Top German politician criticises Turkish diaspora for Erdogan support


A leading German politician has sharply criticised the wave of support for incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan among
the country's large expatriate Turkish population, in the wake of the president's close win in Sunday night's run-off election.

Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir called for a turning point in Germany's policy towards Turkey. "We have seen in our dealings with Putin what happens when you talk yourself into a situation," Ozdemir told journalists in the north-western town of Solingen on Monday, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The turnaround that we finally have, thank God, in dealing with Putin is now also needed in dealing with Turkish ultra-nationalism, it is now also needed in dealing with fundamentalism," he added.

Erdogan's re-election had concrete consequences for society in Germany, partly because many imams working in Germany were sent by the Turkish religious authority, he said.

Germans have to talk about the consequences "if the next generation of imams from Turkey will be even more nationalistic, even more religiously fundamentalist. They will be the ones who influence children in Germany," said Ozdemir.

His comments to journalists came after he slammed Germany's Turkish diaspora on Twitter earlier for helping Erdogan win the election.

Erdogan won by a narrow majority, but won about a two-thirds majority among the approximately 1.5 million eligible voters in Germany. He wrote that he was interested in what was going on in Germany, where Erdogan supporters were celebrating "without having to answer for the consequences of their vote."

Many people in Turkey would have to go through poverty and lack of freedom, he wrote. "They are rightly angry. This will have to be talked about!"

Hundreds of people in Germany, which is home to Turkey's largest diaspora, celebrated his victory on Sunday evening with spontaneous car parades and marches. The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Gokay Sofuoglu, rejected Ozdemir's comments, urging him not to "bash" Turkish voters in Germany.

"The more bashing is done towards the voters, the more and more determined people also go to the polls," he said on Monday. Politics should have better arguments than stigmatisation and bashing, he said, referring to Turkish voters allegedly being stigmatised for voting for Erdogan's AKP party.

He seemed to praise Turkish voters for being so actively involved in politics, suggesting that Germany was lacking this extent of political involvement. Sofuoglu went on to say, "I have the feeling that many people here in Germany don't identify with this country." They have the feeling that they do not belong here, he added.

He added that if German politicians made Turkish voters a better offer, voting behaviour and political participation would change. Celebrations in support of Turkey's president were widespread on Sunday night, with honking cars decorated with Turkish flags driving through the streets of large German cities including the capital Berlin, Duisburg in the west of the country and the northern port of Hamburg.

According to the police, the celebrations remained mostly peaceful, though there were some reports of clashes and misdemeanours in the cities of Mannheim and Dortmund.

In Duisburg, the police said celebrations involved several hundred cars and several hundred people on foot. Except for a few fireworks being set off, it remained peaceful, according to a police spokesman.

There were also motorcades in Hamburg, with long lines of honking cars forming in front of the Turkish consulate near the Dammtor railway station.

On the lawn in front of the consulate alone, about 1,000 flag-waving Erdogan supporters celebrated the president's victory.
Other celebrations and parades with hundreds of people were reported in Berlin, the financial hub of Frankfurt and the Bavarian capital Munich.

In the western city of Essen, according to the police, there was a smaller demonstration in front of the consulate there.
Not all the celebrations were peaceful, however.

In Mannheim in the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, police officers were pelted with objects and some participants in the motorcades clashed with pedestrians. No one was injured.

In the city of Dortmund, police reported clashes, several criminal charges, misdemeanours and warnings. Police said they had to tell at least 82 people to leave the areas in which people were celebrating. One man in a motorcade allegedly attacked a police officer, who retaliated using a baton. Police also confiscated several illegal fireworks. Several streets and squares in the city centre were temporarily blocked by motorcades and people celebrating, with several nearby citizens complaining about the noise of honking cars and "loud roaring engines", said police.

An estimated 3 million people in Germany have Turkish roots, with Turkish people the nation's largest immigrant group, due to the "guest worker" policy adopted by the German government in the 1950s.    (dpa)

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