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Opinion

Opinion: Government must defend German-Turkish MPs

German’s Foreign Ministry has warned German lawmakers of Turkish origin against traveling to Turkey. The fact that it has come to this is nothing less than outrageous, says DW’s Jens Thurau.

The Foreign Ministry in Berlin does not think it is advisable for parliamentarians of Turkish origin to

travel to Turkey

at this time. The reason: Their safety cannot be guaranteed. All because they voted to pass a parliamentary motion that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn't like. They voted to call the mass murder of Armenians by Ottoman forces a century ago what it was: genocide.

Erdogan responded by calling their Turkish identity into question and demanding that they take blood tests. Since then, Green Party leader Cem Özdemir and other MPs of Turkish origin have been on the receiving end of a growing barrage of increasingly incendiary hate mail.

On Monday, Özdemir needed a police escort to be taken to a television studio in Berlin. That, too, is outrageous. He once more stressed that he does not want to give in to the haters.

Defending basic rights

Jens Thurau

DW's Jens Thurau

Özdemir is fulfilling a noble duty as an elected representative of the people, despite the death threats. He is defending freedom of speech and his mandate by continuing to do his job.

But he's also remaining prudent: Of course, he says, Germany has to allow visa-free travel for Turks, if the government in Ankara lives up to its end of the deal. No backpedaling here, even if would be more than understandable given the circumstances.

Last Thursday, Parliamentary President Norbert Lammert sharply criticized the Turkish president's behavior. Angela Merkel, however, merely nodded and clapped. On Monday, a spokesperson for the chancellor again repeated the weak formulation that's been circulating in recent days, whereby the threats being made against German-Turkish MPs are "incomprehensible." The government clearly doesn't want to provoke the Turkish leadership, but it's also unlikely that this will calm the situation.

Merkel needs to speak her mind

There's nothing wrong with making agreements with states that behave differently, politically speaking. We cannot look down from on high with our Western democratic values and sit in judgment of every diplomatic contact and bilateral agreement.

So if the EU cooperates with Turkey on the migration crisis, and Turkey (as it seems) upholds its end of the bargain, then the EU and Germany have to reciprocate, and that means allowing visa-free travel. But it then must also be equally clear that we will not permit other countries to incite threats against our parliamentarians.

Equally, every single member of parliament must be able to count on the support and protection of its own government - both in word, and in deed.

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