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An afternoon in Cologne’s Turkish center

Carla Bleiker / wgJuly 19, 2016

In Cologne, many of Germany’s Turks stand firmly behind Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But not everyone is of the same opinion. DW reporter Carla Bleiker reports from the city’s Turkish neighborhood.

Deutschland Keupstraße in Köln
Image: DW/C. Bleiker

Keupstrasse is the center of Cologne's Turkish community. Men gather to smoke outside their shops and cafes. Online reviews suggest the city's best döner kebab can be found here, and the trays of baklava on display in bakery windows whet one's appetite. When summer temperatures top 90, it really can feel like a vacation in Istanbul or Antalya.

Actual tourism in Turkey is falling, however, due to repeated terror attacks there. Last week's attempted coup calls everything that much more into question.

Support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains strong on Keupstrasse. Durmus was gushing with praise for Erdogan. The young man, smoking outside the carpet store where he works, addressed the president by his first name. "Tayyip is a reasonable person," he said. "He was raised as a Muslim. He sees the Prophet as an example."

Durmus isn't swayed by the critics. "[Erdogan] was in danger. There must be consequences."

Türkei Präsident Tayyip Erdogan hält eine Rede an seine Anhänger in Istanbul
Erdogan is consolidating his power following the coupImage: Reuters/M. Sezer

Erdogan has emerged from the July 15 coup attempt even stronger, and the international community is looking on with concern.

Erdogan beloved by Turks in Germany

Nearly 60 percent of eligible Turkish voters in Germany supported Erdogan's AKP party in Turkey's 2015 parliamentary election. That's higher than from any other European country, but how do many of Germany's young Turks see things?

Duygu is among those in Erdogan's camp. "I stand behind him," the 26-year-old said while shopping with her family on Keupstrasse. Her husband, Ugur, isn't so sure. "So many things are simply up to him," he said. "We just have to live with it. Who's to say what's good or bad?"

Duygu wouldn't accept that. "It's all good," she said.

To understand the family's shock when learning of the coup attempt, one would have to imagine what it would be like in Germany if "soldiers fired on police headquarters or the parliament. That'd be it," Ugur said.

Reluctant to talk

However, many in the neighborhood didn't want to say anything. "The boss isn't here right now" or "I've got enough stress already" were common answers. A woman, apparently the manager of a new lighting store, was talking to a customer when her younger colleague expressed interest in speaking on the topic. The manager was quick with a "No!" and the colleague shook his head in apology.

Deutschland Keupstraße in Köln
Visitors are welcome, but political questions are only of interest to someImage: DW/C. Bleiker

Media fatigue is understandable. A nail bomb exploded here in June 2004, injuring 22 and damaging a number of shops. Now journalists come every year. Many residents are tired of the questions and the cameras.

Majority opinion matters

Others would talk but only anonymously. "Erdogan is a conman," said one young man who goes door-to-door for an energy provider. His friends think the same.

The 26-year-old didn't mince his words about Erdogan's democratic leanings. "He's far from democratic. He's a dictator." He's convinced it was Erdogan himself behind the coup as a means to bolster his power.

A woman helping a customer choose a wedding dress disagreed with that theory, seeing Erdogan's reaction to the coup as completely reasonable. "You don't let someone go who's done nothing wrong," she said of the judges Erdogan has dismissed since the coup.

There are mixed opinions in her family. Her sister-in-law sitting behind the store register thinks differently. "There are always differences in opinion," the young woman said with a smile. "You can't expect everyone to think the same. But it's the majority opinion that matters."