racial marriages (Sen, 2004).
The Ghetto Problem of Turkish Diaspora
Moreover, there has been increasing concern and tension for the ghetto problem of the Turkish Diaspora that could be found in terms of Turkish and German politician languages. Most of the first generation settled down within their own cultural environment within a drawn segregation boundary on behalf of the host country‘s society, because of having a low standard of education, inadequate professional qualifications and poor language skills. Their children failed at school, and the German government unwilled to implement integration policies which resulted in the marginalisation of the Diaspora. The second and third generations ended up with poor Turkish and German language skills. Since the 1990s, a new Turkish middle class emerged to meet higher expectation requirements of education, employment, living conditions, quality of life, and political representation. The second and third generations are becoming good consumers with a strong sense of belonging to their country of residence as better integrated heterogeneous generations, whereas the first generation is more likely to be described as entrepreneurs either living in the Turkish Ghetto or saving funds to return to Turkey, or who have already returned after retirement (Sen, 2004).
In 2007, 740,000 Turkish Diaspora households in Germany spent EUR 15.1 billion of their annual cumulative real income and had combined savings of EUR 2.2 billion (Kizilocak, 2007). The first generation was not expected to stay long because of the German discriminatory labour policies, but the host country government revised its integration policy after 1967 and enacted the Voluntary Repatriation Encouragement Act in 1983, which provided immigrants‘ financial incentives to return to their homeland as part of the co-development process enforcement. The Citizenship Law was amended in 1999 and the Act Controlling and Restricting Immigration and the Integration of EU-citizens and Foreign Nationals entered into force in 2005 and Germany accepted itself a migrant country through such laws and tried to eliminate problems arising from past policy failures. Under the Immigration Act, the immigration age for spouses was raised to eighteen to help prevent forced marriages and a basic command of Germany posed requirements for those wishing to enter Germany for family reunion (Sen, 2004).
Ayhan Kaya and Ferhat Kentel (2005) provide useful data and analyses and mention that the second and third Turkish generations do not have moral values and language skills within Germany, feel discrimination and racism and face unemployment in large numbers in the Turkish Ghetto (Kaya and Kentel 2005: 30-31). Due to high levels of youth unemployment and low female participation rates in the labour force, most of the young, low-educated Turkish and Kurdish population are unemployed, and the rate of unemployment is 30%, 23% of which concerns the Turkish ‗housewife‘ who is among one of the three categories within the Turkish Diaspora in Germany. Social integration is related to an educational background, for instance, the Institute for Employment Research in Germany reveals that in 2005, 8% of Turkish-German dual-citizens in Germany did not have any school qualification, while 45% had only a secondary school qualification (Kaya and Kentel 2005: 34-35). Turkish citizens in the Diaspora without German citizenship are undergoing an even worse rate of unemployment, as about 13% did not have any certificate showing their school qualification and 58% have only a lower secondary school qualification (Arslan, 2007:131). In fact, the German population is aging. Until 2003, about 7.3 million foreign workers had been working in Germany, although this number sharply decreased to 6.7 million for several reasons. One such reason was that the Central Aliens Register caused the decline of net migration to Germany. Another reason was the decline of the birth rate of foreign children directly following the 2000 Naturalization Law. German- born children of Turkish, Kurdish or North African origin have increasingly accepted the German citizenship, and German-born foreign nationality had increased from 9.4 million in 1995 to 10.6 million in 2003. While the foreign population makes up 8.9% of Germany‘s total population today, it will make up 12.9% in 2050, and at the same time the German working age population will decline by about 9.6 %, and only 57% of the working age will be supported by 30% of retired population costs, exclusively given to those aged 65 or over because of the increase of life expectancy (Castles and Miller 2009: 111).
After the 9/11 era, the international security system has put many restrictions on labour movements. Cheran has claimed that the political and financial influences of transnational communities have come under closer scrutiny after 9/11, and Western governments have not formulated effective policy responses to the emergence of trans-nationalism and new global diasporas cultures, whereas brain drain has been replaced by brain circulation and financial remittances replaced by social remittances, and technology is transferred through international relations. It is not only the Tamil experiences and Kurdish struggle that have similarity, as many ideas and practices are also very common, such as brain drain, brain circulation, remittances, political involvement and cultural diffusion, and so forth. (Cheran, 2008:133-141). The German government has invited the Turkish police forces to control illegal Turkish migrants, as unemployment causes youth or gang crimes and this initiative can help to minimize violence among the troubled Turkish neighbourhood ghettos in Germany—it is a new transnational practice that Turkish police may soon be patrolling Germany’s streets in the post 9/11 era (Bartin, 2011).
