Remembering the Solingen massacre 25 years on
Hatice Genç was 19 years old, Hülya Genç was 9, Saime Genç was 5, Gülsün İnce was 28 and Gülistan Öztürk was 12 when they were slaughtered in an arson attack carried out by a neo-Nazi group in the German city of Solingen on May 29, 1993.
Four men aged between 16 and 23 set fire to the home of the Genç family in one of the most violent racist attacks targeting the Turkish community. Three assailants were sentenced to 10 years in jail while the other convict was handed 15 years’ imprisonment.
The Solingen attack was not the first and unfortunately not the last attack on Turks in Germany. The rise of xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe and in Germany has unfortunately triggered more attacks on foreigners, particularly Turks, over the last two decades.
Eight Turks were among 10 foreigners killed by the “National Socialist Underground,” known as the NSU, between 2000 and 2008. The fact that the NSU trials have still not been completed after years of prosecution is also another worrying aspect of the issue.
The rise of racist political parties in Germany as well as of the anti-migration rhetoric often used by centrist politicians should be considered a very dangerous trend. In Turkey, in reaction to all these, political rhetoric that is far from being helpful to resolving such problems has also been observed.
Having cited all these, it would be unfair to suggest that no actions or measures are being taken by Turkey and Germany. The two sides’ governments and reasonable politicians from both countries have long been working on how to avoid similar attacks, how to intensify the integration of Turks, and how to create a sound environment for the co-habitation of Turks and Germans.
One of the avenues of such efforts is the annual commemoration of the deadly Solingen attack since 1993. Both Germans and Turks remember the shameful and inhumane attack and its victims every year with one common wish: That it should never happen again.
A large Turkish delegation led by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was in Solingen for the commemoration of the 25th year of the bitter incident in a bid to show that the grief of the Turkish people is still fresh and to urge German politicians, opinion makers and the press to work to prevent similar attacks.
His meeting with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas was a positive development with regard to the future development of bilateral ties.
Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Maas, Minister-President of the North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet represented the highest-level German participation at the commemorations. It is also remarkable to recall that German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier hosted Mevlüde Genç – the mother and the grandmother of Solingen tragedy - at his presidential palace last week.
“This horrible attack should never be forgotten,” Steinmeier said on Facebook, praising the efforts that Genç has been exerting in her fight against violence and racism for the last 25 years. “Mevlüde Genç should set an example for all of us in the fight against discrimination, racism and violence,” he added.
Messages delivered both by Turkish and German participants underlined the fact that the fight against discrimination can only be won by a sound cooperation and solid projects. It’s apparent that the Turkish and German governments should be the engine of efforts to this end because of the unique nature of bilateral relations between the two countries.
More than 3 million Turks living and working in Germany establish the strongest bond between the two countries. Germany is Turkey’s largest economic and trade partner and German investments in Turkey have been helping the growth of this country for decades. The bonds between the two countries make this relationship irreplaceable and unavoidable.
But more has to be done. Both Germany and Turkey should develop a better bilateral communication so that they do not plant the seeds of fresh political disputes, particularly on the eve of elections. Both nations should be clear that their political leaders will not be able to win elections through a continued and heated enmity against the other side. Megaphone diplomacy should never be an option in bilateral ties, as proven between 2016 and late 2017. Keeping relations on the right track, after all, is to the advantage of both countries and their people.
As suggested by German President Steinmeier, the struggle that Mevlüde Genç has been giving since 1993, despite losing her beloved ones in an inhumane attack, should guide all of us - politicians, journalists, academics and opinion makers - in efforts to make the world a more livable place, free of violence and discrimination.