Don’t question the loyalty of ethnic citizens
2018-06-15 13:56:40 -
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  Photo Source: 101 GrapeGoals
 
  This column may be about soccer stars, but I’m going to buck the trend and ignore the World Cup. Far more important than that tournament in Russia, there will be a presidential election in Turkey on 24 June, followed by a parliamentary election and possibly a second round at the presidential polls two weeks later.
 
  What do soccer stars have to do with Turkish politics? One might well ask Mesut Özil and İlkay Gündoğan, German internationals with Turkish roots who also play for Arsenal and Manchester City respectively, who recently appeared in photos with the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. German-born Cenk Tosun, who plays for Everton and the Turkish national team, also appeared in the pictures, in which they presented Erdoğan with  signed team shirts.
 
  There was no surprise to see Germans with Turkish heritage pictured with Erdoğan. About 63 per cent of Turkish nationals who live in Germany voted in last year’s referendum in favour of Erdoğan’s proposal to transfer more power from the parliament to the president’s office, despite opposition from German and other western politicians.
 
  Without bothering themselves to understand the reasons behind Erdoğan’s popularity, German politicians – including Chancellor Angela Merkel – were quick to criticise their soccer stars. Özil and Gündoğan had to explain themselves to German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier and clarify that although Turkey is important as the homeland of their parents, Germany is the country which they represent. Some voices of the extreme right called for the two players to be excluded from in the national team for their action.
 
  Some wisdom, however, came from sporting corners. Germany’s national team manager Joachim Löw said that sometimes people with migrant backgrounds have two hearts beating in their chest. He also said he will not hesitate to include the two players in his World Cup team.
 
  Clearly one can have issues with the Turkish leader, who is democratically elected but exhibits some despotic tendencies. But this does not extend to questioning the loyalty of German citizens like Özil and Gündoğan, which only plays into the hands of the far right. 
 
  It is also time for some western politicians to stop acting like dictators themselves by patronising minorities as if they are unable to think for themselves, and if they go against what westerners deem acceptable then they are incapable of making the right decision.
 
  Instead of patronising, perhaps German leaders need to ask why Erdoğan is more popular among German Turks than in Turkey itself. They might find some answers in their outdated citizenship law that requires the children of non-EU nationals to choose between Germany and their parents’ country of origin.
 
  Germany’s strong objection to Turkey becoming a member of the EU might provide more answers. After all, Merkel is content to have Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán in the EU despite the fact that he is openly racist, authoritarian and is subject to criticism of the UN and other organisations over human rights issues. Orbán also benefits from EU money in order to consolidate his grip on power.
 
  It was Merkel herself who shook hands with Özil after he scored for Germany in 3-0 victory against Turkey in 2010, and used that as an example of integration. It is wrong from her to use him now in a way that questions the loyalty of German citizens of Turkish origin, who contributed to rebuild Germany after the Second World War and made it what it is now, simply to score points against Erdoğan.
 
Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.
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