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Monday, 25 January 2010

Turks Get a Hard Time In Germany

In the vestibule of Germany's largest mosque, identity is complicated. Zehra Yilmaz says her German passport will get her into a voting booth on election day, but her Turkish name and Muslim head scarf kept her out of apartments she tried to rent. She has lived in Germany since she was 2, but her home has been in Turkish enclaves segregated from the rest of Germany by language, culture and a mutual belief that one day the foreigners would go home. "I'm not really Turkish, and I'm not really German," says Zehra Yilmaz, 46. Inside the European Union's most populous country, a parallel society has grown. Muslim immigrants, mostly Turkish, flooded into Germany beginning in the 1960s, recruited by companies to augment the post-war work force. Yilmaz's father planned to stay five years, enough time to save enough for a car and washing machine.

The government granted them entry as guest workers. "The first generation came at a time when the economy was booming, and they expected to make money and go back. That hasn't happened," said Jochen Hippler, a political science and Middle Eastern studies professor at Duisburg-Essen University. Clustered in neighborhood enclaves, such as Marxloh in Duisburg and Kreuzberg in Berlin, the children and grandchildren of that first immigrant wave grew up in Germany without ever attaining citizenship.

Integration efforts began in earnest only recently, after the third generation of immigrants was born. Hampering those efforts is a distrust of Muslims heightened by the 9/11 attacks, an ethnic German population that abides foreigners warily, and an unwillingness among many in Turkish communities to break with their families and give up Turkish citizenship to become legally German. Until 2000, German law defined citizenship by ethnicity, rather than a person's place of birth.

original story