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Zafer Senocak
Zafer Senocak

"Of course there are problems with integration. In a way, they are natural if one looks at the social structure of the people who came from Turkey, if one looks at the economic situation in Germany, if one bears in mind that the majority of the jobs for which the Turks came have disappeared."

(Interview with ESI, 7 December 2006)

The author and journalist Zafer Senocak, born in 1961, migrated to Germany at the age of nine. He studied German, politics and philosophy. He publishes poetry, essays and prose in German.

Senocak is one of the leading voices in the German discussion about multiculturalism, Islam and German-Turkish relations. He is influenced by his father, a critic of Kemalism who protested the lack of free speech in Turkey and, as a result, left Turkey. Senocak's book "Das Land hinter den Buchstaben" ("The Country behind the Letters", 2006) describes how Ataturk's reforms hindered reform in Islam as a religion.

Senocak on Integration:

"It is time to accept that Germany has become a multi-ethnic state with national minorities. These minorities belong to Germany, they are its constituent elements."

(Zafer Senocak, "Deutsch Turken, Turk Almanlar", p. 13)

Senocak perceives an unwelcoming atmosphere in Germany. In an interview with ESI he said:

"What would be important is the idea of partnership to determine how things are discussed in politics. For example, the discussion in Germany about Turkey … has an influence on people. I think it's grave that one of the big People's Parties, the CDU/CSU, gives the impression of 'Everything but Turkey in the EU'. Some of their politicians, e.g. [Michael] Glos [CSU], spoke of a 'dark day for Europe' when the negotiations were launched. [Turkish migrants] do not like being addressed in this way. These ... processes are not helpful."

(Interview with ESI, 7 December 2006)

Senocak sees the integration deficit as a result of the lack of proper policies, the Turks’ reluctance to change their culture, and an education system that is still not prepared for immigrants (which is itself an outcome of German politicians’ inability or refusal to see their country as an immigration country). In the interview with ESI Senocak noted:

"If measures had been taken in the educational field, there would have been preparatory classes. The whole question of culture and cultural backgrounds, how to teach differences – that is a vast area. This is being reduced to numbers of drop-outs … I still do not see any serious attempts to tackle this. There is only a lot of complaining."

(Interview with ESI, 7 December 2006)

At the same time, Senocak criticises those who argue that "integration has failed".

"That one can come to such a conclusion, which is widely accepted in the media and in the public, although everybody knows that a serious integration policy has in fact not even been implemented, compromises the whole debate."

(Zafer Senocak, "Das Land hinter den Buchstaben", p. 169)

Senocak looks for answers to the problem of migrants’ lack of identification with Germany:

"What conditions do we need to make the migrants identify themselves with the host society and to see themselves as part of this society? Even those who attend beginner classes in psychology know that the first step cannot be to convince the migrant of the inferiority of his culture … A successful host society needs, as a first step, to show the willingness and readiness to receive."

(Zafer Senocak, "Das Land hinter den Buchstaben", p. 170)

Why EU accession matters

For Senocak the perspective of Turkish EU membership is crucial for the country's reforms.

"Kemalists still oppose by all means a reform of the Turkish state, new rights and freedoms for citizens, the idea of a state serving its citizens and not the other way around, and a critical reappraisal of the state’s past."

(Zafer Senocak, "Das Land hinter den Buchstaben", p. 16)

Senocak underlines the need for reforms in Turkey and highlights the EU's impact with regard to women's rights and reforms in Turkey. On the issue of Turkey’s EU accession, he disagrees with Necla Kelek.

"If the position of women is to be improved one should be a strong advocate of EU membership, one should want for European institutions and European law to gain influence in Turkey … A Turkey that is left outside cannot be better for women's rights than a European Turkey … All active women in Turkey support EU membership. I have not heard any other voices. This also applies to religious women, who are also a product of Turkey's women's movement."

(Interview with ESI, 7 December 2006)

Suggested readings

  • Zafer Senocak, Feuer und Eis (Fire and Ice), Tagesspiegel, 11 February 2008. Senocak on integration and Turks in Germany: "In the past years in Germany a stigmatized minority was created – the Turks. And a German majority which defines itself by distancing itself from this minority …"
  • Zafer Senocak, Islam-Gläubige integrieren, wo immer es geht (Integrate Muslims wherever possible), Die Welt, 3 January 2008. Senocak sees dialogue with moderate Muslims as an antidote to rising Islamic fundamentalism.
  • Zafer Senocak, Eine moralische Katastrophe (A moral catastrophe), Die Welt, 20 April 2007. "Intolerance, violence and hate are the predominant sentiments in the Islamic world. This is a tragedy with far-reaching consequences. The Turks – or at least the vast majority of them – would like to move away from this. They want so much to be different from Iran, with its crazy leader, and the Arab countries with their despotic rulers and fanatic masses."

Senocak's most important books on the German debate about Turkish migrants are (in German only):

Other books, including poems, essays and prose:

November 2010

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