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"Migrant" minister

April 20, 2010

Ayguel Oezkan has become a role model overnight as Germany's first Muslim woman minister. The 38-year-old Hamburg lawyer's family emigrated to Germany from Turkey four decades ago.

Ayguel Oezkan
The face of German state politics is changingImage: CDU Hamburg

Ayguel Oezkan on Monday became Germany's first Muslim woman minister. The Hamburg lawyer has been named minister of social affairs for the northern state of Lower Saxony.

This was part of a cabinet shuffle in which Christian Democrat Premier Christian Wulff replaced four of his ministers. In addition to the 38-year-old Oezkan there was also another first, as the newly appointed science minister, Johanna Wanka (59) of Brandenburg, became the first eastern German woman to enter the cabinet of a western German state.

Oezkan's appointment was welcomed by Serkan Toeren, the liberal Free Democrats' spokesman on integration policy at the federal level. Only a decade ago there was still discussion as to whether the public could accept having an immigrant as a minister, said Toeren, who, like Oezkan has Turkish roots. But now Germany has not only Oezkan, but also Philipp Roesler, Germany's Vietnamese-born health minister.

"Who knows? maybe she could become chancellor, too," Toeren told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

"I am aware that I'll a role model," Oezkan said, shortly after learning of her appointment.

Kenan Kolat, chairman of the TGD, the Turkish Community in Germany, said in a statement that he found it remarkable that the conservative Christian Democrats had taken this step. He added that he hoped that other German parties would follow the CDU's example.

Editor: Chuck Penfold