35 years old Turkish-German woman who asked to be named Dilek out of security concerns from southern German city of Pforzheim finally found some spare time to renew her soon-to-expire drivers license. As she was leaving the house, she looked at herself once more at the mirror near the outside door to make sure her headscarf was properly worn. She has been a practicing Muslim ever since she was a teenager. Having all the required documents ready, She went to the municipality to apply for renewal which was supposed to be easy and quick process. When it was her turn at the desk, she quietly placed all the documents on the table. Everything seemed smooth until she handed her pictures to the municipality worker. The middle-aged man stared at the pictures on the table and told her that she has to provide a letter from a mosque stating that wearing headscarf was mandatory for her because of her religion. she was baffled. Having no idea how to respond or react to this shocking request, she quickly grabbed her documents and pictures and left the place. It was Dilek`s first time experiencing such Islamophobic behavior at a state office but institutional racism has been widespread in Germany in the recent years and Turks have been the biggest victim as they are the biggest ethnic group in the country.
“This is a violation of human rights. Choosing a certain religion or practicing its rules is a personal decision and a right. Asking for a letter from a mosque for a personal right is a violation of human rights,” said Dusseldorf-based lawyer Fatih Zingal. And he also warned that it was not a singular case but a wide-spread practice in Germany. Xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiments have been increasing not just in Germany but also in whole Europe. Although, ordinary German public may not be aware of the extent of the issue, institutional racism has become a serious problem in Germany , warns Zingal who also represents the victims of Solingen massacre in which 5 Turkish woman was murdered by far-right German man.
Atilla, who asked to be called only by his first name, left Turkey in 2002 right after one of the worst financial crisis Turkey has ever seen. He lost his business in one night after Turkish lira sank against the US Dollar and had little choice but to seek a new life in another country. Turkish economy looked grim and Atilla saw no hope for a recovery soon. His wife already having permanent residency in Germany, the family decided to move there for a better life. After working for a Turkish man for a few years, he started his own air conditioning business. “Business had been pretty good. I had been earning decent money. So I decided to buy a house but needed some loan from a bank. That is when I first experienced institutional racism in this country,” said Atilla. Despite having all the conditions ready, the bank gave him hard time not to provide the loan, he said. And when his daughter started high school, she was subjected to xenophobia according to Atilla. After having bad grades on her second year, her teacher wanted her to go to another high school which meant going down one step in German school system. Atilla said her kid had a right to stay in that school for at least another year, but the school prevented her from her right. “That is the common attitude you face if you are Turkish,” he added. German kids never experience such behavior, Atilla said. 46 years old blond-haired blue-eyed Turkish man did not want to provide his last name, fearing persecution from the state. “I have another girl in the same school, I am afraid she could face problems if I openly speak to the media,” he uttered. Atilla`s thoughts just show the fear climate in Germany for minorities who face racism in the hands of German state.
Mustafa Yasar `s kids faced the same problems in schools. 52 years old Kurdish taxi driver says his kids were also unfairly sent down to lower high schools. “Teachers can find any excuse they want to send the kids to lower schools and it always non-German kids.,” Mustafa says. And once a kid is sent to a lower high school, there is almost no chance to go back up or go to a college in German school system so the move takes away their future. In most cases, only the upper high school called Gymnasiums prepare kids for a higher education. “You can barely find German kids lower high schools. Is it statistically possible?” ask Mustafa to prove his point.
Perhaps the most striking example of institutional racism and discrimination is one of the most popular lawyers of Germany: Mehmet Daimaguler. Daimaguler`s life did not exactly start out as a success story. When he started high school back in 90s, he was placed in Hauptschule, a high school two levels under Gymnasium which prepares kids for higher education. But Daimaguler`s teacher wanted to send him down to Gesamptschule where kids with serious learning problems are sent. Luckily, his parents stood their ground against the school administrationas as opposed to many other Turkish parents. If Daimaguler was sent to Hauptschule, he would have never had the opportunity to went on to university. Even from Realschule, it is not easy to move up in the school system to have higher education. But Daimaguler broke chains and went to renown Harvard Law. He know represents the victims of NSU murders.
Germany as we know may come to an end if it does not stop discrimination and racism against its minority ethnic groups. People like Daimaguler may have enough one day and move to Turkey or other countries where they may find equal life. And according to education attache of Turkish consulate in cologne, hundreds of Turks have already been returning to Turkey provide their kids fair education and fair future.