The unprecedented reversal of a decision to allow Turkish classes to be held in Germany is being faced with outrage among the country's sizable Turkish community.
A group of protesters took to the streets of Berlin on Thursday, where some municipalities have asked that rental fees be charged for classrooms allocated for Turkish education at schools. Gathered outside Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg City Hall, one of the municipalities that enacted the controversial decision, protesters chanted slogans like, "Do not touch Turkish classes."
In a press statement, protesters from within Berlin's Turkish community said the Turkish classes were offered at schools as part of an agreement between Germany and Turkey and that the Turkish government had sent teachers to Germany to teach Turkish. The deal is a part of Turkey's efforts to help the children of immigrant families not to lose their connection to their native country. Protesters claimed that the municipalities were trying to prevent children from learning their native language and that Berlin politicians have not done anything to stop this new practice. "Children born in Berlin will feel ostracized from the community," protesters said.
The separate decisions by the Frierichhain-Kreuzberg Municipality and the Mitte Municipality come amid tensions between Berlin and Ankara. Turkey has stepped up its critical rhetoric towards the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, over what Turkish officials say is tolerance for terror suspects. Speaking in a recent interview with Anadolu Agency (AA), Cemal Yıldız, an education adviser for the Turkish Embassy in Berlin, has said the fact Turkish lessons are facing several obstacles is concerning.
The Mitte Municipality has asked that a rental fee of 27,400 euros ($32,400) be paid for classrooms used by Turkish teachers, as well as the suspension of classes for the remainder of this school term. Similarly, the Friedrichhain-Kreuzberg Municipality has announced that they will ask for "classroom use fees" for Turkish classes starting after Jan. 28, 2018.
There are an estimated 3 million people in the country's Turkish-German community. Prior to the recent general elections, all political parties adopted an anti-Turkish discourse that mainly targeted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Cem Özdemir, the co-leader of Germany's Green Party, went so far as to call for a ban on teaching the Turkish language to students in Germany by Turkish teachers, in an interview with the Zeit newspaper. Known for its staunch hostility against migrants and minorities in the country, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) previously issued numerous statements against the German-Turks in the country and called for anti-migrant and anti-minority measures, such as the abolishment of dual citizenship.