by Julian Vierlinger

“Loss is a magical preservative. Time stops at the point of severance, and no subsequent impressions muddy the water you have in mind. The house, the garden, the country you have lost remain forever as you remember them. Nostalgia – that most lyrical of feelings – chrystalizes around these images like amber.” - Eva Hoffman


The year 2017 saw a diplomatic fallout between Turkey and the three of the four EU countries which host the largest number of individuals with Turkish origin - Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. The cause of the fracas was the three countries’ effective decision to block Turkish President Erdoğan and other notables of the AKP sphere from campaigning for the April constitutional referendum in Europe - a decision that was met by fierce condemnation from Ankara, and unprecedentedly violent tone of Erdoğan who accused European policy makers of being “Nazis” and threatened that “no EU citizen would walk the streets safely” if the decision would not be reviewed. (Osborne ed. 2017) On a more policy related level, Erdoğan threatened to cancel the conflictual EU-Turkey refugee deal and announced that Turkey might pull back its candidacy for EU membership. (Hacaouglu ed. 2017) The refusal of German, Dutch and Austrian policy makers to allow Erdoğan and his AKP to gather their supporters on EU soil has its roots in recent history - that is, Erdoğan’s various speeches in Austria and Germany between 2010 and 2014, which caused considerable uproar at the time, and first put the question of the validity of letting foreign politicians address their diaspora on the table. The central argument against AKP rallies in Europe then and are is is the issue of integration of the Turkish diaspora, and the negative effect on integration that Erdoğan’s discourses of belonging to the diaspora arguably have.

The issue can perhaps be most accurately described by the difference in terminology used to describe people of Turkish origin living in Europe: While in academic contexts they are accurately described as a diaspora, the term is hardly used in Turkish contexts, where they are described as ‘our citizens abroad’ - which is sometimes even applied both to Turks that have been naturalised in their host countries and carry dual nationality, and the ones that are only residents. In German, citizens of Turkish origin are called citizens ‘mit Migrationshintergrund’ (lit.: ‘with a background of migration’), which is however only applied to carriers of German/Austrian nationality. The conflict is therefore the question of ultimate belonging: are the Euro-Turks (as this paper will refer to them) Turks living in Europe or Europeans with Turkish roots?

It is a question highly charged with political energy, and the answer expected from the Euro-Turks by the Turkish government is the opposite of the one that the broader European public opinion - and European leaders - expect and proclaim. While the former insists on Turkey (and therefore theTurkish government being the primary reference of identity and guardian of the Euro-

Turks, the latest developments in Europe have shown that this claim is deemed threatening to continental stability, and that the Euro-Turks’ integration necessitates that their loyalty belong primarily to their host countries. The current shift in Turkish politics, i.e. the politics of the AKP, which is in European public opinion regarded as a shift away from democracy, further dramatizes the issue - as it includes a strong rapprochement of the ‘homeland’ to its diaspora. Germany and Austria are the main battlefields in this war over identification due to firstly the great number of Euro-Turks the two countries host, the genesis of said diaspora and the culture specific expectation towards immigration in the two countries.

This paper will firstly draw a portrait of the Turkish diaspora in those two countries, move on to explore the evolution of Turkish transnationalism over time and lastly explore the recent involvement of Erdoğan’s AKP in domestic politics in Austria and Germany with a focus on the phenomenon of Turkish funded parties in domestic elections, and Turkish funded organizations. It will be argued that the current Turkish government has a sincere interest in keeping the Euro-Turks’ loyalty to Turkey while at the same time keeping them in Europe; and that, conversely, this undertaking falls on fertile ground in the minds of the majority of Euro-Turks. Furthermore, this paper will advance that not only the role of the diaspora is changing, but also Turkey’s way of approaching its ‘citizens abroad’ has been characterised by a new strategy and a new set of goals that goes along with a redefinition of the very concept of integration - which is the ultimate cause of the above mentioned diplomatic conflicts between Turkey and many European nations. A red line spanning over this analysis will be the notion that the reason AKP’s success in Europe is essentially the exportation of its domestic strategy to the diaspora - which is due to the similarity between the present day majority diaspora’s situation in Europe, and the ‘Black Turks’ in pre-AKP Turkey.



Genesis of a diaspora

The first and most significant wave of Turkish immigration into Germany and Austria took place in the sixties, when the efforts of rebuilding the two war torn countries had finally begun to bear fruit: the newly re-developed secondary sector of the two economies was booming, but its demand for cheap labor could not be met by the traditional working class - and the primary sectors of the two countries could not continue to lose manpower to the industry. (Schmiderer 2008: 18 and Toktas 2012: 5) Turkey, at the same time, saw a growing unemployment rate - and the exportation of this ‘surplus labor’ was deemed necessary as a means to continued economical development in the five year plan of 1962-1967, both to keep the unemployment rate stable (ever since 1960, the unemployment rate was almost constantly held between 9% and 15%) and to profit from remittances. (Toktas 2012: 7) In 1961 Germany and Turkey signed a labor agreement, in 1964 Austria followed - and until 1966 Turkey had signed social security agreements with both countries. The scope of this labor migration was supposed to be limited, but eventually - as the industry showed an interest in keeping their trained workforce - this migration became more permanent, with family reunification cases increasing steadily. In 1975, this institutionalized mass immigration was stopped - yet, due to high birthrates, the Turkish populations in Germany and Austria nearly doubled; and growing numbers of these former guest workers were naturalized. In the troublesome years after the 1980 coup d’etat, Turkish migration to Germany and Austria surged again - this time in form of refugees and asylum seekers. Between 1985 and the early two thousands, immigration and returns to Turkey were almost balanced (even if a slight leaning towards immigration could be observed due to the conflicts in kurdish majority areas) - yet high birth rates of Euro-Turks (the average Turkish woman in Germany and Austria mothers around 3 children) led to the astonishing number of around 2,998 Million ethnic Turks living in Germany by 2013, and between 250.000 to 400.000 ethnic Turks in Austria by 2010. (Toktas 2012: 9, Potkanski 2010: 4, Kentel and Kaya 2004: 11 and BAMF 2011, 2012, 2013) In both cases, about half of these ethnic Turks still carry Turkish passports.

