Bringing people together with music and dance is the best way to bridge cultural gaps. In Berlin, the city’s first Turkish Day did just that, and thousands came out for the festivities.
A Turkish girl dances while waving small German and Turkish flags
Anyone walking through the center of downtown Berlin on Saturday might have mistaken the city’s streets for a district in Istanbul or Ankara. Everywhere one looked, people in colorful traditional costumes blaring loud music filled the sidewalks and the Turkish cafés and restaurants. It was Türk Günü, or Turkish Day in Berlin.
For the first time in history, the city’s large Turkish community had come together to put on a spectacular cultural event. More than 25 organizations from Berlin and 1,200 smaller Turkish-German clubs throughout the country helped organize the parade down the city’s main east-west thoroughfare from the Brandenburg Gate to the Tiergarten. Tens of thousands of people, many wearing traditional Turkish folk costumes, traveled to the capital to participate in the day’s activities.
About 10.000 members of the Turkish community in Germany joined a parade in Berlin on May 25
Organizers of the day’s activities got their inspiration from watching Türk Günü parades in New York City. For years, the Turks in the American metropolis have been celebrating their cultural and ethnic identity while sharing it with the others. In Germany, the concept is completely new.
Taciddin Yatkin, president of the Turkish community in Berlin, says it was high time for the Turks in Germany to do something similar. The motivation for the Türk Günü parade in Berlin is neither religious nor political, says Yatkin. "We take to the streets for a friendly and cultural atmosphere of togetherness." And Saturday’s parade was a "great success" in this regard, he says.
Even German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was on hand to give a speech during the parade. "It’s time for us to celebrate the friendly togetherness of Germans and Turks in this country," he announced. Berlin’s Senator for Interior Affairs, Ehrhart Körting, and the city’s Representative for Foreigners’ Affairs, Barbara John, were both present at the parade to show their support for more cultural integration.
Turkish-German community leaders hope the Turkish Day will become an annual event. As the country’s single largest Turkish event, it can be used to promote tolerance and integration, while demonstrating the contribution that Germany's Turks have made to German society.
40 years ago
Forty years ago the first Turkish "guest workers" arrived in Germany as part of a government initiative to boost the labor market. Initially, the Turks came to work in the factories and the booming industrial sector, areas where there were not enough German workers. But since the 1960s, the "guest workers" have spread out throughout the economy, taking up jobs wherever they found them. Most of the original "guest workers" stayed on in Germany and brought their families with them to the new country.
The children of these first "guest workers" have now grown up and many have integrated themselves fully into the German society. They speak German, go to German schools and universities, and work along side German colleagues in all fields from teaching and tourism to media and medicine. Some prominent Turks have even become politicians such as the Green Party’s Cem Özdemir.
"Today we are no longer guest workers," says Taciddin Yatkin in Berlin. "We are no longer just guests, we are here to stay." With 2.1 million people, the Turks constitute the country’s largest cultural minority. And Berlin, with its 127,000 Turks, has the largest Turkish population of any city outside Turkey.