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Tezcan: ‘Why Have You Naturalized 110,000 Turks?’ 10 novembre 2010

Posted by Acturca in Immigration, Turkey / Turquie.
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Die Presse (Austria) 10 Novembre 2010                                  Deutsch

Interview with Kadri Ecvet Tezcan, Turkish ambassador to Austria, by Christian Ultsch

Kadri Ecvet Tezcan – Do you want me to respond in the interview as a diplomat, which will be boring? Or should I respond as someone who has lived in Vienna for a year and has many contacts with the 250,000 Turks here?

I prefer the second variant. What is going wrong with the integration of Turks in Austria?

I would like to say one thing up front: Unlike Greeks or Italians, Turks began emigrating only 35 or 40 years ago. Austria was also the last country to which Turks came. The wages in Germany were higher.

Does that mean that it is not easy for Turks to adapt to rules in other countries?

No. All I was trying to say is that immigrants in the United States had their problems. But those problems have now been forgotten. Integration is a process. I was consul general in Hamburg nearly 20 years ago. Every year I invited the boys and girls who had been admitted to Gymnasium [secondary school for university-bound students] to my residence and congratulated them with gifts. There were so few Turkish Gymnasium students at the time. Today I would not be able to do that in Austria, because there are approximately 2,000 university-level students of Turkish origin in this country, who were born here, plus 2,000 Turkish Gymnasium students. That’s wonderful.

That may be progress. But a look at statistics shows that youth of Turkish origin are very much underrepresented in Gymnasiums and certainly at universities.

We still have some homework to do. But the Austrian side has to contribute as well. There are schools where Turkish children make up the majority, with 60 or 70 per cent. Why? Because they live in ghettos. When Turks in Vienna apply for housing, they are always sent to the same area, and at the same time they are accused of forming ghettos. And Austrian families do not send their children to schools where ethnic minorities are in the majority. This forces Turks into a corner.

Who should offer them different housing? The city of Vienna?

That is not the issue here; this is about tolerance. Every year, Turks are given a public place – a park, for example – to celebrate their Kermes festival. They cook food, play music, dance, and show off their own culture. The only Austrians who come to the Kermes are politicians looking for votes. Despite that, only half of the Turks turn out for elections. The Viennese do not even look out the window at such festivals. Except when they are on vacation, Austrians have no interest in other cultures. Austria was an empire with different ethnic groups. It should be accustomed to living with foreigners. What’s going on here?

Many Viennese are apparently afraid of becoming a minority in some parts of the city and of Turkish culture becoming dominant.

The world is changing. It is no longer about who is dominant and who is not. There are no borders. The more cultures there are, the richer we become.

The problem is that society in Germany or Austria no longer believes in multiculturalism. That concept has not worked.

Why has it not worked? Integration is a cultural and social problem. But in Austria it is the Ministry for Interior that is responsible for integration. That is incredible. The Ministry for Interior can be in charge of asylum or visas and many security problems. But the minister for interior should stop intervening in the integration process. If you give the Ministry for Interior a problem, what you will get from that is a police solution.

What chain of responsibility do you recommend?

The Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry for Family, but not the Ministry for Interior. My people ask me, « Are we a security problem here? » I have spoken with the minister for interior. She does not want to hear this. She belongs to the wrong party.

What party should Maria Fekter belong to?

She is a member of a people’s party that identifies as liberal. Or have I been misinformed? What she stands for is not in keeping with a liberal and open attitude. The same is true, by the way, of Angela Merkel. I was so surprised when she said two weeks ago that multiculturalism has failed and that Germany is a Christian society. What kind of mentality is that? I cannot believe that I have to listen to that in the year 2010 in Europe, which is purportedly the centre of tolerance and human rights. Others learned those values from you, and now you are turning your back on those values. Nevertheless, I do not mean to say that migrants have made no mistakes.

Have you spoken with Heinz-Christian Strache or another politician from the FPOe [Freedom Party of Austria]?

Of course. I have met with him. We agreed to agree about nothing concerning integration. Strache has no idea how the world is developing. I have also never seen a social democratic party like the one in this country. Normally, social democrats defend the rights of people, regardless of where they come from. Do you know what the Social Democrats here told me? « If we say anything about that, Strache will get more votes. » That’s incredible.

Many Austrians take a different view of that. She feel uneasy about certain aspects of the culture that the Turks have brought with them. They do not like how women are treated, and they do not want to see women walking around in headscarves. They also do not want young, macho Turks terrorizing their fellow schoolchildren.

I’ve never heard of that. I have seen many statistics from the Ministry for Interior, the Ministry for Justice…

It is not a crime to bully other young people…

… but Turks are not at the top of those lists. Let me ask another question. If something is not part of your culture, do you then have the right to say that you do not want those people? That is a different culture, a different perfume, a different folklore. You have to live with it. Why have you naturalized 110,000 Turks? How were you able to accept them as citizens if there is such a big integration problem with them? You have to talk to them. The Turks are happy, they don’t want anything from you. They simply do not want to be treated like a virus. Society should integrate them and profit from them. You should not go get any more migrants. You have them here. But you have to believe in them, and they have to believe in you.

But surely politicians must have the right to say, for example, that they do not want any forced marriages…

Of course, we do not want our daughters to be forced into marriage either.

And Turks can also be required to learn German.

