“There Are No Boundaries”

The Turkish ambassador to Austria, Kadri Ecved Tezcan, caused a big stir recently in Vienna with his harsh remarks directed at Austria over its treatment of its Turkish minority. The capital has been abuzz for the last few days over the effrontery of the ambassador, which is too much even for some of Austria’s most ardent apologists for Multiculturalism.

Many thanks to JLH for translating this interview with Mr. Tezcan from Die Presse. Notice once again the Word of the Year, “Integration”:

Tezcan: “Why Have You Naturalized 110,000 Turks?”

November 9, 2010

by Christian Ultsch

The Turkish ambassador in Vienna clears the air about the failed integration policy and does not spare his compatriots. He reproaches Austrians for being interested in other cultures only when they are on vacation.

Tezcan: Do you want me to answer as a diplomat, which will be boring? Or shall I answer as someone who has lived in Vienna for a year and has many contacts with the 250,000 Turks here?
Presse: I prefer the second variant. What is going wrong with integration of Turks in Austria?
Tezcan: I would like to say one thing first: Differently from the Greeks and Italians, the Turks only began to emigrate 35-40 years ago. And Austria was the last country Turkish citizens came to. The salaries in Germany were higher.
Presse: Is a consequence of that that it is not easy for Turks to adapt to rules in foreign countries?
Tezcan: No. I only meant to say that even immigrants to the USA had their problems. But these problems are now forgotten. Integration is a process. Almost 20 years ago, I was general consul in Hamburg. Every year I invited girls and boys who were accepted to the gymnasium [academic secondary school] to my residence and congratulated them with presents. At that time, there were so few Turkish gymnasium students. I could not do that today in Austria, because there are 2,000 ethnic students who were born here, plus 20,000 Turkish gymnasium> students. That is wonderful.
Presse: That may be progress. But a glance at statistics shows that ethnic Turkish youths at gymnasiums or even universities are very clearly under-represented.
Tezcan: We still have some housekeeping tasks to do. But the Austrian side must also make an effort. There are schools where Turkish children are a majority of 60-70%. Why? Because they live in ghettos. When Turks in Vienna apply for living quarters, they are always sent to the same district. At the same time there is the criticism that they are forming ghettoes. And Austrian families do not send their children to schools where ethnic minorities are in the majority. So Turks are driven into a corner.
Presse: Who should offer them other places to live? The city of Vienna?
Tezcan: It is a question of something else: of tolerance. Every year, Turks get a public place, maybe a park, to celebrate their Kermes festival. They cook, play, dance, show their own culture. The only Austrians who visit Kermes are politicians looking for votes. Even so, only half of the Turks vote. With festivals like this, the Viennese don’t even look out their windows. Apart from vacations, the Austrians are not interested in other cultures. Austria was an empire with various ethnic groups. It should be used to living with foreigners. What is going on here?
Presse: Many Viennese are apparently afraid that they will become minorities in some city districts and the Turkish culture will dominate.
Tezcan: The world is changing. It is no longer a question of who dominates and who does not. There are no boundaries. The more cultures there are, the richer we become.
Presse: The problem is that society in Germany or Austria no longer believes in multiculturalism. That idea has not worked.
Tezcan: Why has it not worked? Integration is a cultural and social problem. But in Austria the interior ministry is responsible for integration. That is incredible. The interior ministry can be responsible for asylum or visas and many security problems. But the ministry should stop intervening in the integration process. If a problem is given to the interior ministry, a police solution will result.
Presse: Whom would you recommend to take responsibility?

