Germany losing ‘its own’ Turks to Erdogan
Germany is immersed in heavy discussions on the star player of Turkish origin Mesut Ozil’s shocking retirement from the national football team. Ozil who used to be an example of successful integration as he was born and raised in Germany has found himself under heavy criticism after posting a photo with President of Turkey Recep Erdogan.
Everyone and his brother were bullying Ozil – the whole political spectrum of democratic Germany. The Green headed by Cem Ozdemir, The Left, the far rightists from Alternative for Germany, the conservatives from CDU, the social democrats, the liberals joined the condemning campaign. It was Mesut Ozil who was praised by the media in 2014 when he, the Muslim, standing topless in a locker-room of the national team after the World Cup final, easily shook hand of female chancellor Angela Merkel. In 2014, he was an example of successful integration and a holder of European values. He was ‘a good Turk’ – almost a true German. Moreover, he was the world champion. Finally, when the topic was discussed far and wide and Ozil met President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the problem of the Erdogan photo seemed to be fixed.
That’s how it had to be finished and the whole matter had to be put to rest if Germany didn’t fail in the World Cup in Russia. After losing to not very strong teams of Mexico and South Korea and being knocked out at the group stage, Germans started to seek for a whipping boy. Suddenly, the German public disappointed with the worst performance of their national team ever came across Mesut Ozil who still said no word about the ill-fated photo. That’s him! He destroyed the team spirit. He is a trouble maker for the national team, a poorly integrated migrant – ‘a bad Turk.’ Further events were developing according to the scenario described by Albert Einstein: “If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.” This time ‘a Jew’ is Turk Ozil.
The German media which are famous for their dislike of the Turkish leader competed to each other in hurting the faltered player all together. As one person, they demanded Mesut Ozil to explain himself to the society – by what right did he dare posting a photo with the Turkish leader? They also recall that ‘the scrappy Turk’ doesn’t sing Germany’s anthem and prefers praying to singing – according to him, ahead of each game, he asks Allah to let nobody get injured and the team win. However, people rarely remember that none of players of the national team that won the World Cup in 1974 sang the anthem and a half of the population don’t know its words correctly even today.
The unhealthy character of the whole situation is demonstrated by a tweet addressed to the football player by Werner Steer, the Chief of German Theatre (!): “You’re an idiot! You don’t belong to the national team!” The cultural worker, theatre-lover Steer told Ozil to “piss off to Anatolia.” The player who occasionally snapped at the most outrageous assaults continued keeping silent about the reason for posting the photo with President Erdogan, enraging the critics more and more. Finally, Reinhard Grindel, the Head of the German Football Federation, the former Bundestag member who is well-known for his far right anti-Islamic views, demanded explanations (i.e. excuses) from the player in public.
A lot has been written, including articles by Vestnik Kavkaza, about an attitude of the German media, the political elite, and common citizens toward President of Turkey. Relationships between Erdogan and Germany and its politicians are a separate very complicated story which is full of mutual insults and heavy assaults which won’t be forgotten soon. But the most surprising thing is that while the German society is actively criticizing the player’s photo with ‘the Turkish dictator violating human rights’, German politicians are easily signing weapon deals with Ergodan, Rheinmetall Weapon Corporate Group is building a tank factory in Turkey, the two countries are trading, cooperating, and exchanging the government delegations. But Mesut Ozil makes one photo and he is Number One public enemy.
The anti-migrant and anti-Muslim trend which has existed in the German society previously and goes into overdrive in the migration crisis times takes a new form of anti-Erdogan criticism at the moment. Those who hid their chauvinism and feared for public condemnation a few years ago have got a perfect reason to give rein to nationalist sentiment blending in Erdogan’s critics and covering by liberal European values. The criticism is a kind of a shield which gives an opportunity to insult millions of Turks who live in Germany – everyone and his brother tell them “to piss off” to Anatolia in the social media.
Mesut Ozil didn’t bear numerous racist assaults and threats, didn’t get support from his team, coaches, and the football federation and retired from the national team, clearing a scores with his offenders in a long statement. “When we win I’m German, when we lose I’m a migrant”, the 29-year-old player of Arsenal London heatedly said. Chancellor Angela Merkel frostily commented on the situation, thanking the player for his merits to the national team. But she didn’t condemn racist assaults against him – probably she knew that it would negatively influence her political popularity in Germany which is more and more turning right. Former mates in the national team are keeping silent as well, except for two players (who are also ‘migrants’). They wished Ozil good luck. Even the administration of Ozil’s school which regularly received huge donation from him rejected meeting him after the Erdogan’s issue. It was officially justified by risks of a negative reaction by right extremists. It is a painfully familiar story for Germany.
At the same time, President of Turkey Erdogan made a call to Ozil and expressed his full support. Somebody would say it’s a political trick and of course it is. However, the fact is that the disgraceful campaign of public condemnation against Mesut Ozil unbidden united the majority of German Turks, despite their political sentiment. Against the background of the cold treatment of their German native country and its politicians, Erdogan and Turkey’s hearty support will be appreciated by many people. In the end, the losing side is Germany which is going through serious demographic problems and which future is inevitably connected with integration of millions of migrants. The true serious damage to the German integration policy was caused not by a photo of a player and President of Turkey but the overblown scandal revealing the ugliest face of racism in the society and the government’s disinclination to react at that. Tomorrow when political experts will boil over Turkish Germans who massively vote for Erdogan, they should recall the example of bullied Mesut Ozil.