Germany Inside Out - Berlin - Cem Özdemir

Cem Özdemir - politics beyond ethnic terms

Cem Özdemir If you're looking for the new generation of German politicians, you can hardly find a better example than Cem Özdemir. He is a Green party MP, the son of Turkish guest workers - and the first politician of Turkish origin to enter mainstream German politics.

Özdemir - whose other achievements include being chosen as Germany's "best dressed politician" - was born in Bad Urach, Swabia, in 1957. His parents came to work in Germany as "Gastarbeiter", or guest workers. The implication of the phrase was that these people were only temporarily in Germany, and would return, in due course, to their homeland. Even those who were born and grew up in Germany were not seen as German, but as Turks. The concept of multiculturalism, let alone the idea of Germany as a land of immigration, took many years to take hold.

Today, people are starting to realise that there is more than one kind of German. The problems are not yet solved, as Özdemir himself points out: "There are some Germans who feel that somebody who is called Cem Özdemir cannot be a German." He says he faces problems on both sides: "There are some on the Turkish side who say, if you are called Cem Özdemir, you must be the Turks' man. You must only represent the Turks. I don't like this thinking in ethnic terms."

Nowadays, Turks and Germans are becoming closer - a move that comes from both directions. When Özdemir's parents' generation came to work in Germany, they kept up their own language and traditions. For them, being both Turkish and German would have been inconceivable. But that is now changing. Özdemir's hairdresser, Canan Ozgün, grew up in Turkey and Germany, and feels at home in both countries, like many Berliners in their 20s and 30s. She notes how much things have changed: "From my parents, I know how things were 20 years ago. They were only here as guest workers, in hard jobs. Now, Turks and other foreigners have become employers, too. Cem Özdemir shows Germans that one can be integrated into German society."


Cem Özdemir
Find out for yourself why Cem Özdemir has been voted "best dressed politician". In German, English and Turkish.


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