Tezcan: The social ministry, the family ministry, but not the interior ministry. My people ask me: Do we constitute a security problem? I have spoken with the minister of the interior. She doesn’t want to hear all that. She is in the wrong party.
Presse: What party should Maria Fekter be in?
Tezcan: She is a member of a party that sees itself as liberal. Or have I been misinformed? What she represents does not correspond to a liberal, open spirit. Moreover, the same thing applies to Angela Merkel. I was so surprised two weeks ago when she said: Multiculturalism has failed and Germany is a Christian society. What kind of a mentality is that? I cannot believe that I have to hear that in the year 2010 in Europe, the alleged center of tolerance and human rights. Others have learned these values from you and now you turn your back on these values. Nevertheless, I do not want to say that immigrants have made no mistakes.
Presse: Have you spoken with Heinz-Christian Strache or another politician from the FPÖ?
Tezcan: Naturally. I have met him. We have agreed to disagree on everything that has to do with integration. Strache has no idea how the world is developing. I have also never seen a social democratic party like the one in this country. Normally, social democrats defend the rights of people, no matter where they come from. Do you know what the social democrats here said to me? “If we comment on that, Strache gets more votes.” That is incredible.
Presse: Many Austrians see that differently. They are uncomfortable with some aspects of the culture that Turks have brought with them. They do not like how women are treated. They do not want to see women going around in head scarves. They also do not want young macho Turks to terrorize fellow students.
Tezcan: I have not heard about that. I have seen statistics from the interior ministry and the ministry of justice...
Presse: It is not a crime to bully other young people...
Tezcan: ...but Turks are not at the top of that list. Allow me a question. If something does not belong to your culture, do you then have the right to say that you do not want these people? That is a different culture, a different perfume, a different folklore. You have to live with it. Why have you naturalized 110,000 Turks? How could you accept them as citizens when there is such a great integration problem with them? You have to talk to them. The Turks are happy. They want nothing from you. They just want not to be treated like a virus. Society should integrate them and profit from them. You do not have to take any more immigrants. You have them here. But you must believe in them, and they must believe in you.
Presse: But politicians must surely, for example, have the right to say that they want no forced marriages.
Tezcan: Naturally. We too do not want our daughters to be forced into marriage.
Presse: And Turks can be expected to learn German?
Tezcan: Definitely, I always tell my people: Learn German and hold to the rules of this land!
Presse: So why does that not work?
Tezcan: You said it openly yourself: People here do not want to see women with head scarves. Is that against the law? No, you have nothing to say about that. Everyone is free to decide what to wear on their head. If there is the freedom here to go swimming naked, there should also be the freedom to wear head scarves. If someone forces people to wear head scarves, then the constitutional democracy should intervene. The same must be true for those who refuse to send their children to school. We have a problem with girls who stop attending school at age 13.
Presse: You also have the problem that too few women work.
Tezcan: You have it wrong. Turkish women work.
Presse: Yes, but at home. The percentage of Turkish women in the workforce is 39%.
Tezcan: Housewife is also a job.
Presse: Immigrants who stay home are part of the integration problem.
Tezcan: Yes, but if you want to be my friend, you should do something about this.
Presse: So you think that Austrians don’t give the Turks the feeling that they are welcome here?
Tezcan: I don’t just blame the Austrians. We also have problems coming in contact with other people. Why? Immigrants in New York or elsewhere also make ghettoes. The first thing they do in a foreign land is to seek out compatriots.
Presse: But you don’t stay in the ghetto for 30 years. You try to better yourself and see that your own children go to a better school. I don’t see any dynamic social development here.
Tezcan: I see a lot of success. There are more than 3,500 Turkish entrepreneurs here, 110 doctors, artists, ballerinas. Why don’t your media cover more success stories?
Presse: Anyone who analyzes the present educational situation is looking into a bleak future. Most young Turks go to a non-academic secondary school or even to a special needs school. Do you have any idea how that could be changed?
Tezcan: Many Turkish parents believe that their children speak perfect German and Turkish. I explain to them that you cannot master any language with 500 words and their children speak neither good German nor good Turkish.-000*-000*Here is the problem: In the last 20 years, the Austrian government has not allowed us to bring teachers from Turkey to teach the children Turkish. If children do not learn their own language correctly, they will not get a good grasp of another language. In Vienna there is an institute for oriental studies where students learn Turkish and also speak perfect German. The only thing missing is a chair for pedagogy. Then Austria can have its own Turkish teacher.
Presse: How many teachers do you want to bring?
Tezcan: Perhaps 100 is enough. There are approximately 5,000 to 7,000 young Turks who are just about to enter school. I am sure that, if they become fluent in Turkish and also naturally German, that is the antidote for the integration problem.
Presse: Should Turks learn Turkish as a foreign language in school?
Tezcan: My goal is for Turkish to e accepted as a matriculation language. Then we will also have Turkish teachers. I don’t know why Turkish is not accepted as a matriculation language.
Presse: Have you thought about founding a Turkish school in Vienna?
Tezcan: No. but if there is demand, it is something to think about.
Presse: Should Turkish parents speak German or Turkish with their children?
Tezcan: I would not advise them on that. But whether they are parents, children or young people, they should all know German.
Presse: If parents do not speak German with their children, there is no foundation. It gets worse if Turkish children do not send their children to kindergarten.
Tezcan: That should be required. Every child should go to kindergarten. From the age of 3 or 4, as it is in Austrian families.
Presse: Why do, for instance, children of Croatian parents do better in school?
Tezcan: That is very simple. Because the Croatians are Christians, they are welcome in society. Turks are not.
Presse: Maybe they have a greater desire to advance in society.
Tezcan: If you are not welcome and always marginalized by the society, why should you want to be part of this society?
Presse: To be better than the others; to show them.
Tezcan: That is a Western mentality. We don’t have this mercantile philosophy. Our philosophy in Islam is different: Whatever you have, given by God, is enough for you. The only thing you have to do is to do good for the people in your family and in your neighborhood. The Turks in Vienna help each other. They know they are not welcome.
Presse: Why do you believe that?
Tezcan: In this city, which claims to be a cultural center of Europe, almost 30 per cent voted for an extreme right party. If I were the general secretary of UNO of OSZE or of OPEC, I would not stay here. If you don’t want foreigners here, then send them away. There are countries in the world where foreigners are welcome. You have to learn to live with other people. What is Austria’s problem?
Presse: Is it really about Islam? There is no problem with the Persians here.
Tezcan: How many Persians are there here? You don’t see them. If you did see them, they would have exactly the same problem. This religious revulsion is always behind it. Before the attacks on September 11, it wasn’t that way. But since then, the mass media portray Islam as bad and terroristic. Where is the Church? I met a cardinal. He is a wonderful man and he told me he has a good relationship with the Turks. I told him: Eminence, that is not enough. You must speak out more forcefully. And in your newspaper column too, write that Islam is just as valuable as your own religion.
Presse: What do you expect from the authorities?
Tezcan: There are many people of good will. I was in many town halls. There are many integration departments. But they wait in their offices until people come to them. They have no vision. There is no coordination and cooperation. My four predecessors as ambassador and I were never asked for cooperative work in questions of integration. I know what my people want and how they can be convinced.
Presse: What kinds of experiences have you had with Austrian hospitality?
Tezcan: I have been here a year. I was only invited to an Austrian family’s house once, last weekend in Krems. There is a big difference between Vienna and the rest of Austria. When I leave Vienna, everything is more hospitable.
Presse: No one from the foreign office has invited you to their home?
Tezcan: No, but that does not matter. So many Turks invite me.
Presse: You are so to speak a reflection of the integration problem at a higher level.
Tezcan: In the first months after his arrival an ambassador makes courtesy calls. When I tried to arrange a meeting with the foreign minister, the reply was that the minister does not receive ambassadors. Can you believe that? I am an ambassador of 250,000 people who live in this country. What dialogue are we talking about here?
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