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Diaspora 5:2 1996 The Turkish Diaspora in Germany Wesley D. Chapín University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire Who Are the Turkish Immigrants?* At the beginning of 1995, nearly two million Turkish nationals were living in Germany.1 While this represents only about 2.5% of the total population, the Turkish minority significantly influences German politics. As the single largest group of "foreigners" living in Germany, the Turkish population is a prime target of rightwing violence. Questions regarding Turkish rights to residency, work permits, and citizenship are controversial domestic political issues and their presence affects international relations between Germany and Turkey. This article examines the Turkish diaspora in Germany and its implications for Germany's domestic and international politics. The first section identifies the status of the Turks living in Germany. The second traces the growth of the Turkish population in Germany. The third evaluates the domestic political and economic effects that the Turkish presence engenders, as well as prospects for assimilation. The fourth section identifies ways that international relations are influenced by the Turkish minority in Germany. Turkish "immigrants" fall into one of two categories. The first, and largest, is composed of Gastarbeiter, or guestworkers. This is the popular term used by most natives and the media in Germany to refer to Turks and other migrant workers. Family members brought to Germany by guestworkers and any children born to them also acquire the guestworker designation. This has important ramifications because "guests" are not permanently guaranteed civil rights. Furthermore, "guest" implies a temporary status (Mandel 280-81). Because the government does not consider Germany a land of immigration, the Turks, or other guestworkers, are not officially classified as immigrants. Instead, they are designated asAusländer, or foreigners. Anyone who is not considered to be a German citizen according to Article 116 of the Basic Law, or Constitution, is classified as a foreigner. While the vast majority ofTurks living in Germany are classified as guestworkers, a significant percentage of Turks enter Germany 275 276 Diaspora 5:2 1996 as Asylanten, or asylum seekers. These are foreigners who apply for asylum under Article 16 of the Basic Law. In 1994 there were approximately 19,000 Turkish asylum seekers. From 1979 through 1994, approximately 270,000 Turkish applications were received, as Table 1 shows.2 Taken together, the Turkish applicants seeking asylum over the sixteen-year period formed approximately 13% of the Turkish population in Germany at the end of 1994. The Turkish community should not, however, be considered homogeneous, though it consists ofcitizens emigrating from Turkey. Instead, the Turkish community is composed of several ethnic groups. As Ashkenasi points out, the majority are ethnic Turks, but approximately one-third are non-Turkish. The various ethnic divisions often cause internal conflicts and instability, particularly between ethnic Turks and Kurds, the next largest sub-group. These conflicts can lead, in turn, to problems for the host country if and when the groups attack each other. Still, despite conflicts between the different groups, most emigrants from Turkey share certain basic characteristics. They have generally been taught Turkish and, while their proficiency levels vary, their "common" language and country of origin define them as Turks in the eyes of the German population. For official purposes, the German government classifies all individuals from Turkey as Turkish nationals, despite differences in ethnicity (Ashkenasi 310). Although the large size of the Turkish minority may be taken as one indication that it forms a diaspora, this alone is insufficient to identify it as such. Classifying the Turkish minority, or any other group for that matter, as a diaspora is not as clear-cut as one might assume. Numerous definitions have been applied and the diaspora concept has changed tremendously over time, as Tölölyan points out in his comprehensive historical survey of the term's development. Labels such as ethnic group, dispersion, overseas community, exile group, racial minority, and diaspora, among others, have often been used interchangeably by the popular media and in academic literature . Such inconsistency does little to further either the study or understanding of diasporas (3-36). A number of efforts have been made to provide some consistency and conceptual clarity to the term. One...