Marriage between different nationalities comes with its own challenges, settling in abroad foremost among them. For the last four years, Parliament has been working on a project to improve life, especially for married Turkish women living abroad. A recent study dealing with marriages between different nationalities abroad was presented to the subcommittee called "Problems and Solutions for Turkish Women living abroad, Turkish women who have given up their citizenship, and their families," which was established under the Committee on Equality of Opportunity for Women and Men.Associate Professor Özcan Güngör, a lecturer in the sociology of religion at Yıldırım Beyazıt University in Ankara, shared details about the project, which is currently being carried out in partnership with the Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities.
Güngör said they have interviewed more than 204 families and 500 people in three different states in Germany. Starting in 2012, the project carried out field studies in France, Belgium and the Netherlands in its first two years. The project is undertaken with the cooperation of nongovernmental organizations and government authorities, and regular training sessions have been held to find solutions, especially for married Turkish women living in abroad. The initial results announced in February this year emphasized that Turkish women have problems in getting citizenship and with their children's education, as they have difficulty in accessing information. A number of them cannot socialize and even those who want to go back to Turkey do not know how to reach the relevant authorities.
German dietician Maike Ehrlichmann and Turkish engineer Fırat Cumalı recently married in Ayvalık, Turkey.
Based on the latest study results, 3.9 percent of marriages in Germany are between Turks and Germans, but the rate reaches up to 8 percent with extramarital affairs. Güngör said the existing political, cultural and religious differences between Turkish and German families do not create a problem for younger people, which is why they are open to Turkish-German marriages. He said Turks living abroad prefer Germans as spouses the most, and the rate of Turkish-German marriages is high.
The next significant finding is that religion does not have much importance in marriages between Muslims and others. According to Islam, it is forbidden for women to marry to a non-Muslim, but this condition is not applicable for men. In Germany, Catholic churches give a one-week preparation program to the partner that will marry a partner from a different religion. Güngör said this practice is helpful for couples, adding that Turks also take the program if they are going to marry a Catholic.
Another interesting thing is that the trend of bringing bride or grooms from Turkey to Germany is not attractive any more. Güngör said the fourth generation of Turks living in Germany see marriages between different nationalities as a positive thing.
He continued by saying that 71 percent of Turkish-American marriages end in divorce, while the rate is 60 percent for Turkish-German marriages, which tend to end in divorce within the first five years. Almost 40 percent of Germans who are married to foreigners changed their religion, while the rate is only 3.5 among Turks. Saying that religious conversion is possible on both sides, Güngör claimed that partners sometimes change their religion to have the families' consent.
On the other hand, if the woman is Turkish then she will more likely transfer her culture to any children the couple may have. Güngör said these children are more inclined to speak Turkish and even choose Islam as their religion. The study also emphasized that cultural differences are the main reason behind divorce in marriages between different nationalities and religious issues are not a major factor.
Considering other nationalities, marriages between Turkish people and Russians is also high. According to 2015 data from the Moscow Registry Office, in the first 10 months of the last year, over 85,000 couples got married in Moscow, the Russian local news agency Interfax reported previously. Over 15 percent of the marriages were between Russians and foreign citizens.
Local records also revealed that in Alanya, a popular tourist destination in Turkey's southern province of Antalya, 314 women from 39 different countries have chosen Turkish men as their husbands. In 2014, out of 314 marriages in Alanya, Turkish men tied the knot with 67 brides who are Russian nationals, followed by 56 German and 22 Ukrainian women.
* Contributed by wire services