Berlin NPR – The ICD “German-Turkish Week” Opens at Amerika Haus

Berlin NPR (Berlin News Radio) - June 18th 2009; The NPR reports on the inaugural German-Turkish week hosted by the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy, examining the positive role that Cultural Diplomacy can play in improving relations between Turkish immigrants and locals.
  June 08th, 2009

German-Turkish Week Opens at Amerika Haus

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy hosted its first ever German-Turkish week. The event, created by ICD director Mark Donfried, included music, lectures and discussions at the ICD’s Amerika Haus.

Donfried has long been interested in issues of citizenship and immigration in Germany.

“One of the things that fascinated me when I came to Germany was learning about their citizenship law,” he says.

“My wife for example was born in Berlin, grew up in Berlin, was educated in Berlin, but she is not German because her parents are not German. And in Germany, there seems to be that fixation on blood, like where do your parents come from – whereas…in the US it’s the opposite.”

As director of the ICD, Donfried wanted to create a neutral meeting ground to explore German and Turkish visions.

The opening event at “German-Turkish Week” focused on the history and the development of the Turkish community in Germany. One of the keynote speakers Cem Özdemir, head of the Germany’s green party, spoke about stereotypes surrounding Turkish immigrant communities.

“Germans often view Turks as uneducated, speaking poor German and unemployed,” Özdemir says.

“All these cliches are true,” but he emphasized that the opposite is true as well.

Turkish author and journalist Nazmi Kavasoglu was also in attendance.

Kavasoglu noted the uniqueness of the such an event.

“Since 50 years the Turks in Germany and in Berlin have not participated in such an activity. The Turkish community has been more or less living among themselves.”

He adds that these globalized times demand renewal and further development.

Hundreds of people attended the opening day to celebrate the richness of German-Turkish culture and to face the challenges ahead.

Once such visitor was Berliner Victoria Rehberg, who felt there was still work to do.

„Turks and Germans don’t live together without problems. It has some good sides,” she says, but also deep prejudice.

“Maybe the German-Turkish week helps to get rid of some of the old prejudices. That would be nice.”