As of 2010, the Embassy of Germany in Turkey estimated that 3.5 million people of Turkish origin were living in Germany. Well-educated German-born Turk/Kurd intellectuals in Germany have decided to go back to their country. Thousands of well-educated and highly-skilled German-Turks have moved back to their homeland since 2007, while others have systemically been well-organized to stay in the host country as challenging both the Muslim identity and German view. Germany needs mediators between Germans and Turks who don‘t want to live anymore in Germany, and finally the German government sees that the real problem is more than in integration and the lack of education (Findlay, 2010). Meanwhile, the many Turks who remain in Germany continue to exist quite separately from native Germans, living in insular communities and frequenting Turkish shops, doctors and lawyers. There are some signs in Germany that the attitude toward Turks is changing. The Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan made a powerful speech against German practice in 2008 by saying that ―assimilation is a crime against humanity,‖ and Erdogan pressured Angela Merkel for the opening of additional Turkish schools in Germany in March 2010, and right after his speech, the first Turkish-German, Aygül Özkan, was appointed as a government minister at the state level in April 2010 (Findlay, 2010). The Turkish government passed a law on 24 March 2010, which gave the allowance of ―Turks and Relatives of International Communities on the Organization and Duties‖ to create an independence ministry for the Turkish Diaspora and a chosen 55 representatives on the committee from Diaspora civil leaders to solve their problems. This law allowed the organization to establish social, cultural and economic relations in order to carry out activities related to Turkish communities in public institutions and organizations, civil society organizations and professional structures (The Turkish Official Newspaper, 2010). The Turkish government will now be more attentive to its citizens in any host country and intends to help them out of any struggles they would face, including discrimination, racism, and exclusion.
In conclusion, the Turkish government had pessimistically set up regime-friendly associations for workers in Western Europe in the 1960s with the help of counter left-wing and trade union influence after long struggles; however, the ideology, culture, and politics of the Turkish Diaspora in Germany has recently shifted from the pessimistic to optimistic view in the 2000s because the Turkish government seems to recognize the Diaspora mainly in terms of maintaining the Turk-Islam national identity through state support for religious, educational, cultural, and social activities. Since 1990, Turkish NGOs have worked hard to build a strong new global Diaspora identity for cultural, educational, religious, economical and political influence on the German society and to solve generation conflicts in post-modernity. Disputes concerning financial remittances have decreased since the 2000s, and the Turkish government has started to see the Turkish Diaspora as capable in terms of social remittances and the circulation of skills. Migration cannot bring development alone; and short and long term domestic political and economic reforms and collaborations are needed for positive changes between the host and home countries. Turkish lower-income families have brought economic and social development during the last four decades of international migration both within the sending and receiving countries (Castles and Miller, 2009: 123). This is despite the fact there had been inadequate economic and political stability until 2002 in Turkey. Furthermore, financial remittances had caused inequality and inflation for almost four decades, as social remittances, the social capital and voluntary co-development were assisted by the German government to return to having positive impacts on the economy only after the integral development strategy had been implemented in the 2000s. The Turkish labour movement in Germany has tried to keep its collective identity, while the host country seeks a distinct pattern of transnationalism attempts to imply the incorporation political practice. The Turkish Diaspora has gained an increase in economic and political power within Germany and the EU, as high numbers of the Diaspora community have been accepted for the host country‘s citizenship and are involved in the country‘s politics. The Turkish labour movement has been continued through increased family unification via higher birth rates rather than asylum-seekers. The Turkish and Kurdish Diasporas divide into many pieces, whereas both have always been trying to establish the balance between the sending country‘s politics and responses of the host country, using the dynamic of immigrant incorporation whether through assimilation or integration. Newcomers in Germany have adapted the structure and order of the country‘s social, economic, political and cultural landscape, while they have imparted impact on different forms of participations to process homeland development to create supports, including in-kind labour support, moral support and the provision of goods and services as well as ideological support, which is very significant and continues to remake and reshape the homeland through remittances, investments, property ownership, and cultural influences. The number of Turkish entrepreneurs is highest in Germany with a rough 56,000, showing that the Turkish labour movement has shifted from a low-skilled worker to highly-skilled worker arena because of self employment. Entrepreneurs are arising amongst the Diaspora to symbolize the transformation of its parts from the guest worker to employer (Centre for Studies on Turkey 2007), though the Turkish ghetto still remains a major issue because the new national and trans-national identities differ between the generations.
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