    It has been argued that recently, the number of Turks living in Germany and Austria is in decline (Sirkeci et al. 2012: 36) - however, German newspapers have recently noted that the number of Turkish asylum seekers in German is on the rise in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt 2016.

An important observation about Austria and Germany’s Euro-Turks is that their original roots lie mostly in the rural areas of Anatolia as these areas were subject to significantly higher rates of emigration than the urban areas of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. In the years right after the labor agreements, Turkish guest workers were mostly skilled personnel from the more developed areas of the country - yet in the latter part of the sixties this changed drastically, due to the saturation of the industry with skilled labor, and the massive increases of unemployment in the rural areas of Turkey. The same counts for the migratory movements taking between 1975 and today, as unemployment today is still relatively higher in the rural areas than the urban ones, and due to the fact that the post 1980 violence - including violence resulting from the Kurdish question - was largely focused on the eastern regions of the country. (Kentel and Kaya 2004: 10)

    Therefore, and to conclude on this section, we shall state that situating the roots of the Turkish diaspora in Europe as what is generally referred to as ‘black Turks’ - as opposed to ‘white Turks’ - is somewhat telling of majority attitudes towards identity and core values. (Jabbour 2017)


Attitudes and Identity

    A number of government issued studies have been published recently on the attitudes of ethnic Turks in Germany and Austria, whose results are rather striking. The three primary spheres of interest of said studies were perceptions of discrimination, identification with Turkey and the host country and general attitudes towards integration and cultural assimilation. In other words, they revolved around the central question of identity.


    According to the comprehensive study by Kentel and Kaya (2004), 36,6% of the sample set of Ethnic Turks in Germany (both naturalized and non naturalized) agreed with the statement ‘I am Turkish’, 49,9% with the statement ‘I am first Turkish then European’ and only 9,2% with the statement ‘I am first European then Turkish’. Furthermore did 48% of the sample set state that they feel closer to Turkey than Germany, while only 26,9% stated to feel equally close to both. 22% of the sample set stated they felt closer to Germany than to Turkey - and a negligible 2,6% that they felt equally far from both. We can extrapolate that, at least in 2004, there was a slight divergence between ethnic identification and national identification/identification with the Turkish state - while the former was relatively solid ‘Turkish’, the latter seems more ambiguous. The findings furthermore suggest that levels of interest (and identification) with domestic Turkish politics were relatively low in 2004: 75% of the sample set stated that they had not voted in Turkish domestic


elections ever since settling in Germany, and roughly 60% stated that they are either not at all, rather not or slightly interested in Turkish politics. It is to be stated here that in 2004, the AKP had been majority in the Turkish parliament years - with Erdoğan holding the post of prime minister - for only 2 years. Yet, the study suggests already that in 2004 32% of the sample set identified mostly with AKP, followed by 29% who identified with no party in Turkish politics. The findings showed furthermore that there is a relatively equal lack of interest in local German politics. Another important finding is the high identification with Islam and Muslim religious identity of Euro-Turks - especially in the lower spectrum of the socio-economic scale.

    A 2012 working paper on the status of political engagement commissioned by the German Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) supported above findings, and concluded inter alium that only about a third of Turks showed an interest in German politics, with even less affiliating with a party - while interest in Turkish domestic politics was much higher ranked. (Müssig & Worbs 2012: 5-6)

    In 2010, the Austrian Migrationsfonds (ÖIF) published a dossier on the attitudes of ethnic Turks in Austria that presented very similar findings: 70% of ethnic Turks identified more with Turkey than Austria. Furthermore, an interesting focus of the study was the role of the media and language in ‘euro-Turkish’ dynamics: only 58% of ethnic Turks stated that their German was fluent or native, and while 76% of the sample set watched Turkish television every day, only 30% watched Austrian television on a regular basis. (Potkanski 2010: 1-14)

    Another point where German and Austrian data converges is education and employment: in Austria, 58% of ethnic Turks did not engage in further education after finishing obligatory schooling, and the unemployment rate of ethnic Turks was consistently double the Austrian equivalent. In Germany, the figures are similar - reaching frightening peaks in the years before 2009, when a study revealed that in the Berlin region where 70% of Turks do not have a degree surpassing obligatory schooling, and 42% unemployment of ethnic Turks. (DIE ZEIT January 2009, Potkanski 2010: 1-14)

    In 2009, a German study noted that 82% of ethnic Turks in Germany felt discriminated (on different levels), and suggested that 42% of them would return to Turkey when the context would allow it. This percentage was even higher with Euro-Turks of the second generation. (Salzer 2009)

Similar findings were presented in a 2010 study by the Austrian ministry for integration - which noted the massive difference in levels of identification with Austria between immigrants of Turkis origin and immigrants of ex-Yugoslavian (72% identified with Austria first) and Polish origin (63% identified with Austria first). (Pöll ed. 2010)

    To conclude on this section, and to summarize the recent findings on the Euro-Turks living in Germany and Austria, we shall stretch four points. Firstly, ethnic Turks showed high levels of identification with their ‘Turkishness’, and slightly lower levels of identification with the state of Turkey and Turkish politics. Conversely, their identification with their host countries is significantly lower, going along with political participation in the host countries. Secondly, there is a drastic difference between employment and education levels of Austrian and German nationals when compared to ethnic Turks (naturalized or not). Thirdly, the issue of language is prevalent. Fourthly, Euro-Turks in both Austria and Germany feel relatively more discriminated against than minorities comparable in size.


