About a hundred people gathered in the German capital Berlin on Sunday to support Turkish-German football star Mesut Özil, who recently quit the German national team due to racism. The supporters of the footballer showed support for Özil by carrying banners reading "I'm Özil," while denouncing racism in the country.
The demonstrators met in front of the Axel Springer publishing house, which has the Bild and Die Welt newspapers under its umbrella, holding the Turkish and German flags in their hands to protest the newspapers' provocative articles on the issue.
Some of the demonstrators wore T-shirts and stickers that had "Ich bin Özil," ("I'm Özil" in German) written on them, while most of them carried photographs of the footballer.
Özil, 29, spent nine years on the national team, earned 92 caps and scored a World Cup win. He was attacked after the team was eliminated in the first round of the 2018 World Cup held in Russia. Right before the World Cup, Özil came under fire in Germany for meeting and taking a picture with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Some criticism after the meeting, however, turned into racial abuse.
Özil quit the national team last Sunday, citing the racist propaganda he faced in Germany since meeting Erdoğan two months ago. Özil accused far-right politicians and media for questioning his loyalty to Germany, and using his picture with Erdoğan "as an opportunity to express their previously hidden racist tendencies." Özil further said he no longer wanted to or could wear Germany's famous black-and-white jersey.
Bilgili Türkmen, a Turkish activist who is the head of Hacivat Art and Culture Association, the association that organized the demonstration, said that Turks and Muslims in Germany face inferior treatment when their political thoughts do not fit into the "common thought of the country."
Türkmen further bashed German media for remaining silent when it came to speeches that some Turkish origin politicians have given in front of the PKK flag, while heavily criticizing Özil's photograph with Erdoğan.
"Our main reaction is against racism and discrimination," said Bilal Kublay, a tradesman of Turkish descent from Germany.
"We can prove to the ones who claim that we have not adapted [to Germany] for 40-50 years how [well] adapted we are," said Kublay, stating that there are doctors, lawyers, businessmen and thousands of workers of Turkish descent in Germany.
"Mesut Özil became the world champion and [was] elected as the best footballer in Germany four or five times. How much [more] can he adapt to this society?" Kublay questioned.
İlhan Altun, a 31-year-old Turkish man who lives in Berlin, said the things that happened to Özil happen to everyone everywhere, including at work and college. He added that they are all against racism.
Meanwhile, Vodafone Germany made a scandalous decision and removed Özil from its campaign ad.
Ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) İstanbul deputy Mustafa Yeneroğlu announced the decision of the telecommunication company via his Twitter account yesterday, stating that the cause of the decision was to "not harm the image of the company."