German Cabinet minister Aydan Özoğuz

German Cabinet minister Aydan Özoğuz

Aydan Özoğuz will be the “State Secretary for Migration, Refugees and Integration” in the newly formed coalition government in Germany.

This is the highest position any Turkish origin citizen of Germany has reached up to now in the federal government. Özoğuz is a family friend of mine. She is the daughter of Orhan Özoğuz, who happens to be the brother of my friend of almost 60 years, Uğur Özoğuz. I have known Aydan from her childhood, she calls me “Uncle Ege.” 

I am so happy with her achievement; she is a wise person, who speaks clearly, with an intonation in every word. I have always been very proud of her. I congratulate her with all my heart. 

Aydan’s success is not coincidental

Aydan’s father is Orhan Bey, from Kadıköy, an elite district on the Asian side of Istanbul, but originally from Kilis, a southern province bordering Syria. He was educated at the Saint Joseph High School, a private high school teaching French, founded in 1870; and he is now a tradesman, exporting hazelnuts. Aydan’s mother is the late Günay Hanım, from the Kefeli family from the Black Sea province of Trabzon. She is a graduate of the Üsküdar American Girls High School. Aydan and her two brothers were all educated in Germany and they are all university graduates. 

Aydan has been involved in social and political issues since her youth. She has worked at the Körber Foundation, and has since joined the Social Democrat Party. Her German husband, who is also a politician, has always been her supporter on the path. She has moved up step by step in politics. This ministerial post has not been given to her just for a token Turkish origin person to be included in the Cabinet, but because she is capable of doing it. 

Aydan Özoğuz is a German of Turkish origin 

The new German Cabinet minister is not a “Alamanyalı,” meaning a first generation Turkish migrant worker who cannot even pronounce the country’s name properly, but rather she is a German with Turkish origins. When Germans compliment her with phrases like “Your German is very fluent,” she answers them with “So is yours,” intending to emphasize that, “I am also a German, of course I speak German fluently.” Her Turkish and English are also exceptionally good. 

When she visits Istanbul (as a matter of fact, she comes quite frequently), people often ask her “Will you return?” to understand whether she will ever come back to Turkey for good. She pretends that she did not understand the question and answers them, “Yes, I am retuning to Hamburg in a week’s time.” She regards herself as belonging to Germany.

Assimilation and integration 

Aydan Özoğuz, with her dark skin color and the structure of her eyes and eyebrows, is so Turkish looking that one would say from a distance “A Turk is coming this way.” In my words, she is a “secular Muslim.” Even though she has married a German, she has not abandoned her last name Özoğuz. She is extremely interested in Turkey and Turkish affairs. She is a first-class German in terms of respect for others’ rights, honesty, industriousness and not lying even if it is required. In that respect, she is very German and she has integrated into Germany.

Ege Cansen is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Dec 18. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.