Being born in Germany but raised in a pretty Turkish household I look at the approaching constitutional referendum with a feeling of alienation, while being touched on a very personal level. ‘Erdogan’s Turkey’ is the object of frequent and often justified critique. A strong, unnegotiable stance towards the Turkish President is justified in the name of liberal values, a concept so sexy around here that it is hard to understand why someone should be against it. But then why is it Erdogan, someone who does not stand for liberal values, and not the liberal democrats of Europe, who succeed in engaging Europe’s Turkish minorities, generations that were born here, as myself? Should having a diverse cultural, linguistic, maybe religious background, not be the epitome of the pluralism that is ingrained in liberal democracies?
Politicians a la Merkel constantly fail to convince us that we can be part of their civic project and, consequently, do not need Erdogan’s authoritarianism as an alternative. Despite the decades that some Turkish families already live here, they are still longing for the patriarch sitting in Turkey, this loud, angry man that badmouths the same system they live in and profit from. Seems paradoxical but is it really? Identity is this funny concept that does things that seem illogical at first glance. To us, it was communicated that you must sacrifice one part of your identity to gain access to the exclusive [insert nationality] club. The result is something that feels wrong and unauthentic, and finally, hypocritical. When German Basic Law says that I have the freedom to live the way I wish to as long as I do not harm others – the promise of liberal democracy – than why do people bother so much over my fondly held Turkish heritage? ‘Mixed loyalties’ is a term that comes about when people in Germany argue against dual citizenship. Even as ‘purely’ German, I would never stand in front of a crowd and declare my loyalty to Germany, because the concept of loyalty contradicts my ideal of a critical citizen. You are loyal to kings, not to elected officials. Maybe loyal to values, but values have no borders. And still, the concept of ‘citizen’ seems to be still rooted too much in a rigid, ethnic category that has no room for the children of guest workers. The liberal promise is turned ad absurdum. So, when Erdogan shouts that this liberal promise is a lie, why should one or the other not believe him?