By TODAY’S ZAMAN/ ANKARA
Cem Özdemir, the co-chair of Germany’s Greens Party, has said the booing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel by Turks living in Germany during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech in Cologne was an “ugly” scene that will raise question marks over Turks’ loyalty to Germany.
Erdoğan has lost support of “100 percent of Germany,” according to Özdemir.
“When the crowd booed Merkel, it made a very bad impression; it was an ugly scene. It will remain in the minds [of Germans]. We will pay the price for it,” Özdemir said in an interview with the Zaman daily published on May 26.
Özdemir, who is of Turkish origin, was commenting on Erdoğan’s appearance in Cologne on Saturday to address Turkish citizens in Germany at an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), a Turkish civil society organization based in Germany. Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of about 20,000 in a Cologne sports arena, Erdoğan said that Merkel called him to extend her condolences for the Soma mine disaster on May 13. When Erdoğan mentioned Merkel’s name, the crowd booed. However, when Erdoğan thanked Merkel the crowd switched from boos to cheers and applause.
The booing of Merkel will stir a debate about Turks’ loyalty to Germany, Özdemir said. “You are living here, making a living here, paying your taxes and sending your children to school here and taking the advantages of the social state here. But you boo this country’s chancellor and idolize another country’s prime minister. Then the issue of loyalty will be brought into question. We have been attempting [to convince the German people] for 50 years that we are loyal citizens. We say, ‘Trust us, there’s no need to fear.’ But the attitude of those in the hall refutes all we are advocating,” he said.
The crowd at Erdoğan’s rally in Cologne appeared as if they were living in an enemy country, Özdemir stated, adding that the intense level of admiration for Erdoğan among his supporters both surprises and scares German society. Protests held by opposition Turkish groups against Erdoğan in which at least 50,000 attended, according to German police in Cologne, also caused fear among Germans, said Özdemir. “Previously, there was a rift between Turks and Kurds or left and right; now there’s fear whether there will be a polarization between Erdoğan’s supporters and dissidents.”
Erdoğan’s appearance brought more tension to Germany, and the Turkish prime minister has become the symbol of the “negative image of Turkey,” according to the Greens politician.
“There was an expectation among the German society as if a monster was coming. A frightening image of Erdoğan appeared because of his speeches about the mine disaster so that people were almost going to lock their children at home because of that danger. Erdoğan cannot change this image easily. In recent years there was a positive image of Turkey; however, it has been reversed, and Erdoğan has become the symbol of a negative image of Turkey,” Özdemir said.