Turks in Germany
|Estimates vary significantly |
The German census does not allow residents to declare their ethnicity. Hence, whilst the 2011 census states that 2.7 million German residents have at least one parent from Turkey, this may not be a true representation of the total ethnic Turkish population. In 1997 the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had already stated that there were 3 million Turks living in Germany.
4 million (2011 Embassy of Germany, Washington, D.C. estimate)
"Full or partial Turkish origin":
Estimates have varied between 2.5 million and 4 million. However, since the first decade of the twenty-first century, numerous academics suggest that there are "at least" 4 million or "more than" 4 million people of Turkish origin
or 5% of Germany's 82 million inhabitants (accounting to 4.1 million)
(some academics have also quoted the much higher estimates of European officials, suggesting as many as 7 million Turks living in Germany, including descendants)
(including Turkish-Kurds and other minorities from Turkey, but excluding the significant ethnic Turkish communities from the Balkans, Cyprus, and the Arab World):
5 million or "reaching" or "more than" 5 million to 5.6 million (including 1.6 million Turkish citizens and 4 million with at least one parent that was a Turkish immigrant)
|Regions with significant populations|
|German, Turkish |
|Mostly Islam and Christian minorities|
Turks in Germany, also referred to as German Turks and Turkish Germans (German: Türken in Deutschland / Deutsch-Türken; Turkish: Almanya'da yaşayan Türkler / Almanya Türkleri), are ethnic Turkish people living in Germany. These terms are also used to refer to German-born individuals who are of full or partial Turkish ancestry. Whilst the majority of Turks arrived or originate from Turkey, there are also significant ethnic Turkish communities living in Germany who come from (or descend from) Southeastern Europe (such as Greece, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania), Cyprus, and more recently as refugees from Syria and Iraq. Turkish people form the largest ethnic minority in Germany. They also form the second largest Turkish population in the world, after Turkey.
Turks who immigrated to Germany brought cultural elements with them, including the Turkish language and Islam. These cultural values are often passed down to their children and descendants, but Turkish Germans are also increasingly secular. Moreover, greater German society has also been exposed to Turkish culture, particularly in regards to Turkish food and the arts. These changes in Germany, as well as the recently introduced Germany nationality laws in 1990 and 1999, show that Turkish immigrants and second-, third-, and fourth-generation Turks are no longer merely seen as "foreigners" ("Ausländer") in Germany but rather permanent residents who are increasingly making their voices heard, whether it be in local and national politics, civic actions, religious organisations, or in cinema, literature, music, and sports.
Ottoman Turkish migration
Turkish people have been in contact with the German states since the sixteenth century when the Ottoman Empire attempted to expand their territories beyond the north Balkan territories. The Ottoman Turks held two sieges in Vienna: the first Siege of Vienna in 1529 and the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683. In particular, it was the aftermath of the second siege which provided the circumstances for a Turkish community to permanently settle in Germany.
Many Ottoman soldiers and camp followers who were left behind after the second siege of Vienna became stragglers or prisoners. It is estimated that at least 500 Turkish prisoners were forcibly settled in Germany. Historical records show that some Turks became traders or took up other professions, particularly in southern Germany. Some Turks fared very well in Germany; for example, one Ottoman Turk is recorded to have been raised to the Hanoverian nobility. Historical records also show that many Ottoman Turks converted to Christianity and became priests or pastors.
The aftermath of the second siege of Vienna led to a series of wars between the Ottoman Empire and the Holy League, known as the "Great Turkish War", or the "War of the Holy League", which led to a series of Ottoman defeats. Consequently, more Turks were taken by the Europeans as prisoners. The Turkish captives taken to Germany were not solely made up of men. For example, General Schöning took "two of the most beautiful women in the world" in Buda who later converted to Christianity. Another Turkish captive named Fatima became the mistress of Augustus II the Strong, Elector of Saxony of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin. Fatima and Augustus had two children: their son, Frederick Augustus Rutowsky, became the commander of the Saxon army in 1754-63 whilst their daughter, Maria Anna Katharina Rutowska, married into Polish nobility. Records show that at this point it was not uncommon for Turks in Germany to convert to Christianity. For example, records show that 28 Turks converted to Christianity and were settled in Württemberg.
With the establishment of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701, Turkish people continued to enter the German lands as soldiers employed by the Prussian kings. Historical records show that this was particularly evident with the expansion of Prussia in the mid-18th century. For example, in 1731, the Duke of Kurland presented twenty Turkish guardsmen to King Frederick William I, and at one time, about 1,000 Muslim soldiers are said to have served in the Prussian cavalry. The Prussian king's fascination with the Enlightenment was reflected in their consideration for the religious concerns of their Muslim troops. By 1740 Frederick the Great stated that:
"All religions are just as good as each other, as long as the people who practice them are honest, and even if Turks and heathens came and wanted to populate this country, then we would build mosques and temples for them".
By 1763, an Ottoman legation existed at the Prussian court in Berlin. Its third envoy, Ali Aziz Efendi, died in 1798 which led to the establishment of the first Muslim cemetery in Germany. However, several decades later, there was a need for another cemetery, as well as a mosque, and the Ottoman sultan Abdülaziz I was given permission to patronize a mosque in Berlin in 1866.