Definitely. I always tell my people, « Learn German and obey the rules in this country! »

So why does that not work?

You yourself said it quite bluntly: People do not want to see women here wearing headscarves. Is that against the law? No, you have nothing to say about that. Everyone is free to wear whatever he wants on his head. If we are free here to swim in the nude, then we should also be free to wear headscarves. If someone forces people to wear headscarves, then the state should intervene. The same should hold true of those who refuse to send their children to school. We have a problem with girls who stop going to school at age 13.

You also have the problem of too few women working.

You’re wrong. Turkish women do work.

Yes, but at home. The employment rate among Turkish women is only 39 per cent.

Being a housewife is also a job.

Migrants who stay at home are part of the integration problem.

Yes, but if you want to be my friend, you too should do something about that.

So you think that Austrians are not making Turks feel welcome here?

I will not accuse the Austrians only. We also have problems making contact with other people. Why? Migrants in New York or elsewhere also form ghettos. The first thing that they do in another country is seek out compatriots.

But you don’t remain in a ghetto for 30 years. You try to improve yourself and see that your own children get into a better school. I see no dynamic social development here.

[Tezcan] I see much success. There are more than 3,500 Turkish entrepreneurs here, 110 doctors, artists, ballerinas. Why do your media not report more success stories?

Anyone who analyses the current educational situation sees a bleak future ahead. Most young Turks go to Hauptschule [secondary school for non university-bound students], many even to special school [Sonderschule]. Do you have ideas for how to change that?

Many Turkish parents believe that their children speak perfect German and Turkish. I then tell them that you have not mastered a language when you have learned 500 words and that their children speak neither German nor Turkish well.

Here is what the problem is: For the last 20 years, Austrian governments have not allowed us to bring in teachers from Turkey to instruct children in Turkish. If children do not learn their mother tongue properly, they will not comprehend another language well either. There is an Institute for Oriental Studies in Vienna where students who speak perfect German learn Turkish. The only thing that is missing is a chair for pedagogy. Then Austria can have its own Turkish teachers.

How many teachers do you want to bring in?

One hundred might be enough. There are approximately 5,000 to 7,000 young Turks who are on the verge of entering elementary school. I am certain that if they learn Turkish and, of course, also fluent German in kindergarten, that is an antidote for the integration problem.

Should Turks learn Turkish in school as a foreign language?

My goal is that Turkish be accepted as a language that qualifies for university entrance. Then we will also have Turkish teachers. I do not know why Turkish is not accepted for that.

Have you thought about establishing a Turkish school in Vienna?

No. But if there is a demand for that, it could certainly be considered.

Should Turkish parents speak German or Turkish with their children?

I am not going to tell them what to do. But whether they are parents, children, or young people, they should all learn German.

If children do not speak German with their children, the foundation is missing. It becomes even worse if Turkish parents do not send their children to kindergarten.

That should be mandatory. Every child should attend kindergarten. Beginning at age three or four, as in Austrian families.

Why do the children of, say, Croatian children do better in school?

Very simple. Because Croats are Christian, they are welcome in society. Turks are not.

Maybe they are also driven more to advance socially.

If one is not welcome and is constantly pushed to the margins by society, why would one want to be part of that society?

To be better than the others, to show them.

That is a Western mentality. We do not have this mercantile philosophy. Our philosophy in Islam is different: Whatever you have, given by God, is enough for you. The only thing that you must do is good deeds for your people in your family and your milieu. Turks in the West help each other. They know that they are not welcome.

Why do you believe that?

In this city, which claims to be a cultural centre of Europe, nearly 30 per cent vote for an extreme rightist party. If I were the secretary general of the United Nations, of the OSCE, or of OPEC, I would not stay here. If you do not want any foreigners here, then chase them out. There are many countries in the world where foreigners are welcome. You must learn to live with other people. What is Austria’s problem?

Is this really about Islam? There are no problems here with Iranians.

And how many Iranians are there here? You don’t see them. If you were to see them, they would have the exact same problem. This religious aversion is always lurking the background. That was not present before the 11 September attacks. But since then, the media have depicted Islam as bad and terrorist. Where is the church? I met the cardinal, a wonderful man, and he told me that he has a good relationship with the Turks. I told him, « Your eminence, that is not enough. You have to speak out more forcefully and also write in your newspaper column that Islam is just as worthy as your own religion. »

What do you expect from the authorities?

There are many people of good will. I have been to many town halls, and there are integration sections everywhere. But they wait in their offices until people come to see them. They have no vision. There is no coordination and no cooperation. My four predecessors as ambassador and I have never been asked for cooperation on integration issues. I know what my people want and how they can be persuaded.

What has been your experience with Austrian hospitality?

I have been here for a year. I have been invited to the home of an Austrian family only once, last weekend in Krems. There is a big difference between Vienna and the rest of Austria. When I leave Vienna, everyone is more hospitable.

Has no one from the foreign ministry invited you to his home?

No. But it doesn’t matter. I get so many invitations from Turks.

One might say that you are a reflection of the integration problem on a higher level.

During the first months after his arrival, an ambassador makes courtesy calls. When I requested a meeting with the foreign minister, I was told that the foreign minister does not receive ambassadors. Can you believe that? I am an ambassador of 250,000 people who live in this country. What kind of dialogue are we talking about here?

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