It is only the latest of a number of clashes in Germany between Kurds and Turkish people, and authorities fear that tensions may escalate even more in the future.
Starting in the 1960s, Germany invited Turkish citizens to move to the central European country as “guest workers.” At that time, Germany was experiencing an economic boom but lacked workers to fill vacancies. Although German authorities originally assumed that most of the Turkish workers would ultimately return to their home country, many of them stayed.
Although many Turkish immigrants in Germany are assimilated to the country’s society, they still hold voting rights in their country of origin. Hence, in 2014, Germany allowed Turkish citizens to directly vote for their president from Berlin for the first time. Although it is common for expatriates to be allowed to vote in elections at embassies or consulates, the Turkish government rented Berlin's largest stadium in 2014 to host 140,000 eligible voters.
Conservative politicians in particular have criticized the emergence of “parallel societies” in Germany as a consequence of the large number of Turkish immigrants. At a party convention in December, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized: “Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies and therefore remains a ‘life lie,’ ” or a sham. Merkel was talking about the influx of refugees into the country — but her conclusion was mainly based on the experience with Turkish immigrants.
Merkel had voiced similar thoughts before. In 2010, she said: “Of course the tendency had been to say, ‘Let’s adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other.’ But this concept has failed, and failed utterly.”
German authorities now fear that the existence of such parallel societies may result in violent clashes between Kurds and Turks in the middle of Europe. Germany’s Der Westen newspaper published an article on Thursday stating that the Kurdish-Turkish conflict was increasingly spreading in various western German cities. According to the paper, German authorities monitor the right-wing nationalistic Turks “due to racist activities.”
Although German agencies only recently expressed concerns over possible violence in the coming months, the tensions are not completely unexpected. Already in 2014, Germany's Der Spiegel magazine had argued that then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was fueling tensions in Germany:
Many Turkish-Germans feel that politicians here don’t take their concerns seriously. The Turkish government has tried to fill this gap, with Erdogan posing as the patron of the Turkish diaspora. (...) Such aggressive rhetoric has driven a wedge between immigrants and German society.
Erdogan, who is now Turkey’s president, had repeatedly visited Germany to hold rallies. Allowing Kurdish-Turkish tensions to grow for years is something German authorities and leading politicians may now regret.