Once trading treaties were established between the Ottomans and the Prussians in the nineteenth century, Turks and Germans were encouraged to cross over to each other's lands for trade. Consequently, the Turkish community in Germany, and particularly in Berlin, grew significantly (as did a German community in Istanbul) in the years before the First World War. These contacts influenced the building of various Turkish-style structures in Germany, such as the Yenidze cigarette factory in Dresden and the Dampfmaschinenhaus für Sanssouci pumping-station in Potsdam.
Mainland Turkish migration
In the mid-twentieth century, West Germany experienced the Wirtschaftswunder ("economic miracle"); however, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 exacerbated West Germany’s labour crisis by restricting the flow of immigrants from East Germany. Consequently, in the same year, the West German government signed a labour recruitment agreement with the Republic of Turkey on 30 October 1961, and officially invited the Turkish people to emigrate to the country. By 1961–62, German employers played a crucial role in pressuring the State to end the two-year limitation clause of the "Gastarbeiter" ("guest worker") agreement so that Turkish workers could stay in West Germany for longer. Most Turkish people who immigrated to West Germany intended to live there temporarily and then return to Turkey so that they could build a new life with the money they had earned. Indeed, return-migration had increased during the recession of 1966-1967, the 1973 oil crisis, followed by the policy of giving remigration bonuses in the early 1980s. However, the number of Turkish migrants who returned to Turkey ultimately remained relatively small compared to the number of Turkish immigrants arriving in Germany. This was partly due to the family reunification rights that were introduced in 1974 which allowed Turkish workers to bring their families to Germany. Consequently, between 1974–88 the number of Turks in Germany nearly doubled, acquiring a normalised sex ratio and a much younger age profile than the German population. Moreover, once the recruitment of foreigner workers was reintroduced after the recession of 1967, the BfA (Bundesversicherungsanstalt für Angestellte) granted most work visas to women. This was in part because labour shortages continued in low paying, low-status service jobs such as electronics, textiles, and garment work; and in part to further the goal of family reunification.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the reunification of East and West Germany, was followed by intense public debate around the articulations of national identity and citizenship, including the place of Germany’s Turkish minority in the future of a united Germany. These debates about citizenship were accompanied by expressions of xenophobia and ethnic violence that targeted the Turkish population. Anti-immigrant sentiment was especially strong in the former eastern states of Germany, which underwent profound social and economic transformations during the reunification process. Turkish communities experienced considerable fear for their safety throughout Germany, with some 1,500 reported cases of right wing violence, and 2,200 cases the year after. The political rhetoric calling for foreigner-free zones (Ausländer-freie Zonen) and the rise of neo-Nazi groups sharpened public awareness of integration issues and generated intensified support among liberal Germans for the competing idea of Germany as a "multicultural" society. Citizenship laws that established eligibility according to place of birth rather than according to descent have been slow in coming and restrictions on dual citizenship are still onerous. However, increasing numbers of second-generation Turkish-Germans have opted for German citizenship and are becoming more involved in the political process.
Turkish migration from Southeastern Europe
Initially, some Bulgarian Turks arrived in Germany during the introduction of the family reunification laws of 1974. The Bulgarian Turks were able to take advantage of this law despite the very small number of Bulgarian citizens in Germany. This is because some Turkish workers in Germany who arrived from Turkey were actually part of the Bulgarian-Turkish minority who had left Bulgaria during the communist regime during the 1980s and still held Bulgarian citizenship, alongside their Turkish citizenship.
The migration of Bulgarian Turks to Germany increased further once communism in Bulgaria came to an end in 1989. Bulgarian Turks who were unable to join the massive migration wave to Turkey in 1989, during "big excursion", were faced with severe economic disadvantages and faced discrimination through State policies of Bulgarisation. Hence, from the early 1990s onwards many Bulgarian Turks sought asylum in Germany. Their numbers in Germany have significantly increased since Bulgaria was admitted into the European Union, which has allowed many Bulgarian Turks to use the freedom of movement to enter Germany. The Bulgarian Turks have generally been attracted to Germany because they rely on the well-established Turkish-German community for gaining employment.
According to the National Statistical Institute of Bulgaria, in general, Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin living abroad make up 12% of short term migration, 13% of long term migration, and 12% of the labour migration. However, Bulgarian citizens of Turkish origin often make up entire majorities in some countries in Europe. For example, in the Netherlands Bulgarian Turks make up about 80% of Bulgarian citizens. Moreover, academics have pointed out that most Bulgarian Turks who migrate to Western Europe choose to live in Germany and that they outnumber those living in the Netherlands.
From the 1950s onwards, the muslim minority of Greece, particularly the muslims of Western Thrace, began to immigrate to Germany alongside other Greek citizens. Whilst many muslims had intended to return to Greece after working for a number of years, a new Greek law was introduced which effectively forced the minority to remain in Germany. Article 19 of the 1955 Greek Constitution essentially stripped off the Western Thrace Turks living abroad (particularly those in Germany and Turkey) of their Greek citizenship. According to Article 19 of the Greek Constitution "A person of non-Greek ethnic origin leaving Greece without the intention of returning may be declared as having lost Greek nationality". Many Western Thrace muslims who did intend on returning to Greece were discriminated against and were refused the right to a hearing. Estimates of the number of Western Thrace muslims who lost their citizenship range between several hundred to several thousand.
The migration of Western Thrace muslims to Germany continued to increase in the 1960s and 1970s. This was because the Thracian tobacco industry was affected by a severe crisis and many tobacco growers lost their income. Consequently, between 25,000-40,000 Western Thrace muslims immigrated to Western Europe, of which 80% arrived in Germany - accounting to 20,000 to 32,000 immigrants. In 2013 Cemile Giousouf became the first Western Thrace muslim to become a member of the German parliament. Moreover, she was the first Muslim to be elected for the Christian Democratic Union of Germany.