    Furthermore, we shall emphasize that Kentel and Kaya’s findings show a clear link between identification with the host countries, political participation in the host countries and identification with religious identity with social class of ethnic Turks in Germany. While the (numerically inferior) ‘upper’ class tends to identify more strongly with Germany and German politics, the ‘lower’ class identifies more with their Turkishness - yet not necessarily with Turkish politics - and Islam. While similar data is not available in the Austrian case, we could assume that findings in Austria would be similar. What is interesting to extrapolate here is that the dynamics in Germany and Austria between the social classes is somewhat similar to ‘pre-Anatolian tiger’ Turkey: while the upper Kemalist classes identified strongly with the Turkish state and engaged in politics while largely disregarding the Turkish Islamic heritage, the lower classes were disenfranchised and were only ‘heard’ with the wake of AKP Islamist politics as their primary reference of identity was Islam (Jabbour 2017). Transposed to Germany and Austria, this observation holds. In other words, the ‘White Turk’ - ‘Black Turk’ divide can to some extent be transposed to Austria and Germany.



The Role of Islam as perceived Obstacle of Integration

    With the wake of right wing populism in Germany and Austria, the issue of integration has been playing a central role in the political theatre. While the focus on Turkish immigration in Germany is easily explained by the fact that ethnic Turks make up for the highest percentage of ‘foreigners’ in the country, the Austrian case is a little more complex (yet perhaps a little more telling) as the largest group of residents with foreign origin in the country are immigrants from ex-Yugoslavia. The 2008 legislative election campaign of the Austrian extreme right Freedom Party (FPÖ) featured a poster depicting a mosque and the - until now, heavily controversial - line “Wien darf nicht Istanbul werden” (literally “Vienna must not become Istanbul”). In 2012, the similar posters portrayed the (linguistically rather poorly endowed) rhyme “Abendland in Christenhand” (literally, “The Occident in Christian hands”) - and images of the party’s prime candidate H.C. Strache waving a wooden cross during a speech in dim light went around the world. In general, it is evident that the anti-immigration discourse of the FPÖ has in essence always been an anti-Islam discourse - and given the fact that ethnic Turks are the by far largest Muslim minority in Austria, this anti-Islam discourse is inherently linked to Austria’s population of Turkish origin. The same counts for the German right wing, epitomized in the recent surge of the AfD (far right “Alternative for Germany”) and PEGIDA (“Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident”) whose discourses are even more aggressive. The ‘integration issue’ concerning residents of Turkish origin, as treated by the German and Austrian far right wing, is therefore based on two qualities of ethnic Turks that are inseparable from each other: Islam and ‘Turkishness’. While language remains another core issue in the topic of integration, its relative weight in comparison to the perceived otherness of Islam seems inferior - especially when put into correlation with the relative ease that Yugoslavian migrants were integrated into Austrian societies. A well integrated immigrant in Germany and Austria is therefore not only someone who is fluent in the German language, but someone whose loyalty lies with the state, and not with something that is perceived to be in conflict with the authority of the state - be it another state or Islam. To return on the specificity of Austria: for migrants of Yugoslavian origin, neither another state nor Islam (with the exception of Bosnia) causes such a direct conflict of loyalty. In the Turkish case, both apply. A well integrated Turk, in far right wing discourse, would therefore be an Austrian or German passport bearing, secularised, German speaking citizen who cut his ties to the homeland.


In search of a definition of ‘successful integration’

    Quoting the far right as a sole reference for what a ‘well integrated Turk’ resembles to in Austrian and German public opinion is doubtlessly a fallacy. In general, whoever assumes that there is any form of consensus in the German or Austrian public sphere on what successful integration looks like is most definitely in error. Integration is above all about perception: the feeling of acceptance on the side of the migrant, and a feeling of minimized differences with the migrant from the side of the host country national. And indeed, above mentioned surveys, together with the surging right wing’s targeting of the Turkish population suggests that there is both a lacking feeling of acceptance from the side of the majority Euro-Turks, and a great feeling of otherness - recently linked to the abstract concept of the ‘Islamic threat’ - from large parts of the Austrian and German populations. To borrow from Jacques Lacan’s concept of the ‘stade de miroir’, one could argue that the radical refusal of the extreme right to accept ethnic Turks in the centre of the Austrian and German societies reinforces both the Muslim and the Turkish identity in Euro-Turks as in fact being in direct conflict with ‘German-ness’ or ‘Austrian-ness’ - this causal relationship, however, is not easily established.

    Kentel and Kaya, treat their findings as proof that the Islamic identification of Euro-Turks is in essence a reaction to diasporic existence: “The stress on religion is usually something adopted from parental culture as part of negotiation with the majority society. The way the Euro- Turks, especially German-Turks, employ religion as a source of identity is quite distant from being essentialist.” (Kentel and Kaya 2004: 60) They note that 48% of their subjects stated that their religious feelings became stronger upon arrival in Germany, while 39% remained the same. Furthermore, they argue that the weaker the direct memory of the homeland becomes - or in case of second and third generations, memory has disappeared completely - the more the notion of Turkey as the Islamic homeland as compared to Christian Europe leads to increased levels of Islamic identification, as it is considered as a core quality of ‘Turkishness'. (Kentel and Kaya 2004: 60-67)

    What is often in German and Austrian leftist discourse referred to as ‘role models of integration’ (‘Musterintegration’) are in fact those Euro-Turks that are not only identifying strongly with Germany or Austria, but those that have reached socio-economic success - which, as we can see in the studies cited above - is linked to lower identification levels with ‘Turkishness’ and therewith Islam.

