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Many Turkish women are particularly challenged by their lives in Germany.Image: Bilderbox

Facing A New Reality

April 28, 2002

A new film hit German cinemas this week about a part of society most Germans know little about: the lives of Turkish women in their adoptive country.


Anam is a Turkish cleaning woman in Hamburg. But aside from her headscarf, she hardly meets the traditional cliché of the Turkish mama.

The protagonist of the film Anam is attractive and fights ferociously with her cheating husband. Furious that he is having an affair with one of her colleagues, Anam kicks him out.

But when she discovers that her son, Deniz, is a drug addict, she is forced to confront the reality of the very different society she has settled in. Anam must face the fact that second generation Turkish immigrants like her son are no longer willing to live by the traditions and conventions that govern her life.

In search of Deniz, she shakes up the Hamburg drug scene together with two friends. Anam thereby discovers a strength she never dreamt of and becomes determined to free him from his dealer’s grip.

Autobiographical elements

The film Anam is by the young director Buket Alakus, a member of the second generation of very emancipated and confident Turkish women in Germany. She came to Germany as a young child and grew up in Hamburg.

Alakus says everyone has a flame inside of them, which just needs to be kindled at the right time. "And this can be illustrated by a Turkish cleaning woman," she notes.

The film also carries autobiographical elements."I’m familiar with the lives of Turkish cleaning women through my mother," says Alakus. "I know their stories." She says she wanted to tell the story of people that most Germans know nothing about.

Alakus has already won several festival and film prizes for Anam, which premiered in German cinemas on Thursday.

Guests in their own home

In the 1960s and 1970s, Germany depended on the hard labor of Turkish "Gastarbeiter" – or guest workers - to help rebuild a nation devastated by war. Many stayed to build homes, families and lives, not to mention the German economy. Today, Turks make up at least two million of the 7.3 million foreigners living in Germany.

Last month, the parliament in Berlin approved a controversial immigration law, infuriating opposition conservatives who claim its adoption was unconstitutional.

The immigration law, already two years in the making, opens Germany to foreign labor for the first time since the early 1970s. At that time, the country had ended its program to attract guest workers amid rising unemployment.

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