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The Turkish Culture in Europe and the European Turks

Prof. Dr. Faruk Sen
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The number of our people living within the boundaries of European Union has exceeded 4 million 20 thousand. Today the importance of our intellectuals has increased. While in Germany 36 thousand students are attending universities, the number of students continuing their education in European Union has reached the threshold of 50 thousand.
In this context, the importance of people with Turkish origins in sports and culture is growing every day. Turkish youth is successfully involved in German 1st, 2nd, and the regional leagues. In addition to the Altintop brothers’ accomplishments in Schalke04 and Yidiray Basturk carrying Herta BSC, other Turkish youth is moving the regional league team Rot-Weiss-Essen towards the 2nd league and demonstrate their successes.

We are also fortunate to see a similar development in the cultural sphere. In the late 70s, the “Tiyatrom” Project that considered Turkish and German audience as its potential target, has started the most important theater experiment in Berlin after the start of the emigration. While Tiyatrom has become a permanent playhouse in Berlin performing Turkish drama all through the winter months, this experience has been launched all over Germany. The Arkadas Theater, with a crew of 130, is bringing the Turkish theater to the forefront in Ruhr Region and North Rhine Westphalia. State Theaters are brought over from Turkey with the initiatives of the Mulheim-an-der-Ruhr Theater, and have performed their plays in Germany.

With its 7 Turkish and 7 German specialists the Turkish-German Cultural Council, established within the structure of Centre for Studies on Turkey, has begun to orient the development of the Turkish culture in Germany. This initiative that started with an exhibition of Mehmet Guler in March, has continued with the “Turkish Movie Days in Essen”. A movie premier of “Why Were Hacivat ve Karagöz Killed?“ has been organized to which the cast also attended, and many successful Turkish movies were introduced to the audience, especially the German. In addition to these a Turkish-German Ball was organized for the first time in Essen. Besides the theater, Turks of Germany have demonstrated their presence in the world of cabaret. Cabaret performances of artists such as Kaya Yanar, Muhsin Omurca, Sinasi Dikmen, Serdar Somuncuk, Burak Topal are leaving their marks on the daily agenda in Germany. The same development cannot be seen in the music world yet.

Although in Germany there are 2 million 600 thousand Turks living, the presence of Turkish music is better felt in the Netherlands, whit a smaller density. The foundation of a department of Turkish music in the World Music Conservatoire has begun to introduce the Turkish music to Dutch. In dance, Turks from Germany started to appear in German ballet and operas. One of the disciplines in which the Turks are very successful is painting. Works of art of painters such Mehmet Guler, Hanefi Yeter, and Ismail Coban are displayed in German parliaments and museums. For the first time in Germany, the Art Foundation of the State of North Rhine Westphalia is preparing to take substantial steps to purchase works of Turkish painters for German museums starting next year.

The Turks living in Germany, and in Europe as general, have high expectations from Fritz Schaumann, the rector of IUB – International Bremen University, who will be the president of the foundation next year. In the world of letters, the names of Turkish writers appear among the book awards of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The honor was awarded to the prominent Turkish writer Yasar Kemal in 1997 for the first time, and to Orhan Pamuk in 2005. In addition works of writers from Germany such as Feridun Zaimoglu, Zafer Senocak, Aras Okten, Yuksel Pazarkaya have been attracting a big attention. Until today, Turkey has not taken the necessary steps to promote Turkish culture in Europe.

Besides the economical and political development, the cultural, sportive and technological transfer is important on the path leading to the membership to the European Union. The Centre for Studies on Turkey has added the cultural, sportive and technological transfer to its present activities in economy, social studies, and immigration. The Turkish-German Cultural Council established for this purpose has already started its successful activities. In addition, in 2006 a soccer tournament of teams from the German premier league was organized in Antalya, and the fan-clubs, showing a big interest in this event, went to Turkey for the first time.

In 2007 a list of Turkish athletes in German sports will be prepared and the numerical and scientific results will be conveyed to the German public. In the field of technology transfer, with the contributions of the Centre for Studies on Turkey, we will be able to see the navigation system that provides road directions to vehicles in Europe.

Turkey, who wants to join the European Union, has to impose itself in terms of religion and culture to Europe. At this time, in which the Islamophobia is increasing in Europe, the liberal and tolerating structure for Turkish Islam has to be explained to Europeans. In this respect, European Turks have important duties in responding to this Islamophobia. The best response to the Islamophobia surfaced after the terror acts of September 11, will be the promotion of the privileges, tolerance and the richness of Turks. Turkey, who wants to join the European Union with its population of 72 million, has to reflect its cultural richness as the Ottoman Empire, which was the example of multiculturalism with its 72 ethnicities for 623 years, from 1299 to 1922.

(20th Issue, May 2006)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07

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