‘They don’t send women to the course so they will remain unaware’
MEHVEŞ EVİNWhen Germany introduced its immigration law in 2005, one of the requirements, the “integration courses” caused a great deal of debate. This was because unless an immigrant takes the 645-hour course and obtains a certificate, they cannot be issued a residence permit. The first-generation guest worker who lived in a closed circuit with other from his homeland is slowly becoming a thing of the past.
Last week, I was in Berlin with a crew from IZTV (a Turkish documentary channel). We visited an integration school together with Coşkun Aral, who recently began shooting a new documentary about the courses. I realized, after speaking to students and those teaching the course, that its arrival was belated, but is actually extremely beneficial.
More than anything else, Turkish immigrants are most happy that they are able to receive vocational training in fields they are interested in after they have completed the course. The cost of the course is covered by the unemployment agency for those who are unemployed.
‘You have to harmonize with the country you reside in’
Semra Kılıç, who married and came to Germany 14 years ago from the Black Sea town of Bafra in Samsun province, enrolled in the integration course only two months ago. She is learning to speak German now. When we asked her why, she said: “My ex-husband and his family prevented [me from learning German before]. They wanted me to work at a döner restaurant.”
Semra is a smart and open-hearted young woman, as well as being incredibly beautiful. The major obstacle for Turks living in Germany is not knowing the language, she explained. “There are those people, our people who cannot put two German words together to speak. You have to harmonize with the country you reside in. Not only its language, you have to learn its culture too. The same thing applies for Turkey.”
Semra has remarried after divorcing her first husband, this time with her own consent. This time neither her husband nor his family tried to prevent her from joining the course; on the contrary, they support her attendance. Her only wish, for the moment, is that her children will be able to learn German and be successful in their studies.
So, is Germany still a “bitter country” for Turks? Not for people like Semra, who have become used to living in Germany over the years: “When you are unemployed [in Germany], you are not needy. Women’s rights are the best… They assist women without making them dependent. And the majority of Germans are very warm people.”
Headscarf was no problem
Semra explained that when she was getting her divorce, the German government helped her find a new home and supported her so that she could earn a living. Now just think of our situation. I am curious as to whether or not the prototypical lifestyle of Turkish expats in Germany has changed. Semra does not feel hopeful about that.
Marriages at very young ages continue, and the old traditions are somehow renewed and adjusted, according to Semra: “Turkish families do not want their daughters to make new friends or have different opportunities or to be ‘too aware’ of things. In other words, they don’t want them to learn ‘too much.’ They have that mentality. “
I asked Semra about her headscarf. Has she ever had any trouble with her headscarf? “It is much more of a problem in Turkey. Here, there is more freedom in almost every area of life. Now, Germans are even beginning to aspire to have a style like ours.”
Semra visits Turkey once every year. Even though she says, “Turkey has improved a great deal,” she no longer considers permanently returning to Turkey an option. She knows she would not have the same rights or the same opportunities in her own country.
Mehveş Evin is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared on April 30. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.