    There are, however, two facts to consider: firstly, the religiosity of ethnic Turks in Austria and Germany is - even if ‘rooted’ in the genesis of the diaspora (as argued above) - at high levels, much higher as average Austrian or German identification with Christendom. Secondly, the mean ethnic Turk in Austria and Germany is statistically poorer than the mean statistical ethnic Austrian or German - whatever the causality may be. (Brettfeld & Wetzels 2007: 109-147


The image of the ‘Mustermigration’ demands from the Euro-Turk to drop his Turkishness in return for economic success. Turkish politics almost welcomed this trade-off - until 2002, when the AKP won parliamentary elections.




A short History of Turkish Transnationalism

    As outlined in the section on the genesis of the diaspora, the Turkish labor migration to Germany and Austria was - in the beginning - not at all imagined to be permanent. Yet, the dynamic of employers wanting to hold on to trained workers in interplay with family reunifications lead to a type specific form of Turkish transnationalism that is characterized by a community divided between two worlds: an almost poetic imagination of the homeland that is kept alive by vacations and family visits in Turkey and an at times difficult reality in the host country, last but not least due to the hostility of parts of the local populations. (Sirkeci et al. 2012: 31-40)

    Especially the role of the high consumption of Turkish media (especially television and online content - as outlined in part one) that is specifically aimed at the diaspora reinforces this dynamic of the colorful homeland versus a grey Germany or Austria, or in fact any other country with a significant Turkish population. (Karanfil 2009: 887-889)

    The gap between these two worlds, and the intensity of identification with the one or the other, as stated above, depends immensely on the socio economic status of the migrant. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the economic value of staying in Europe (due to higher income levels and social security) arguably outgunned the implementation to the ver much present will to return ‘home’. There was also no incentive given by the various Turkish governments to make its diaspora return as the need to stabilize unemployment remained necessary (which it does well until today), and because of the benefit of direct and indirect remittances. Turkish governments had put various institutions in place to profit from the migrants’ labor abroad, most notably the famous worker stocks which were in essence investments in underdeveloped areas with government liability. The indirect path of remittances, that is direct transactions between family members of either cash or valuables, had a positive economic impact on Turkish economy as well. (Toktas 2012: 13-19)

    In 1982, the role of the diaspora gained a political dimension, when the amendment of the constitution officially legalized dual citizenship, and thereby - to some extent - legalised transnationalism. This shift of the diaspora’s role from a largely economical one to a political one has to be put into context with opening of the Turkish economy in the mid 80ies and Turkey’s bid to EU membership of 1987. 1984 saw the creation of a Turkish sponsored Muslim tent-organization DITIB (in essence the diaspora are of the Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi), whose mission was in essence to unify and represent the (Turkish) Muslim community in German politics and societal discourse, and to organize Islamic charity missions. A similar organization called ATIB was shortly after founded in Austria. This policy of rapprochement towards Turkey’s ‘citizens abroad’, has been described as a form of utilization of the diaspora as a foreign policy tool: a well integrated diaspora that is legally rooted in both Turkey and Europe should function as a form of lobbying group for EU membership. (Bilgili & Siegel 2013)

    Both the force of both the political and economical role of the diaspora is therefore linked to the level of integration into the host society - a higher level of integration leads to better positioning on the socio-economic scale and therefore to a higher economical value of the migrant to the homeland, and on the political level, to a more effective form of ‘public diplomacy’. In other words, the more integrated, the more ‘useful’ the migrant is to Turkish politics.

    With the 2002 victory of the AKP in parliamentary elections, and the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the political role of the diaspora would increase - yet, both the way to engage the political force of the diaspora, and its objective would change. Most notably, the definition of how an ethnic Turk was supposed to integrate into the European sphere, and thereby the state-supported model type Euro-Turk had changed from the ‘Turkish ambassador of dual nationality’ to something entirely different; and in light of the findings presented in the aforementioned studies on Euro-Turk’s attitudes, this redefinition would fall on fertile grounds.


The AKP and the Euro-Turks: the role of the UETD

    The AKP’s strategy in Germany and Austria was very similar to the way it approached Turkish citizens in the homeland: it answered the needs of the disenfranchised, firstly by acknowledging their existence and giving them a voice in domestic politics. In 2004, it founded the Union of European-Turkish Democrats as a form of diaspora arm of the party. The Union would act as a lobbying or interest group, organized events and rallies and promoted identification with AKP Turkey in the ranks of the Euro-Turks. In 2008, it facilitated the first ever speech of prime minister

Erdoğan in front of roughly 17.000 members of the diaspora - an event that was, although considered a ‘private visit’, protected by police and single largest political rally for a foreign politician ever since the Kennedy visit after the fall of the Berlin wall. (Spiegel Online - 11/02/2009) Thereon, the UETD would be a central organ in organizing rallies defending AKP policy - from anti-PKK demonstrations to counter-demonstrations against the Gezi Park protests. By today, the UETD is the by far largest political organization of Euro-Turks. The first notable step of AKP policy towards the diaspora was the implementation of voting in Turkish diplomatic offices outside of the country in 2014, which expanded the election campaigning to the diaspora - and increased the importance of the now Europe-wide active UETD.