Turkish migration from Cyprus
Turkish Cypriots began to emigrate from Cyprus to Western Europe, mostly to the United Kingdom but also a few to Germany, during the Cyprus conflict (1950s-1974) and its immediate aftermath. Today there is approximately 2,000 Turkish Cypriots living in Germany.
Turkish migration from the Arab world
Due to the numerous wars in Lebanon since the 1970s onwards, many Lebanese Turks have sought refuge in Turkey and Europe, particularly in Germany. Indeed, many Lebanese Turks were aware of the large Turkish-German population and saw this as an opportunity to find work once settling in Europe. In particular, the largest wave of Lebanese-Turkish migration occurred once the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006 began. During this period more than 20,000 Turks fled Lebanon, particularly from Beirut, and settled in Germany.
Syria and Iraq
Attacks against the Turkish community in Germany
The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, and the reunification of Germany, saw a sharp rise in violent attacks against Turkish-Germans. A series of arson attacks, bombings, and shootings have targeted the Turkish community in both public and private spaces, such as in their homes, cultural centres, and businesses. Consequently, many victims have been killed or severely injured by these attacks.
On 27 October 1991, Mete Ekşi (de), a 19-year-old student from Kreuzberg, was attacked by three neo-Nazi German brothers. Ekşi's funeral in November 1991 was attended by 5,000 people. Despite the mass outrage of Ekşi's death, the rise of xenophobia was still evident by the numerous right-wing riots that occurred in the country, particularly the Rostock-Lichtenhagen riots. A year after Ekşi's murder, on 22 November 1992, two Turkish girls, Ayşe Yılmaz and Yeliz Arslan, and their grandmother, Bahide Arslan, were killed in an arson attack by two neo-Nazis in their home in Mölln.
On 9 March 1993, Mustafa Demiral (de), aged 56, was attacked by two neo-Nazis whilst waiting at a bus stop in Mülheim. One of the attackers pointed a gun at the victim and pulled the trigger several times but no shot went off; nonetheless, Demiral suffered a heart-attack and died at the scene of the crime. Two months later, on 28 May 1993, four neo-Nazi German men set fire to the house of a Turkish family in Solingen. Three girls and two women died and 14 other members of the extended family were severely injured in the attack. The German Chancellor Helmut Kohl did not attend the memorial services.
Neo-Nazi attacks continued throughout the 1990s. For example, on 18 February 1994, the Bayram family were attacked on their doorstep by a neo-Nazi neighbour in Darmstadt. The attack was not well publicised until one of the victims, Aslı Bayram, was crowned Miss Germany in 2005. The armed neo-Nazi neighbour shot Aslı on her left arm and then the attacker shot Aslı's father, Ali Bayram, who died from the gunshot.
Racist violence persisted through to the twenty-first century. Between 2000 and 2006 several Turkish shopkeepers were attacked in numerous cities in Germany. The attacks were popularly called the "Bosphorus serial murders" (Bosporus-Morde) or the "Döner murders" (Dönermorde) - which saw eight Turkish and one Greek person killed. Initially, the German media suspected that Turkish gangs were behind these murders. However, by 2011 it came to light that the perpetrators were in fact the neo-Nazi group the National Socialist Underground. Moreover, this neo-Nazi group were also responsible for the June 2004 Cologne bombing which resulted in 22 Turkish people being injured.
By 3 February 2008, nine Turkish people, including five children, died in a blaze in Ludwigshafen. The cause of the fire was said to have been an electrical fault; however, the German police found neo-Nazi graffiti at the scene of a fire at the Turkish Cultural Centre which was home to the two families living there. The Chancellor Angela Merkel was criticised for not attending a demonstration held in memory of the victims by 16,000 people.
Not all attacks on Turks have been perpetrated by neo-Nazi right-wing Germans. For example, the perpetrator of a mass shooting in Munich on 22 July 2016 who deliberately targeted people of Turkish and Arab origin. On that day, he killed nine victims, of which four victims were of Turkish origin: Can Leyla, aged 14, Selçuk Kılıç, aged 17, and Sevda Dağ, aged 45; as well as Hüseyin Dayıcık, aged 19, who was a Greek national of Turkish origin.
On 19 February 2020, a German neo-nazi who expressed hate for non-German people, carried out two mass shootings in the city of Hanau, killing nine foreigners. He then returned to his home, killed his mother and committed suicide. Five of the nine victims were Turkish citizens.
In 2014, the annual report into organized crime, presented in Berlin by interior minister Thomas de Maizière, showed that there were 57 Turkish gangs in Germany. In 2016, the Die Welt and Bild reported that new Turkish motorbike gang, the Osmanien Germania is growing rapidly. The Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper claimed that the Osmanien Germania is advancing more and more into red-light districts, which increases the likelihood of a bloody territorial battle with established gangs like the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
Although 1.55 million people in Germany hold Turkish citizenship, this figure is not a true representation of the total Turkish population. This is because the German state does not categorise immigrants, or their descendants, in terms of ethnicity. Consequently, ethnic Turks who have German citizenship are categorised as "German" rather than "Turkish". Similarly, those with Turkish citizenship are categorised as "Turkish" irrespective of their ethnicity. Hence, ethnic minorities from Turkey who have also immigrated to Germany are not distinguished as a separate group, according to their ethnicities. Furthermore, the significant number of ethnic Turkish communities who have arrived in Germany from the Balkans, Cyprus, and the Arab World are recorded according to their citizenship, such as "Bulgarian", "Cypriot", "Greek", "Iraqi", "Lebanese" "Macedonian", "Romanian", "Syrian" etc. rather than by their Turkish ethnicity. Whilst these ethnic Turkish communities have different nationalities, they share the same ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious origins as mainland ethnic Turks.
