Mesut Ozil and #MeTwo

When are you German enough?

Michel Abdollahi, Idil Baydar and Y'Akoto have all experienced racism and xenophobia – despite calling Germany their home. The artists hope that the #MeTwo debate will change hearts and minds when it comes to identity. By Yalda Zarbakhch

Mesut Ozil may not have realised that his resignation from the German national soccer team would start an avalanche of dismay on social media. He quit the team saying, "When I win I'm German. When I lose I'm an immigrant." His decision was a reaction to the outpouring of criticism directed against him after Germany lost in the early stages of the World Cup.

However, the ire directed at the soccer player with Turkish parents had started building up several months earlier when he took a picture with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Many Turks welcomed what seemed to them to be a tacit vote of confidence in Turkey's leader, while many Germans were dismayed at seeing Ozil's alleged support of Erdogan, whose leadership has been widely criticised as autocratic.

Ozil himself said that he felt he was being held up to double standards as a national public persona and so quit the German team in anger. Since his walk-out, thousands of people with foreign heritage have taken to social media under the hashtag #MeTwo, using it to share their own stories of being scrutinised under unfair standards and explain how they've experienced discrimination for simply having a different background.

Mesut Ozil and President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan (photo: picture-alliance/dpa)
Reading between the lines: German national footballer Mesut Ozil faced a storm of criticism following this photo opportunity with President Erdogan of Turkey in May. The media-seasoned athlete apparently failed to realise the impact this would have in the run-up to the Turkish general election. In Germany, however, it became a hot-button issue of national loyalty – "an identity problem suggesting a lack of integration," as Christian Lindner, head of the FDP, put it – sparking a nationwide debate about racism and discrimination

Racism in the arts

We invited three creative minds to disclose their personal experiences with racism and how their identities have often resulted in experiences of being ostracised.

Journalist and performance artist Michel Abdollahi has become used to saying "Iran" when people ask him where he's from. He says it makes things easier – mainly for the person asking that question.

Comedienne Idil Baydar has a different view. She doesn't consider herself to have migrant background because she herself never migrated – her parents did. On stage, she says that her way to Germany was rather short: all the way from the uterus to the outside world.

Singer Y'Akoto believes that terms such as identity and home are outdated in a globalised and digitalised world and wants society to find new ways of thinking about them.

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