Marine, leave us dual citizens be!
Nazlan Ertan - firstname.lastname@example.org
REUTERS photoI was born the citizen of a country that frequently boasts of its rich history and its ability to transform a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire into a secular republic. My country of birth is proud of its heroes – rulers, military men and, often, military men who became rulers.
In my late 20s, I acquired a second citizenship in a country that is proud of its rich history, imperial past and current secular system; a country that somehow felt that its past was more glorious than its current place in the global arena; a country with a strong sense of irony and individualism. I became a Franco-Turk or Turco-French in 2000, a few months after Turkey became a candidate to the European Union during the 1999 Helsinki summit.
As a dual citizen, I have voted in both my countries in the last month, in the Turkish referendum on constitutional amendments and in French presidential election. In both cases, I applied the same values: my desire for a democratic, pluralistic liberal system that guarantees human rights and personal liberties for all.
No adult who acquires a second nationality sees it as a simple act of bureaucracy. From the moment you start thinking about making the application to the moment you receive a presidential letter of welcome, the process requires and urges you to reflect in depth: Do you share the values/principles/policies of the country whose citizenship you demand? Are they compatible with what you already believe in? How much do you know your new country? Are you interested in learning more?
During the long process when I was the citizen of a country, applicant for a second and living in a third, I met many dual or multinational citizens. A friend was a Romanian who became a German citizen and worked for English media in Brussels; another was a Pakistani national who acquired Belgian citizenship, was married to a Spaniard and whose children were a delightful mix of different cultures. When the European Union was enjoying its most optimistic and ambitious period, we as journalists in Brussels talked, argued and tackled many issues without being stuck in “national positions.” I felt that by understanding the biases of different countries, my multicultural, multinational friends and colleagues were the true ambassadors of multiculturalism, which brought what we needed most in international politics – knowledge, understanding and the ability to mitigate between different points of view.
That is why I am not only worried but disgusted about the discussion on dual nationality that has emerged in many countries. European countries have taken great and – in the case of Germany and Austria – difficult legal/political steps in recognizing dual citizenship in the last two decades. In today’s Europe, accepting dual nationality is the norm, rather than the exception. Migration, international marriages and studying-then-settling abroad have made dual or multiple nationality a necessity. The fact that there has been peace in Europe for the last 72 years made the question “whose side would you fight on if there is a war” simply silly.
In the reality/mobility of the 21st century, the view expressed by Marine Le Pen to Lebanon’s L’Orient-Le Jour that “dual citizenship holders must decide which country is their real homeland” or other similar wordings to the effect that “People have to choose one nationality and decide where their loyalties lie, once and for all,” are almost as archaic as asking people to live in a single city all their lives. It simply does not correspond to the lifestyle and needs of the 21st century.
Yet, in the second decade of the 21st century, dual nationality appears to be under attack once more as populism rises and “people from somewhere” seem to find an enemy in “people from just anywhere.” It is not simply the parties of the extreme right that are fueling the debate: In addition to Le Pen, who told France 2 TV that if elected, she would not allow French citizens to hold on to any citizenship in a non-European country, politicians from various parties considered to be center-right, such as Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Belgium’s Christian Democrats have aired opinions on “re-thinking dual nationality” after Turks in their countries voted predominantly “yes” in the April 16 referendum.
Yes, part of the debate is caused by Turkey: messages from Turkish embassies/consulates that ask dual nationals to “report” people who insult Turkey and the Turkish president are foolish and illegal. Hate-speech toward the host country or its politicians by some Turkish politicians are worse and need to stop.
But just let dual nationals be. Dual citizenship is a tool of integration, not of separation. We, dual citizens, are not some sort of temporary citizens whose citizenship rights could be taken away if we behave in a certain way or if politics dictate it. If we do anything illegal, we will be penalized just like other citizens in the country.
We are not moles/Trojan horses/informants/street fighters of the country of our (or our parents’) birth – we should neither be forced to be so, or be regarded as such. It’s great to get the invitation to National Day holidays, but spare us the consular email to report on “our neighbors” if they say anything nasty about Turkey or “bring them to Turkey” to boost tourism when the country’s leaders are snubbing the Big, Bad West all the time.
I do understand the surprise in Europe over the high percentage of Turkish citizens who said “yes” to greater presidential powers in the last referendum. It is a great irony to choose to live under a regime where there is a strong separation of powers and then vote in a way that erodes the same separation in your country of birth.
However, does it not simply prove that people in democracies can get lured by anti-democratic rhetoric and foolishly vote in protest for marginal parties and anti-democratic leaders? Surely, this is not limited to dual citizens, in either Turkey or Europe.