German Turkish community split by unrest after coup plot

Hatred between supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and those opposed to him has exploded on social media in Germany in the wake of a failed coup attempt last Friday.

German Turkish community split by unrest after coup plot
Pro-Erdogan protesters in Berlin. Photo: DPA

“All those who criticise Erdogan are immediately considered supporters of Gülen or the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party],” said a leader of the opposition Greens party, Cem Özdemir, himself the son of a Turkish guest worker.

Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the USA, has been blamed by Ankara for the coup

“Erdogan may be able to do what he wants in Turkey, and that's bad enough, but he can't do it in Germany,” said Özdemir.

The failed coup against Erdogan has stoked tensions in Germany's three-million strong Turkish community, prompting demonstrations and threats that have put the authorities on edge.

After days of purges amid a crackdown on suspects and Erdogan's rivals in Turkey, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere issued a stern warning to partisans among the world's largest Turkish diaspora.

“We don't want these kinds of conflicts to play out in Germany with violence in the streets,” he told ZDF public television.

A member of the Berlin state legislature, Erol Özkaraca, a vocal Erdogan critic, said he had been subject to taunts and slurs.

“Liar, traitor, Gülen supporter – it's all a lot of rubbish,” the Social Democrat told AFP.

Ercan Karakoyun, the head of the Foundation for Dialogue and Education, an organisation with close links to Gülen, has faced even more fervent abuse.

“It is threatening to see how there has been a campaign against the Gülen movement in Germany conducted with rumours and conspiracy theories,” he told the Stuttgarter Zeitung.

Erdogan enjoys strong support among the 1.55 million Turkish citizens living in Germany. During the Turkish election last November, his AKP garnered around 60 percent of the vote, an even stronger share than in Turkey.

And although many were born in Germany or lived here for decades, many ethnic Turks say they feel more engaged with political life in Turkey.

“With his propaganda and media presence, [Erdogan] creates the impression that he has made Turkey strong,” Özkaraca said.

“They [Turkish immigrants] don't have a sense of belonging to German society. We have not managed to integrate here, which leads people to identify with their country of origin.”

Erdogan has recognised the importance of his base in Germany and even held stadium-sized campaign rallies in recent years in cities such as Berlin and Düsseldorf

'Down with traitors'

The BDK federation representing 15,000 police officers cautioned there was a “very, very large” potential for the situation to explode.

“All Erdogan has to do is snap his fingers to get people to confront each other in the streets in a very emotional way,” its vice president Sebastian Fiedler told ZDF.

In the days after the uprising, Turks in Germany received appeals on social media to denounce suspected Gülen supporters, including a hotline number to call at the Turkish president's offices, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported.

In the western city of Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday, 150 people loyal to Erdogan stormed a cafe popular with Gülen backers, breaking a window and scuffling with patrons.

And mosques with links to the Turkish government hung placards reading “Down with traitors to the fatherland”.

During the night of the attempted coup, about 3,000 people massed in front of the Turkish embassy in Berlin, waving Turkish flags and holding aloft pictures of Erdogan.

Local media reports said members of a Turkish far-right organisation, the “Grey Wolves”, and other nationalist groups joined the rally as more than 200 police officers kept the peace.

A second pro-Erdogan demonstration in the German capital went off without incident Saturday while a third, expected to draw 15,000 people, will be held in the western city of Cologne at the end of the month, police said.

Nearly all of Germany's Turks are descendants of a “guest worker” programme launched in the 1960s to bring manpower to then West Germany.


Germany lifts travel warning for four Turkish regions

Germany lifted its travel warning for several coastal regions of Turkey on Tuesday, ceding partially to weeks of campaigning by Ankara, whose tourism industry relies heavily on German visitors.

Germany lifts travel warning for four Turkish regions
Beach chairs and umbrellas at a hotel complex in Antalya, Turkey. Photo: DPA

The warning will be lifted with immediate effect for the four coastal provinces of Antalya, Izmir, Aydin and Mugla, government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in Berlin.

“Turkey has developed a special tourism and hygiene concept for these four regions in order to realise safe tourism under the conditions of the pandemic,” Demmer said.

Turkey will require anyone travelling back to Germany to present a negative coronavirus test within 48 hours before departure.

Turkey had been one of 160 countries outside the European Union and the Schengen area for which a travel warning was in place until August 31st.

In July, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had demanded a review of the travel warning while visiting his German counterpart Heiko Maas in Berlin.

READ ALSO: Can you be forced to take a coronavirus test after returning to Germany from a risk country?

Anyone currently arriving in Germany from areas considered to be at high risk must produce a negative coronavirus test or go into quarantine for 14 days.

Germany, which is home to a large Turkish community, makes up the biggest group of tourists by nationality in Turkey.

In a blow to tourism in Spain, Germany last week added three northern Spanish regions to its list of high-risk destinations.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's plans for mandatory Covid-19 tests for returning travellers