Support of Muslim Communities

    The aforementioned DITIB was created as an independent organization, has however since its creation had strong ties to the Turkish regime, due to its functioning - which has not changed drastically ever since its creation. The Imams it procures to its mosques and houses of prayer go to Germany for 5 years, are trained and chosen by the Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi in Ankara, and paid by the Turkish state; which in essence makes them functionaries of the state. The powerful councils on top of the structure include high functionaries from the Turkish government, and large parts of the organizations funds are provided by the Turkish state. (Süddeutsche Zeitung 01/08/2016)

    At the time of its creation, it was indeed envisioned as exporting the Kemalist doctrine of statal Islam incorporated by the Diyanet Isleri Baskanligi to the diaspora; with the rise of the AKP however, its discourse was aligned with party doctrine, and its funding increased - as visible in the expansion of its functions. Since 2002, the DITIB has turned into a form of waqf, acquiring properties in Germany and engaging in the construction of mosques of sometimes gigantic dimensions, such as the DITIB Zentralmoschee (central mosque) in Köln whose construction was started in 2009 and is supposed to be able to give space to up to 1200 believers featuring minarets of 55m in height.

    In 2017, the DITIB was accused of “spying” for the AKP - i.e., identifying members of the Gülen movement. The subject was heatedly discussed, until the DITIB unprecedentedly admitted the act. Yet, what is undisputed is that DITIB related mosques and religious associations have ever since the AKP’s rise to power actively promoted AKP discourse and condemned its enemies. DITIB statements concerning issues ranging from the Gezi Park protests, to German parliamentary recognition of the genocide and last but not least the failed coup d’etat have been in defense of AKP party line which has earned the organization heavy criticism at times from German media and politics. In light of the recent diplomatic fracas, the role of the DITIB - and the cooperation of the German state with it - has been subject of debate, to the point where a parliamentary investigation has been launched into AKP influence on the organization. Results, however, are expected to be published only at the end of 2017. (Die Zeit 12/01/2017)
 The Austrian ATIB in turn keeps a much lower profile.

    Another organization - this time far from statal - that has in the past come under heavy fire from the German and Austrian public is the international Millî Görüş movement’s Germany branch IMGM, who holds around 30 associations in Austria as well. Its mosques have hosted sermons of Imam’s considered radical by the German Verfassungsschutz, who has been investigating the movement in 2009. (BvVS Memento 01/07/2009: 228) Although the Millî Görüş is more aligned to the Saadet Partisi than to the AKP, the AKP still holds part of the organization - due to the common ‘father figure’ of Erbakan. The Islamist discourse entertained in IMGM mosques has been described as ferociously defending Erdoğan’s policies on religious grounds. (Vielhaber 2013)


    The AKP’s support for religious organizations in Europe is rooted in the party’s neo-Islamist ideology. In Erdoğan’s discourse Islam is used as an integral part of Turkishness and legitimizes AKP policy. In the diaspora, in accordance to the findings of Kentel and Kaya, religiousness has become a central part of Turkish identity as well - and Islamic community-life has taken a central role in matters of auto-identification. By controlling, or at least influencing, the bearers of this community life, the numerous Islamic organizations in Europe, the AKP spreads its political message (that is by itself of an Islamist nature) through the very institutions of Islam. This powerful dynamic might partly explain the massive popularity Erdoğan enjoys under Euro-Turks in Germany and Austria. Once more, the dynamic in the diaspora reminds strikingly of AKP practice in Turkey itself.

AKP sponsored parties in Germany and Austria


    Another dimension of the AKP’s engagement of the Euro-Turks is the 21st century phenomenon of the ‘Immigrant Party’ in European domestic politics - that is, parties or electoral lists that claim to offer an alternative to established national parties for immigrants of all origins. Germany and Austria have seen the formation of such parties and lists on the regional level, and lately on thenational level as well - interestingly, almost all of these parties were to some extent related to the AKP and the Turkish government. Similar developments have lately taken place in the Netherlands and France as well - in the Dutch case, the AKP-friendly immigrant party “DENK” even managed to enter parliament on its first electoral run in March 2017. (RP-online 16/03/2017)

    In Austria, the first instance of party made up primarily of Euro-Turks - and focused on immigrants needs - was formed in 2009 from the already existing structures of a labor union of Turkish-origin workers that was founded in the late nineties in the eastern province on Vorarlberg. The county of Vorarlberg is home to the second largest number of Austro-Turks after Vienna - yet due to its relatively small size, the percentage population of Austro-Turks in higher than in Vienna. The origins of the Turkish-origin population lie deep in the history of the guest worker agreements of the sixties, as the fabric industry (until today the main branch of industry in the county) needed excessive amounts of cheap labor, which was consequently imported from Turkey. The Austro-Turks of Vorarlberg are therefore to a large extent second or third generation immigrants today - and are, in public discourse, to be considered as very well integrated into Vorarlbergian society. Traditionally, the Austro-Turks of Vorarlberg were aligned with the Austrian labor party - the social democrat SPÖ. When the list announced its election run for the county parliament, controversy ensued. In the end, the party ran on a joint list with other smaller scale fractions, which eventually failed to surpass the threshold of 5% with a disappointing result of 1,74% of the votes. Yet, until 2016, the party had reinvented itself and its head Adnan Dinçer - who had been in Austria since his early childhood - announced that the party would from now on run nation-wide for elections. In his program, Dinçer declares the project of Turkish integration in Austria a failure due to the impossibility for Austro-Turks to meet the apparent precondition of assimilation. Integration, for him, would be accepting difference - and granting specific autonomies to Austro-Turks - and argues that there is a specific form of Austrian Islamophobia that manifests itself not only in the populous, but is heavily institutionalized. Therefore, he deems necessary for the government to “stop meddling in Islamic affairs” - i.e., stepping back from monitoring or in general taking in interest in inter-Muslim-community dynamics. He furthermore demands that Austro-Turks who return home should be paid back their contributions to the welfare system, is in favor of a minimum income paid by the state of 1500€ and wants to implement regional voting rights for residents. His party is considered to be financially and logistically supported by the UETD - and therewith, the AKP. Furthermore, in the night of the coup d’etat, Dinçer was one of the organizers of the demonstration in solidarity with Erdoğan in front of the Turkish consulate in Vorarlberg.

Interestingly, Dinçer argues that his party is not a “Turk-Party”, but an Austrian center-right party that is open for all immigrants who hold different opinions than what is demanded in what he calls the ‘integration project’ - and offers them to give them a voice. The party, now calling itself Neue Bewegung für die Zukunft (NBZ) - which translates to ‘New Movement for the Future’ - is planning to run for parliamentary elections in 2018.
(Der Standard 31/10/2016, Kurier 16/01/2017 and NBZ Website/social media)

    A similar party was founded, again in Austria even if this time in the capital Vienna, in 2015 by the Turkish doctor Turgay Taşkıran. Under the name Gemeinsam für Wien (lit.: together for Vienna), the party presented its candidacy to the Viennese municipal elections - which are at the same time the county elections, as Vienna is not only a municipality but a county as well - and missed the 5% threshold with 0,97% of the votes, managed however to enter three of the 23 district parliaments (not surprisingly, the three with the highest number of Austro-Turks). Taşkıran’s discourse is very much comparable to Dinçer’s NBZ: he speaks of the prevalence of ‘Islam Bashing’ in Austria, demands acceptance of difference and vows to reshape the definition of integration. Taşkıran’s link to the AKP is even clearer than the NBZ’s - and has caused considerably more uproar - as he is in fact a former president of the UETD, and was notably one of the organizers of Erdoğan’s 2014 speech in Vienna. His proximity to the AKP has been a hot topic during the Vienna elections, and Taşkıran eventually stated that he was “being pressured to distance himself from Erdoğan” and that he would therefore abstain from claiming financial support from Ankara, and would limit this support to “logistical counseling”. In 2017, he announced that his party would run again in 2018 - this time for the parliamentary elections. Taşkıran, just like Dinçer, stretches that the party is not a Turkish party - but an immigrant party. (Die Presse 22/07/2015, ORF 21/07/2015 and Der Standard 16/10/2016)

    Although the existence of two migrant parties with striking similarities in a small country like Austria seems striking, one needs to consider that Vienna and Vorarlberg are two counties that are separated by nothing less than the entirety of the Austrian Alps. Traditionally, the Turkish communities of Vorarlberg and Vienna have been rather independent from each other. At the moment of the writing of this paper, no news concerning a possible unification was available.

    In Germany, the first notable instance of a AKP-related regional migrant party running for election occurred in 2011 with a move that could most accurately be described by a non-hostile takeover. In the wake of the 2011 Berlin county elections, the AKP cofounder, renowned professor and ex-president of Turkish national TV Nevzat Yazıntaş travelled to Germany and proclaimed that it “was time to join up forces” - and urged the Turkish-origin population of Berlin to vote for the 2009 founded Bündnis für Innovation und Gerechtigkeit-BIG (Union for Innovation and Justice). The party, whose name resembles closely to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), had until then denied any links with the Erdoğan government; yet its founder’s proximity to the UETD was a well known fact. The party only achieved 0,5% of the votes - and was reproached by media and politics for a number of homophobic posters and flyers. (SpiegelOnline 16/09/2011)


    In 2016, the ex-UETD functionary and wealthy self-made businessman Remzi Aru founded the Allianz Deutscher Demokraten (Alliance of German Democrats) - only days after the recognition of the Armenian genocide by the German parliament, on a sunday at exactly at 14:53 o’clock; a combination willingly chosen to refer to the 1453 ottoman taking of Constantinople. Aru was a well known figure in German television, and his sometimes verbally violent attacks on ‘assimilated’ Euro-Turks in the public sphere, his praise for press liberty in Turkey and general embracing of the state of Turkish affairs gave him the reputation of a pro-Erdoğan polemist. Aru announced that his party would run for the September 2017 general elections. (TAZ 24/06/2016)


    The success of all immigrant parties (with the exception of the Dutch case) has so far been marginal - yet, the impact of the sheer existence of said parties has been loud, and resonated in both the Euro-Turk society and European media and politics. It is interesting to note that there is a certain trend of transparency visible: while the chronologically earlier founded migrant parties or party-like structures tended to keep their ties with AKP in the shadow, recently quite the opposite has been the case. Furthermore are three observations noteworthy: firstly, the fact that the main issues these parties address are quite homogenous - i.e. the alleged failure of the assimilationist approach to integration, the rise of Islamophobia and the necessity for more autonomy, for ‘political alternatives’; secondly, the fact that all these parties have been founded by AKP-related Turks but yet proclaim to stand for immigrants of all origins; thridly, the conflictual relationship of these parties’ functionaries with Turkish-origin politicians in established national parties.


    Erdoğan’s wish to integrate the ‘citizens abroad’ in local politics has been very openly expressed in his 2008 speech in cologne, where he stated that he would much like to see Euro-Turks becoming mayors, ministers and parlamentarians. Yet, the refusal of exactly these Euro-Turks (notably the leader of the German green party Cem Özdemir) to affiliate with Erdoğan and the AKP gives rise to the consideration that the AKP has adopted a strategy to try and bring their ‘own’ Euro-Turks into political positions.

    The issue that is prevalent is the dichotomy of the AKP’s ideal-type Euro-Turk, and the real-world successful Euro-Turks that refuse this ideal type, and adhere to the host societies ideal-type integrated Euro-Turk. And indeed, this dichotomy resonates in the speeches held in front of Euro-Turks of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - which shall be the last section of this analysis.

Erdoğan’s ongoing redefinition of ‘our citizens abroad’

    To understand the AKP’s strategy in approaching the diaspora, an analysis of Erdoğan’s speeches in front of European publics is paramount. Erdoğan’s discourse from his first speech in Germany, that is in 2008 until his statements in the 2017 fallout describe a trend of redefining what his image of the ideal type Euro-Turk is; what is expected from them and what their link to the homeland is - in Erdoğan’s eyes - supposed to resemble to. The 2008 speech in cologne is characterised by an almost rosy tone. The then prime minister commences his discourse by citing the anatolian poet Yunus that roughly translates to


“I did not come to fight /
 my business is love /

The house of the friend, it is the hearts /
 I came, to win over hearts.”


(excerpt from full text of speech published in “Die Welt” on 22th of February 2008)



Erdoğan states that the message of the Turk, wherever he may go, is never war, hatred or conflict - it is love, fraternity, tranquility and a feeling of security. He goes on to outline the history of the ‘Gurbetçiler’ - the ‘Turks in the foreign who want to return home’ as he refers to in the crowd when he does not call them ‘brothers and sisters’; he states that their grand success was to have integrated themselves in the ‘Gurbet’, while having kept their culture, their language, their traditions - and applauds them for it. He furthermore praises the government of Turkey (his government) for its success to have brought an economic upwind to the country, and states that it is a government that will not forget its diaspora. This notion is key; Erdoğan, throughout the speech, conveys an atmosphere of a new Turkey, a new era in which the government of the homeland will treat its ‘gurbetçiler’ differently. A central part of his speech, which is the one part of the speech which would be printed in every second German newspaper and discussed by politics and media alike, is his view on assimilation: The ‘Gurbetçiler’ could not be demanded to tolerate assimilation, for it is a crime against humanity. They must be accepted the way they are. If they are not, it is not their fault - just as much as Turkey and the EU; he outlines that full accession must be the ultimate goal, yet that if it is not achieved it is the decision of the EU - and has nothing to do with Turkey’s policy.
 (full text of speech [German translation] published in “Die Welt” on 22th of February 2008 [translated by Julian Vierlinger])

    Six years later, in 2014, Erdoğan would hold another speech in Cologne - the tone and message does not change significantly, except for a much more clear and straightforward Islamic touch; he commences his discourse by wishing that “Allah’s blessing may be on all of us”. He lauds the ‘Gurbetçiler’ for their patience and congratulates them to their success in Germany. The general theme however of the speech is that of özlem, of missing the ones that are not there. He states that as long as there are Turks abroad, the Gurbet is in the hearts of Turkey as well. The message of the speech is that the nation does not forget, and he is the messenger of this nation. Yet, he states, there are bad individuals in the opposition that do not hear the suffering of the Gurbetçiler. When Erdoğan mentions the German chancellor Merkel, there are whistles and booing from the crowd - which Erdoğan stops by raising his hand, in a gesture of patriarchal authority. He states that Germany and Austria are companions in fate, ever since the indeed fateful cooperation of the Ottoman Empire and the German empire in the wake of the first world war. When he however subtly deals out blows to the opposition or the media, he entertains the whistles and boos with almost prophetic tranquility. The central message of the speech is twofold: the Gurbetçiler are no longer forgotten, the homeland remembers and rewards them; Turkey has changed - and will even more after the success of the elections, for “There is no more Turkey, which is determined by the events of the day, Turkey determines the events of the day!” (video of speech available on UETD site with German subtitles)

    The 2014 campaign brought Erdoğan to Vienna as well, where he continued his discourse in front of around 7000 Austro Turks. The message is similar to the one of cologne: the new Turkey hears its diaspora, the new Turkey protects his diaspora - and both the Austro-Turks and the Austrian government should notice the presence of this new Turkey. Turkey is a chance for the EU, and a necessity for European development, for it is the gateway to the East, to all Muslims wordlwide. Should Europe refuse Turkey, the “fire of the east” will consume Europe - for only

Turkey can contain it. He repeats his demand to the Euro-Turks, this time however even clearer: “You will integrate yourselves, but you will not assimilate yourselves.” Last but not least, he calls all Turks in Europe to make use of their electoral rights - and calls them to vote in the presidential elections.
 (full text available on UETD Austria office website)

    Erdoğan’s way of approaching the diaspora is a mirror of his politics. Inclusion of the disenfranchised by the sheer greatness of his new Turkey, that has found its Islamic heritage: fraternity and progress, power and influence that goes far over the national borders. Erdoğan appeals to the feeling of discrimination, of otherness and declares it a sacred mission that is engrained in the destiny of the Turkish nation. He redefines integration as the embracing of difference, declares total loyalty of Turkey to its diaspora - and impliedly demands cultural and political loyalty in turn. Whoever refuses this loyalty is a traitor of the nation - by extension; the ‘old’ Turkey betrayed its diaspora.


    Erdoğan’s European campaign bore its fruits in the outcome of the presidential election: 70% of Austro-Turks, and 56% of German Turks voted for him, a result that greatly surpasses his success at “home”. Yet, the voter turnout - especially in Austria - left room for improvement. A mere 12% of eligible voters made the move to the ballot boxes in Austria for the 2014 presidentials. However, in the 2015 legislative elections, the turnout was improved drastically: 44% of Austro-Turks eligible to vote voted. In Germany as well, turnout improved in the parliamentary election.
 (Die Presse 02/11/2015, Die Presse 08/06/2015, Tiroler Tageszeitung 30/10/2015)



    Voter turnout seems to be the biggest issue in Erdoğan’s European efforts. The countermeasures taken against his campaigning by European governments are grand impeachment to changing this status quo. Yet, the countermeasures - i.e. banning AKP functionaries from speaking in front of Euro-Turkish crowds - have opened another arsenal for Erdoğan in his quest for Euro-Turkish hearts: the notion of victimization. His aggressive discourse against European leaders’ decision linked with the subtle overtones of Islamophobia and anti-Turkish conspiracy might fit into the logic of the constitutional referendum that Turks will decide over in April. The grand question is, if the domestic Turkish reasoning of a stronger leader, a stronger president to defend Turkey’s interest will be transposable to diaspora logic. For Erdoğan’s ideal type Euro-Turk, this reasoning is key.

The objectives of AKP diaspora politics.


    The objectives pursued by the AKP’s engagement of the diaspora are arguably multiple. Firstly, with the upcoming electoral referendum and the close call it will be (, a platform that cross-calculates opposition and regime surveys speaks of a slight lead of NO over YES, with 52,1% against 47,9%) makes it an electoral necessity to profit from the electoral potential of the diaspora; especially in light of the fact that Germany, for example, is considered the 4th largest electoral district of Turkey after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.
 ( and Diemand ed. 2017)

    Secondly, the aforementioned political function of the diaspora in the form of public diplomacy has been argued to be an essential part of what has been described as the ‘Neo-Ottomanism’ of Erdoğan’s Turkey. Following this logic, the establishment of a form of AKP-Turkish kinship over the Euro-Turks by institutionalizing and strengthening their ties to the homeland - and ensuring their loyalty as superior to host-country loyalty - advances standing of Turkey in the international sphere. (Baklacıoğlu 2015)
 This will to reestablish Ottoman greatness has been described as a core part of the AKP’s goals for the country. (Jabbour 2017)


However, a detailed analysis of the AKP’s objectives will only be visible once its long term effects crystallize - and would surpass the framework of this paper.



    The AKP’s multi-facetted engagement of the Euro-Turks follows in many ways the same logic as its approach to domestic Turkish politics as an antithesis to Kemalism. A turn away from secular isolationist Europeanism, and a return to the imperial, Islamic values of the Ottoman empire whose arm reaches far beyond the borders. Its target group in Turkey is very much the same as its target group in the diaspora - the disenfranchised Black Turks of Turkey, that do not identify with pre-AKP politics and ideology; the disenfranchised Euro-Turks that do not identify with the Mustermigration model of the European context, the notion of assimilation, dual loyalty and integration. The AKP has therefore managed to expand the ‘White-Turk’ / ‘Back Turk’ divide to the diaspora - with the European white Turks being the ‘well-integrated’, economically successful and assimilated secular Euro-Turks, and the European black Turks being the less successful, discriminated individuals that are lost in the gap that decades of transnationalism created. The AKP appeals to Euro-Turk’s perception of Islamophobia and xenophobic discrimination just as much as it appealed to rejection of Kemalist secularism in Turkey. The effect of its discourse is comparable to the one in Turkey: a wedge drawn between the communities of the diaspora, a polarization of the society, a rebalancing of identity. As the mentioned surveys show, the disenfranchised Euro-Turks are just as much a majority as the pre 2002 disenfranchised Black Turks in mainland Turkey.


    Whereas in Turkey, democracy led to an institutionalization of this shift in the political balance, the effects in the diaspora are more divisive, as there are no executive institutions to enforce the shift. The main front against Erdoğan in the Austrian and Turkish sphere are exactly the well integrated, assimilated Turks - such as Cem Özdemir - whose voice is heard by the Austrian and German publics.


    The support and creation of institutions in Europe to embrace and organize the anti-assimilationist front - notably the UETD, the renewed DITIB, the numerous parties and electoral list, the Grey Wolves - are a step in the direction of counterbalancing this development. And their opposition to diasporic organizations embracing assimilation widens the gap between the different colours of the diaspora. Especially the AKP funded party’s ideology of representing all immigrants, not just the Turkish ones, illustrates Erdoğan’s image of the Euro-Turks as a form of colony in Europe, spreading the influence of Ankara in the parallel societies of the European reality. Islam has a key role here. In general, the AKP’s diaspora politics can be aligned with what has been termed Neo-Ottomanist politics.




    Acknowledging the danger of excessive essentialism, it could be stated that he success of the AKP in Europe is very much a proof of the validity of its basic assumption: the European model of integration has failed. The perception of ‘otherness’ in the majority of Euro-Turks in Germany and Austria is too strong to be ignored, and the economic difficulty (that is arguably a result from de facto anti-Turkish discrimination) supercharges this perception, resulting in an idealization of the origin of ‘Turkishness' - whose official Turkish definition was not carried in the Kemalist past, but is very much embraced by the AKP. The AKP success can be explained by its successful attempt to fill the gap Turkish transnationalism has left. For this gap to be filled by a force that is considered hostile by European politics and public opinion, its mere existence is a precondition. The same logic applies to Turkey: for Erdoğan to win over the disenfranchised, the disenfranchised had to first identify as such.


    However, the appeal of Erdoğan’s AKP to Euro-Turks can be most simply described as playing on the subjective feeling of losing ones original roots, that one is however consistently reminded of - as Eva Hoffmann so poetically described by stating that “Loss is a magical preservative”. The discourse of Turkish grandeur therefore falls on such fruitful grounds in the diaspora as it responds perfectly to the idealization of the homeland. The focus of Erdoğan’s discourse to firstly assure that this feeling of loss is mutual and that the mythification of subjective otherness is a question of pride - while return is still not necessary - is therefore, unsurprisingly more successful than the assimilationism preached by European governments and the European public. To some extent, it could be stated that Erdoğan’s AKP managed to mythify the diaspora, to give them a spot in the Turkish national organism - a task that was never to this extent taken up by Kemalist governments.






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