Fireworkers work on the roof of a house to extinguisch a fire that swept through an apartment building, killing at least seven people, including six children on early March 10, 2013 in Backnang, southwestern Germany. AFP Photo
Fire swept through an apartment building in southwestern Germany on March 10, killing seven kids and a mother from a Turkish family that migrated to Backnang, near Stuttgart, from the southeastern Turkish province of Adıyaman. Reports have suggested that the deceased were Nazlı Özcan Soykan, 40, Hatice, 17, Yılmaz, 14, Abdülkadir, 8, İzzet, 7, Yasin, 6, Ahmet, 3 and 6-months-old Murat Soykan.
Turkish broadcaster NTV quoted Mehmet Canbolat, the editor-in-chief of Toplum newspaper in Germany, as saying there was a possibility that the fire was started deliberately, as the area is dominated by migrants and there is a German-Turkish cultural exchange association on the ground floor of the burnt building. However, Agence France-Presse quoted police sources as saying that “there are no indications of arson or xenophobic motives.”
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on his Twitter account that Turkey was expecting Germany to leave “no doubts” in explaining the cause of the fire.
We are considering every possibility: Gül
Police said they were investigating an oven in a flat on the first floor of the former leather factory in the town of Backnang near Stuttgart, according to Agence France-Presse. A fire from a stove is another possible cause for the blaze.
Hundreds of firefighters tackled the fire that broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning.
By mid-morning, the fire was under control but not yet extinguished, according to media reports.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement offering condolences to the families of the victims and calling for a quick and comprehensive investigation over the incident. “While German
authorities have following the preliminary inspections notified us that there weren’t any racist element involved in the incident, a rigorous and serious investigation is needed as many [Turkish] nationals have lost their lives following fires caused by xenophobic motives in previous years,” the statement read.
Turkey’s Ambassador to Germany Hüseyin Avni Karslıoğlu also said they had officially requested a full probe into the deadly fire. Karslıoğlu, who flew from Berlin to Backnang after hearing of the incident, pleaded for calm and restraint. “This sort of incident brings to mind very different [motives]… However, we have to await the [findings of the investigation] with calmness. I don’t want to speculate because it doesn’t serve any purpose,” he said.
Meanwhile, President Gül, who arrived in Sweden for an official two-day visit, also reminded the public that Turkish nationals living in Germany had been the victims of many premeditated crimes and arsons in the past. Gül assured the public that Turkish officials were considering every possibility, but said it was too premature to say that the fire was started with xenophobic motives.
A total of eight people died in arson attacks by right-wing extremists on houses occupied by Turks in the German
towns of Moelln and Solingen in 1992 and 1993. Fears for the safety of Turks in Germany have grown since it emerged that a neo-Nazi cell was allegedly behind a series of attacks against foreigners between 2000 and 2007. A trio of militants, calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU), are accused of killing nine men of Turkish or Greek
origin across Germany between 2000 and 2006.
In a separate report, Munich state high court rejected to reserve a permanent place for Turkey’s Berlin Ambassador and Turkish Parliament Human Rights Responsible for monitoring the NSU case. Head of the court, Manfred Goetzel said that they have rejected the demand due to limited place but Turkish authorities can monitor the lawsuit by attending the trial like anyone else.