Estimates of the total Turkish population in Germany, including those of partial descent, have ranged considerably because the German census does not collect data on ethnicity. Academic estimates have often ranged between 2.5 and 4 million. However, since the first decade of the twenty-first century, numerous academics have suggested that there are 4 million people, or "at least" or "more than" 4 million people, of full or partial Turkish origin in the country, or forming 5% of Germany's total population of 82 million inhabitants (which accounts to 4.1 million). In addition, several academics have also distinguished the "Turkey-related population", which includes ethnic minorities from Turkey but does not include the significant populations of ethnic Turkish communities from the Balkans, Cyprus and the Arab world. Estimates suggest that the total number of people living in Germany who originate from Turkey only (including ethnic minorities from Turkey, particularly the Kurds) reaches, or is more than, five million people to 5.6 million people.
Austrian scholar Tessa Szyszkowitz has quoted a European official who has claimed that: "It is a little late to start the debate about being an immigrant country now, when already seven million Turks live in Germany".
The Turkish community in Germany is concentrated predominantly in urban centers. The vast majority are found in the former West Germany, particularly in industrial regions such as the states of North Rhine-Westphalia (where a third of Turkish Germans live), and Baden-Württemberg and the working-class neighbourhoods of cities like Berlin (especially in Neukölln), Hamburg, Bremen, Cologne, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Mannheim, Mainz, Nuremberg, Munich, and Stuttgart. Among the German districts in 2011 Duisburg, Gelsenkirchen, Heilbronn, Herne, North Rhine-Westphalia and Ludwigshafen had the highest shares of migrants from Turkey according to census data.
In regards to return-migration, many Turkish nationals and Turkish Germans have also migrated from Germany to Turkey, for retirement or professional reasons. Official German records show that there are 2.8 million "returnees"; however, the German Embassy in Ankara estimates the true number to be four million, acknowledging the differences in German official data and the realities of the under-reporting by migrants.
For decades Turkish citizens in Germany were unable to become German citizens because of the traditional German construct of "nationhood". The legal notion of citizenship was based on "blood ties" of a German parent (jus sanguinis) – as opposed to citizenship based on country of birth and residence (jus soli). This adhered to the political notion that Germany was not a country of immigration. For this reason, only those who were of partial Turkish origin (and had one parent who was ethnically German) could obtain German citizenship.
In 1990 Germany's citizenship law was somewhat relaxed with the introduction of the Foreigner's Law; this gave Turkish workers the right to apply for a permanent residency permit after eight years of living in the country. In regards to people of Turkish origin born in Germany, who were also legally "foreign", they were given the right to acquire German citizenship at the age of eighteen, provided that they gave up their Turkish citizenship. Hence, they were deprived of the right to hold dual citizenship because it would increase the Turkish population in the country. Chancellor Helmut Kohl officially stated this as the main reason for denying dual citizenship in 1997 when he said the following:
Nonetheless, another citizenship reform law was soon introduced after Helmut Kohl finished his last term as Chancellor. The Citizenship Law of 1999, which was officially taken into effect on 1 January 2000, has facilitated the acquisition of German citizenship for people born outside of Germany, making it available to Turkish immigrants after eight years of legal residence in the country. The law’s most innovative provision granted dual citizenship to Turkish-origin children born in Germany; however, this right to dual citizenship ends at age 23 and the bearers must decide whether to keep their German citizenship or the citizenship of their parent’s country of birth.
Former Turkish citizens who have given up their citizenship can apply for the "Blue Card" (Mavi Kart), which gives them some rights in Turkey, such as the right to live and work in Turkey, the right to possess and inherit land or the right to inherit; however, they do not have the right to vote.
It has been criticized that there is a media and political bias against Turkish Germans compared to Kurds in Germany, for example, when pro-Erdogan Turkish-Germans demonstrate the media and many politicians warn against these demonstrations, but the same media and politicians remain silent about the many regular pro-PKK Kurdish demonstrations.
In 1985 the German journalist Günter Wallraff shocked the German public with his internationally successful book Ganz unten ("In the Pits" or "Way Down") in which he reported the discrimination faced by Turkish people in German society. He disguised himself as a Turkish worker called "Ali Levent" for over two years and took on minimal-wage jobs and confronted German institutions. He found that many employers did not register or insure their Turkish workers. Moreover, major employers like Thyssen did not give their Turkish workers adequate breaks and did not pay them their full wage.
Nevertheless, there is the 1993 Solingen arson attack. On the night which tied 28–29 May 1993 in Solingen in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, four Germans knowingly set a house on fire in order to burn the Turkish family inside. Four people were burnt alive in their homes and fourteen more critically injured. After the events, although solidarity from some German groups were seen, the violence and discrimination continued.
It has been, and still is, also reported that Turkish-Germans were being discriminated against at school from early age and in workplaces. It has also been found that teachers discriminate on non German sounding names and tend to give worse grades just based on names. The studies showed that even though a student might have had the exact number of right and wrong answers, or the exact paper, the teachers favour German names. This creates a vicious cycle where teachers favour German descent students over non Germans, including Turkish students, which result in worse education, which later results in Turkish people not being able to take what is deemed to be "higher skill jobs", which nonetheless deepens the cracks in the cycle.
The Turkish people who immigrated to Germany brought their culture with them, including their language, religion, food, and arts. These cultural traditions have also been passed down to their descendants who maintain these values. Consequently, Turkish Germans have also exposed their culture to the greater German society. This is particularly noticeable in the developing landscape of the country, with numerous Turkish restaurants, grocery stores, teahouses, and mosques scattered across Germany. Moreover, the Turks in Germany have also been exposed to the German culture - as is evident on the influence it has played in the Turkish dialect spoken by the Turkish community in Germany.
Turkish cuisine first arrived in Germany during the sixteenth century and was consumed among aristocratic circles. However, Turkish food became available to the greater German society from the mid-twentieth century onwards with the arrival of Turkish immigrants. By the early 1970s Turks began to open fast-food restaurants serving popular kebap dishes. Today there are Turkish restaurants scattered throughout the country selling popular dishes like döner kebap in take-away stalls to more authentic domestic foods in family-run restaurants. Moreover, since the 1970s, Turks have opened grocery stores and open-air markets where they sell ingredients suitable for Turkish home-cooking, such as spices, fruits, and vegetables.
Turkish is the second most spoken language in Germany, after German. It was brought to the country by Turkish immigrants who spoke it as their first language. These immigrants mainly learned German through employment, mass media, and social settings, and it has now become a second language for many of them. Nonetheless, most Turkish immigrants have passed down their mother tongue to their children and descendants. In general, Turkish Germans become bilingual at an early age, learning Turkish at home and German in state schools; thereafter, a dialectal variety often remains in their repertoire of both languages.
Turkish Germans mainly speak the German language more fluently than their "domestic"-style Turkish language. Consequently, they often speak the Turkish language with a German accent or a modelled German dialect. It is also common within the community to modify the Turkish language by adding German grammatical and syntactical structures. Parents generally encourage their children to improve their Turkish language skills further by attending private Turkish classes or choosing Turkish as a subject at school. In some states of Germany the Turkish language has even been approved as a subject to be studied for the Abitur.
Turkish has also been influential in greater German society. For example, advertisements and banners in public spaces can be found written in Turkish. Hence, it is also familiar to other ethnic groups - it can even serve as a vernacular for some non-Turkish children and adolescents in urban neighborhoods with dominant Turkish communities.
It is also common within the Turkish community to code-switch between the German and Turkish languages. By the early 1990s a new sociolect called "Kanak Sprak" or "Türkendeutsch" was coined by the Turkish-German author Feridun Zaimoğlu to refer to the German "ghetto" dialect spoken by the Turkish youth. However, with the developing formation of a Turkish middle class in Germany, there is an increasing number of people of Turkish-origin who are proficient in using the standard German language, particularly in academia and the arts.
The Turkish people in Germany are predominantly Muslim and form the largest ethnic group which practices Islam in Germany. Since the 1960s, "Turkish" was seen as synonymous with "Muslim", this is because Islam is considered to have a "Turkish character" in Germany. This Turkish character is particularly evident in the Ottoman/Turkish-style architecture of many mosques scattered across Germany. Approximately 2,000 of Germany's 3,000 mosques are Turkish, of which 900 are financed by the Diyanet İşleri Türk-İslam Birliği, an arm of the Turkish government, and the remainder by other political Turkish groups. According to the 2011 Census, a majority (53.5%) of people of Turkish descent in Lower Saxony were religiously unaffiliated, 1.3% were Christian and 44.9% belonged to another religion (mainly Islam). The Turkish community in Lower Saxony numbered 90,014 in 2014.
The first phase in Turkish-German Cinema began in the 1970s and lasted through to the 1980s; it involved writers placing much of their attention on story-lines that represented the living and working conditions of the Turkish immigrant workers in Germany. By the 1990s a second phase shifted towards focusing more on mass entertainment and involved the work of Turkish and German-born Turkish German filmmakers. Critical engagements in story-telling increased further by the turn of the twenty-first century. Numerous films of the 1990s onwards launched the careers of many film directors, writers, and actors and actresses.
Fatih Akin's films, which often examine the place of the Turkish diaspora in Germany, have won numerous awards and have launched the careers of many of its cast including Short Sharp Shock (1998) starring Mehmet Kurtuluş and İdil Üner; Head-On (2004) starring Birol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli; Kebab Connection (2004) starring Denis Moschitto; The Edge of Heaven (2007) starring Baki Davrak; and Soul Kitchen (2009) starring Birol Ünel.
Other notable films which have a transnational context include Feridun Zaimoğlu's book-turned-film Kanak Attack (2000); Kerim Pamuk's (de) Süperseks (2004); and Özgür Yıldırım's (de) Chiko (2008). Several Turkish-German comedy films have also intentionally used comical stereotypes to encourage its viewers to question their preconceived ideas of "the Other", such as Züli Aladağ's (de) film 300 Worte Deutsch ("300 words of German", 2013), starring Almila Bagriacik, Arzu Bazman (de), Aykut Kayacık, and Vedat Erincin. Similarly, other recent Turkish-German comedies like Meine verrückte türkische Hochzeit ("My Crazy Turkish Wedding", 2006), starring Hilmi Sözer, Ercan Özçelik, Aykut Kayacık, and Özay Fecht, and the film Evet, ich will! ("Evet, I do!", 2009), starring numerous Turkish-German actors such as Demir Gökgöl, Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Erden Alkan, Gandi Mukli, Hülya Duyar, Jale Arıkan, Lilay Huser, Meral Perin, Mürtüz Yolcu, Sema Meray, and Sinan Akkuş, have emphasised how the Turkish and German cultures come together in contemporary German society. By focusing on similarities and differences of the two cultures using comedy, these films have shifted from the earlier Turkish-German drama films of the 1980s which focused on culture clashes; in its place, these films have celebrated integration and interethnic romance.
By 2011 Yasemin Şamdereli and Nesrin Şamdereli's comedy film Almanya: Welcome to Germany, starring Aylin Tezel and Fahri Yardım, premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was attended by the German President and the Turkish Ambassador to celebrate fifty years since the mass migration of Turkish workers to Germany. Indeed, stories confronting Turkish labour migration, and debates about integration, multiculturalism, and identity, are reoccurring themes in Turkish-German cinema.
Nonetheless, not all films directed, produced or written by Turkish Germans are necessarily about the "Turkish-experience" in Germany. Several Turkish Germans have been involved in other genres, such as Bülent Akinci who directed the German drama Running on Empty (2006), Mennan Yapo who has directed the American supernatural thriller Premonition (2007), and Thomas Arslan (de) who directed the German Western film Gold (2013).
In the first decade of the twenty-first century several German television series in which the experience of Turkish-Germans as a major theme gained popularity in Germany and in some cases gained popularity abroad too. For example, Sinan Toprak ist der Unbestechliche ("Sinan Toprak is the Incorruptible", 2001-2002) and Mordkommission Istanbul ("Murder Squad Istanbul", 2008–present) which both star Erol Sander. In 2005 Tevfik Başer's book Zwischen Gott und Erde ("Time of Wishes") was turned into a primetime TV German movie starring Erhan Emre, Lale Yavaş, Tim Seyfi, and Hilmi Sözer, and won the prestigious Adolf Grimme Prize. Another popular Turkish-German TV series was Alle lieben Jimmy ("Everybody Loves Jimmy", 2006-2007) starring Eralp Uzun (de) and Gülcan Kamps. Due to the success of Alle lieben Jimmy, it was made into a Turkish series called Cemil oldu Jimmy - making it the first German series to be exported to Turkey.
By 2006 the award-winning German television comedy-drama series Türkisch für Anfänger ("Turkish for Beginners", 2006-2009) became one of the most popular shows in Germany. The critically acclaimed series was also shown in more than 70 other countries. Created by Bora Dağtekin, the plot is based on interethnic-relations between German and Turkish people. Adnan Maral plays the role of a widower of two children who marries an ethnic German mother of two children - forming the Öztürk-Schneider family. The comedy consisted of fifty-two episodes and three seasons. By 2012 Türkisch für Anfänger was made into a feature film (de); it was the most successful German film of the year with an audience of 2.5 million.
Other notable Turkish-origin actors on German television include Erdoğan Atalay, Erkan Gündüz (de), İsmail Deniz (de), Olgu Caglar, Özgür Özata, Taner Sahintürk (de), and Timur Ülker (de).
Many Turkish Germans have also starred in numerous critically acclaimed Turkish drama series. For example, numerous actors and actresses in Muhteşem Yüzyıl were born in Germany, including Meryem Uzerli, Nur Fettahoğlu, Selma Ergeç, and Ozan Güven. Other popular Turkish-German performers in Turkey include Fahriye Evcen who has starred in Yaprak Dökümü and Kurt Seyit ve Şura.
One of the first comedians of Turkish-origin to begin a career as a mainstream comedian is Django Asül who began his career in satire in the 1990s. Another very successful comedian is Bülent Ceylan who performed his first solo show "Doner for one" in 2002. By 2011 the broadcasting agency RTL aired Ceylan's own comedy show The Bulent Ceylan Show. Other notable comedians include Fatih Çevikkollu (de), Murat Topal (de), Serdar Somuncu (de), Kaya Yanar, and female comedian Idil Baydar (de).
Since the 1960s Turkish people in Germany have produced a range of literature. Their work became widely available from the late 1970s onwards, when Turkish-origin writers began to gain sponsorships by German institutions and major publishing houses. Some of the most notable writers of Turkish origin in Germany include Akif Pirinçci, Alev Tekinay (de), Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Feridun Zaimoğlu, Necla Kelek, Renan Demirkan, Zafer Senocak (de). These writers approach a broad range of historical, social and political issues, such as identity, gender, racism, and language. In particular, German audiences have often been captivated by Oriental depictions of the Turkish community.
In the mid-twentieth century the Turkish immigrant community in Germany mostly followed the music industry in Turkey, particularly pop music and Turkish folk music. Hence, the Turkish music industry became very profitable in Germany. By the 1970s, the "arabesque" genre erupted in Turkey and became particularly popular among Turks in Germany. These songs were often played and sang by the Turkish community in Germany in coffee houses and taverns that replicated those in Turkey. These spaces also provided the first stage for semi-professional and professional musicians. Consequently, by the end of the 1960s, some Turks in Germany began to produce their own music, such as Metin Türköz (de) who took up themes of the Turkish immigration journey and their working conditions.
