• Germany's news in English

The Left's Sevim Dağdelen: ‘My origins don’t define my political beliefs’

Kristen Allen · 22 Sep 2009, 17:17

Published: 22 Sep 2009 17:17 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Born to Turkish parents in Duisburg, Sevim Dağdelen has been a parliamentarian for the socialist party Die Linke (The Left) since 2005. The 34-year-old was previously a member of the party's North Rhine-Westphalian leadership council and also served on the federal youth commission. Currently a law student at the University of Cologne, Dağdelen has worked as a journalist and translator for both German and Turkish publications. She is campaigning for a Bundestag seat in Bochum.

Why did you get into politics?

Originally I began doing anti-racism, anti-fascism work after the Solingen arson attack in 1993. This event inspired me to become politically active in my city. Since 1991 I’ve also been a member of public workers’ union Verdi, and I was a member of the federal youth commission. In 2005 there was an offer to become a candidate on The Left’s open list - they have the tradition of taking on new people, and so I got in. I campaigned and began with parliamentary policy – from the street to the parliament.

Why did you choose The Left?

The Left is the only party in the Bundestag that is against the deployment of the Bundeswehr abroad and has a real policy focus on social security and equality. The Left stands for a new beginning where the needs of the majority, and not a select few, are central.

Your parents are Turkish, but you were born in Germany. When did you become a citizen?

I had to apply for a passport in 2000, I was already 25. I was born and raised here and resisted having to apply because I felt it was intolerable unequal treatment. People who are born and grow up here have to apply while those who just happen to be born to German parents don’t – and I find that unjust.

Is dual citizenship an issue in this campaign?

It’s one of the topics in our campaign programme, but improving the social situation and gaining equal rights for immigrants takes priority. We want a proper equality. Forty percent of young immigrants don’t get traineeship positions, 23 percent leave school without graduating, 70 to 80 percent of young people of Turkish origin have no qualifications whatsoever - whatsoever. The majority are working at the lowest levels and aren’t earning enough to get by because of their employment records. We want to improve their situation, and not many care about gaining citizenship. They just want a secure, well-paying job and a future for their child. These are the wishes and rights of all people whether they have immigration background or not.

How German do you feel?

I don’t think I have any typically German or Turkish qualities. I certainly feel at ease in Germany and want to stay here. When one grows up in a society it makes an impression, but I don’t believe that that one’s character is dependent on cultural things. It’s formed by the social structure.

Why are there so few German parliamentarians with immigrant roots?

Story continues below…

I’m sure there are more than we recognise. Many have Italian or other backgrounds, but most aren’t noticed – it’s mostly the Turkish ones who are visible. There are fewer of us in leadership or public positions than native Germans, and part of that is because of the long-running, wrong policy that doesn’t accept that it’s a country of immigration. Today the Christian Democrats (CDU) call it an ‘integration country,’ because they want to soften it. On the German side, this old policy means immigrants are not a part of society and will someday go home. On the side of the immigrants, there are feelings of alienation and then they don’t see a reason to participate.

But I wouldn’t limit immigrant participation in politics to parliament. Many migrants are involved in cultural, local, youth and immigrant organisations. This is also politics, even if it’s not party related.

What are the biggest challenges for a politician such as yourself?

There are no challenges I wouldn’t have without immigration background. My origins don’t define my political beliefs. Instead it's because I’m a convinced socialist and want to fight for all people to have a good life in Germany, not just for the rich or the banks. Here it doesn’t matter if I have immigration background or not. The greatest challenge right now is ensuring that the burden of the financial crisis isn’t carried by the general population. That’s the most important campaign issue for me.

Related links:

Kristen Allen (kristen.allen@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd