Monday 26 Feb 2018 | 04:44 | SYDNEY
Monday 26 Feb 2018 | 04:44 | SYDNEY

What's Erdogan turking about?



7 March 2008 08:23

One of the arguments in my Lowy Institute Paper, World wide webs, is that homelands are reaching out to their emigrant populations. States as diverse as China, India and Morocco are redefining their emigrants and instituting policies aimed at engaging their diasporas, either to protect or exploit them. One of my case studies described the 2.5 million ethnic Turks residing in Germany, a community often patronized by Turkey’s urban elite as being wealthy but unsophisticated. But now many Turks are becoming aware – even proud – of the success some of their cousins are achieving in Germany, in football, the arts and business. Ankara, which has long provided religious services to the Turkish diaspora, no longer refers to ‘our workers abroad’ but ‘our citizens abroad’; it is stepping in to provide them with Turkish language instruction; it is convening meetings of Turkish-origin members of foreign parliaments.

Last month we saw important new evidence of this trend.  My interviewees had told me that the current AKP-led government in Ankara was more partial than its predecessors to the idea of Turkish emigrants integrating into their host countries. However, a visit to Germany a fortnight ago by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan left the opposite impression. Addressing a rally of Turks in Cologne just days after a fire in the German city of Ludwigshafen resulted in the deaths of nine Turks, Erdogan urged German-Turks not to lose their Turkish identity and called assimilation a ‘crime against humanity’. According to another newspaper, Erdogan peppered his speech with talk of ‘we Turks’ and ‘the Germans’.

Naturally the German Government was not too happy with this kind of language, and German commentators have linked the contretemps to the issue of Turkish accession to the EU. It’s a good example of how the tightening of diasporic connections can complicate the orderly processes of international relations.

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