By the 1990s the Turkish Germans became more influential in the music industry in both Germany and Turkey. In general, many Turkish Germans were brought up listening to Turkish pop music, which greatly influenced the music they began to produce. They were also influenced by hip-hop music and rap music.
Moreover, since the 1990s, the Turkish-German music scene has developed creative and successful new styles, such as "Oriental pop and rap" and "R'n'Besk" - a fusion of Turkish arabesque songs and R&B music. Examples of Oriental-pop and rap emerged in the early 2000s with Bassturk’s first single "Yana Yana" ("Side by Side"). The "R'n'Besk"-style gained popularity in Germany with Muhabbet's 2005 single "Sie liegt in meinen Armen" ("She lies in my Arms"). By 2007 Muhabbet released the song "Deutschland" ("Germany"); the lyrics appeal to Germans to finally accept the Turkish immigrants living in the country.
In 2015 several Turkish-German musicians released the song "Sen de bizdensin" ("You are one of us"). The vocalists included Eko Fresh, Elif Batman, Mehtab Guitar, Özlem Özdil (de), and Volkan Baydar (de); moreover, Dergin Tokmak (de), Ercandize, Serdar Bogatekin, and Zafer Kurus were also involved in the production. The song was used in a campaign to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ay Yildiz telephone network and was extensively broadcast on TV and radio. Thereafter, a competition and group was formed called "Die Stimme einer neuen Ära/Yeni neslin sesi" ("The voice of the new generation") to find new Turkish-German talent and "Sen de bizdensin" was re-released with different lyrics.
Several Turkish-origin singers born in Germany have also launched their careers in Turkey, such as Akın Eldes, Aylin Aslım, Doğuş (tr), İsmail YK, Ozan Musluoğlu, Pamela Spence, and Tarkan. The German-born Turkish Cypriot pianist Rüya Taner has also launched her career in Turkey.
Especially in the 1990s, Turkish-German rap groups have sold hundreds of thousands of albums and singles in Turkey, telling their stories of integration and assimilation struggles they experienced due to discrimination they faced during their upbringing in Germany.
Since the 2000s, many German rappers of Turkish descent achieved great success in Germany. Between May 2018 and October 2019 seven various German rap artist with roots in Turkey reached Nr. 1 of the German single charts: Mero (5x), Ufo361 (2x), Eno (2x), Summer Cem, KC Rebell, Gringo & Apache 207.
Many football players of Turkish origin in Germany have been successful in first-division German and Turkish football clubs, as well as other European clubs. However, in regards to playing for national teams, many players of Turkish origin who were born in Germany have chosen to play for the Turkish national football team. This is partly due to Germany's strict rules on dual citizenship which forces German-Turks to choose whether to have German or Turkish citizenship by the age of 23 (in accordance with the German Citizenship Law of 1999). Nonetheless, in recent years there has been an increase in the number of players choosing to represent Germany.
Those who have chosen to retain their Turkish citizenship and who have competed for Turkey include Cenk Tosun, Ceyhun Gülselam, Gökhan Töre, Hakan Balta, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Halil Altıntop, Hamit Altıntop, İlhan Mansız, Nuri Şahin, Ogün Temizkanoğlu, Olcay Şahan, Mehmet Ekici, Serhat Akin, Tayfun Korkut, Tayfur Havutçu, Tunay Torun, Ümit Davala, Umit Karan, Volkan Arslan, Yıldıray Baştürk, Yunus Mallı, Kaan Ayhan, Kenan Karaman, Nazim Sangaré, Güven Yalçın, Berkay Özcan and Hasan Ali Kaldırım.
The person of Turkish descent to play for the Germany national football team was Mehmet Scholl in 1993, followed by Mustafa Doğan in 1999 and Malik Fathi in 2006. Since the twenty-first century there has been an increase in German-born individuals of Turkish origin opting to play for Germany, including Emre Can, Kerem Demirbay, İlkay Gündoğan, Mesut Özil, Serdar Tasci  and Suat Serdar.
In regards to women's football, several players have chosen to play for the Turkish women's national football team, including Aylin Yaren, Aycan Yanaç, Melike Pekel, Dilan Ağgül, Selin Dişli, Arzu Karabulut, Ecem Cumert, Fatma Kara, Fatma Işık, Ebru Uzungüney and Feride Bakır.
Turkish-German Football clubs
The Turkish community in Germany has also been active in establishing their own football clubs such as Berlin Türkspor 1965 (established in 1965) and Türkiyemspor Berlin (established in 1978). Türkiyemspor Berlin were the Champions in the Berlin-Liga in the year 2000. Moreover, they were the winners of the Berliner Landespokal in 1988, 1990, and 1991.
The Turks in Germany began to be active in politics by establishing associations and federations in the 1960s and 1970s – though these were mainly based on Turkish politics rather than German politics. The first significant step towards active German politics occurred in 1987 when Sevim Çelebi became the first person of Turkish origin to be elected as an MP in the West Berlin Parliament.
With the reunification of East Germany and West Germany, unemployment in the country had increased and some political parties, particularly the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), used anti-immigration discourses as a political tool in their campaigns. To counter this, many people of Turkish origin became more politically active and began to work in local elections and in the young branches of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party. Several associations were founded by almost all German parties to organise meetings for Turkish voters. This played an important gateway for those who aspired to become politicians.
In 1994 Leyla Onur (de) from the SPD and Cem Özdemir from the Green Party became MPs in the Federal Parliament. They were both re-elected in the 1998 elections and were joined by Ekin Deligöz from the Green party. Deligöz and Özdemir were both re-elected as MPs for the Greens and Lale Akgün was elected as an MP for the SPD in the 2002 elections. Thereafter, Deligöz and Akgün were successful in being re-elected in the 2005 elections; the two female politicians were joined by Hakkı Keskin who was elected as an MP for the Left Party.
By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the number of German MPs of Turkish origin remained similar to the previous elections. In the 2009 elections Ekin Deligöz and Mehmet Kılıç were elected for the Greens, Aydan Özoğuz for the SPD, and Serkan Tören (de) for the FDP. Nonetheless, several Turkish-origin politicians were successful in becoming Ministers and co-Charis of political parties. For example, in 2008 Cem Özdemir became the co-chair of the Green Party. In 2010 Aygül Özkan was appointed as the Women, Family, Health and Integration Minister, making her the first ever minister of Turkish origin or the Muslim faith. In the same year, Aydan Özoğuz was elected as deputy chairperson of the SPD party. Moreover, by 2011, Bilkay Öney (de) from the SPD was appointed as Integration Minister in the Baden-Württemberg State.
Since the 2013 German elections, Turkish-origin MPs have been elected into Federal Parliament from four different parties. Cemile Giousouf, whose parents immigrated from Greece, became the first person of Western Thracian Turkish-origin to become an MP. Moreover, Giousouf became notable for being the first ever Turkish-origin and first ever Muslim to be elected as an MP from the CDU party. Five MPs of Turkish-origin were elected from the SPD party including Aydan Özoğuz, Cansel Kızıltepe (de), Gülistan Yüksel (de), Metin Hakverdi (de) and Mahmut Özdemir. Özdemir is particularly notable for being the youngest MP in the German Parliament. For the Green Party, Cem Özdemir, Ekin Deligöz and Özcan Mutlu were elected as MPs, and Azize Tank (de) for the Left Party.
In 1989 Leyla Onur (de) from the SPD party was the first person of Turkish-origin to be a member of the European Parliament for Germany. By 2004 Cem Özdemir and Vural Öger also became members of the European Parliament. Since then, Ismail Ertug was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2009 and was re-elected in 2014.
Turkish-German political parties
On 26 June 2016, the "Allianz Deutscher Demokraten" ("Alliance of German Democrats") was founded as the first Turkish-German political party by Remzi Aru. The name of the party was officially announced at 14:53pm.
Some Turks born or raised in Germany have entered Turkish politics. For example, Siegen-born, Justice and Development Party (AKP) affiliated Akif Çağatay Kılıç has been the Minister of Youth and Sports of Turkey since 2013. Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) affiliated Feleknas Uca is a Yazidi politician active in Germany and Turkey, where she is a member of parliament. Leyla İmret was raised in Bremen and in 2014 was elected mayor of Cizre.
Germany is effectively Turkey's 4th largest electoral district. Around a third of this constituency vote in Turkish elections (570,000 in the 2015 parliamentary elections), and the share of Islamist votes for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is even higher than in Turkey itself. Following the 2016 Turkish coup d'état attempt, huge pro-Erdogan demonstrations were held by Turkish citizens in German cities. The Economist suggested that this would make it difficult for Germany politicians to criticize Erdogan's policies and tactics. However, equally huge demonstrations by Turkish Kurds were also held in Germany some weeks later against Erdogan's 2016 Turkish purges and against the detention the HDP party co-chairpersons Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ in Turkey.
- List of German people of Turkish descent
- Turks in Berlin
- Turks in Europe
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With a population of roughly 4 million within Germany's borders, Turks make up Germany's largest minority demographic.
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Turks are by far the largest minority group, with 2.5 to 4 million residents of Germany having full or partly Turkish ancestry.
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In Germany today about three to four million Turks, about 5 percent of the total population, reside.
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Today, more than 4 million people of Turkish origin are living in Germany.
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...at least 4 million people of Turkish descent living in Germany.
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By 2010 the number of Turkish descent living in Germany had increased to four million.
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By the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century there were around four million people of Turkish descent living in Germany...
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Today, for example, it is estimated that more than four million Turks and German citizens with part of full Turkish ancestry live in Germany alone.
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Nearly fifty years later, close to four million Turks and their children continue to reside in the margins of German society
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...about four million Turks are thought to live in Germany.
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By 2012 over 4 million people, around 5% of the German population, were of Turkish descent.
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Approximately four million people with Turkish roots are living in Germany at this time .
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Today, there are nearly four million people with Turkish ancestry in Germany, which makes them the largest minority in Germany (5 percent of 82 million people).
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A Senior European official in Brussels...remarking..."It is a little late to start the debate about being an immigrant country now, when already seven million Turks live in Germany".
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Today, with the numbers reaching nearly five million, Germany accommodates the largest Turkey-related population by far in comparison to any other country.
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Demographic data on religious and ethnic backgrounds is difficult to gather as much of the data collection in Germany is based on nationality by country rather than ethnic group or religion...General consensus, however, suggests that Germany has 82 million residents...of which more than 5 million are considered to be Turkish origin. Many Turks and Kurds came to West Germany between the 1950s and 1970s...
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Approximately 1.6 million Turkish immigrants live in Germany, and another 4 million people have at least one parent that was a Turkish immigrant [totalling 5.6 million].
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