THE BLOG
07/29/2016 01:59 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2017

In Germany, Erdogan Has Become A Kind Of Insult

Adam Berry via Getty Images

There's a new tradition on online platforms in Turkey. On the online community Eksi Sözlük, people add "PS: I'm not an AKPer" at the bottom of their posts. It's an attempt to clarify that they're objective and that they do not support Erdogan's Justice and Development Party.

I'm going to do the same here: No, I'm not an AKPer and I'm not a follower of Erdogan's. Just because I'm a religious Turkish woman, just because I find the comedian Jan Böhmermann's remarks about Erdogan pathetic, just because I call for a more refined perspective on the topic of Erdogan, and, finally, just because I opposed the military coup on the July 15, doesn't automatically mean that I'm an Erdogan supporter.

And even if I were a devoted follower of Erdogan's, that shouldn't be a problem. But it is. "Erdogan" has become a swear word in Germany. Erdogan followers are immediately called out whenever people are protesting in front of one of the Gülen movement's education centers -- it's as if they have a picture of Erdogan pinned to their lapels. The imams who came from Turkey, or "Erdogan's imams," are considered to be paid directly out of Erdogan's pocket.

The general sentiment is that the Turkish community in Germany, which still hasn't managed to integrate in the way the right-wing leader Frauke Petry would have liked, is waiting for Erdogan to snap his fingers before they move to occupy Germany's streets. Erdogan's ideology, Erdogan's vice-regents, Erdogan's mouthpiece, Erdogan's Turkey, Erdogan's regime, Erdogan's dictatorship, Erdogan's long arm... Erdogan is there, Erdogan is here. Erdogan is everywhere.

Even my friend's neighbor shouted: "Shitty Erdogans, go back to Istanbul!" as she was being detained by the police after threatening and insulting my friend's family.

Erdogan has become a kind of insult. A projection for old prejudices. An undying enemy. He's everything for which there's no place in Europe. Sometimes, he symbolizes the Turk who is resisting integration and lives in a "parallel society."

It seems to be completely legitimate to stigmatize someone as an "Erdogan follower" and rob them of their rights.

Sometimes, he's the chauvinist who abuses his wife, forces his daughter to cover her head, and takes her out of co-ed swim classes. Sometimes, he's the North African who harasses German women on New Year's Eve. Sometimes, he's the sultan who's trying to conquer Europe. Social and political nuances are wiped out. Often it feels like the only explanation for all the world's evil is Erdogan.

Even worse: After the creation of this monstrous image, it seems to be completely legitimate to stigmatize someone as an "Erdogan follower" and rob them of their rights.

The word "Erdogan" has a magical effect on German society. If you say "Erdogan," everything becomes clear. Foreign imams? It is a fact that other religious communities also import their spiritual leaders from other countries -- but when it comes to Erdogan, it seems that you have to intervene.

Freedom of opinion? If someone expresses their opinion of Turkish politics and praises Erdogan, it stops being free expression and becomes Erdogan propaganda that should immediately be banned. Freedom of assembly? Protesters who support Erdogan are simply Erdogan's long arm, and should have their German citizenship revoked, many people believe.

Erdogan serves as a litmus test for the German public. German politicians are suddenly concerned about the civilians killed during the attempted coup. German politicians, who don't have anything to say when it comes to the violation of human rights in Egypt, African-American victims of police violence in the U.S., or unjust water distribution between Israel and Palestine, are suddenly staunch defenders of the much-touted "European values."

When I insist that the opinions of Erdogan supporters from Turkey are not being fairly presented by the German media, I'm not talking about the Lügenpresse or "lying press." No, that's not how the media works. Behind media outlets are perfectly normal people, who look at political events from their personal perspective and try where possible to put aside their own prejudices.

Journalists can cling to their own beliefs. It's even possible that they're simply not interested in presenting another perspective. Some German journalists seem convinced that this evil man just isn't worth the effort of calling their own perspectives into question.

But the conversations in the Turkish community are different from those presented in the German media. Anyone of Turkish origin who looks at both the German and the Turkish press immediately notices that some topics are reflected totally differently in the German and in the Turkish media. In this way, a mental chasm opens between "there" and "here."

In German media, nobody showed the CCTV footage from the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, or the bombardment of the Turkish parliament. Many Germans didn't circulate videos in which you could see bombs and tanks coming face to face with the civilian population.

Many Germans have tried to discredit the opponents of the coup and belittle the coup itself. But Turks expected respect for people who were killed by tanks, bombs, and bullets.

In addition, most Germans don't have any relatives in Turkey and have not had the experience of getting a Whatsapp message from a relative that reads: "There was an explosion just now," before losing the connection to that relative, and having thousands of people die by the time the connection is reestablished.

Germans of Turkish ethnicity watched the massacre on the night of the 15th of July unfold second by second. What's more, because it was vacation season, many Turks from Germany were there on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara and joined the resistance to the coup, and in many cases, stood at the vanguard.

For Germans of Turkish origins, the position taken by some Germans -- after reading a few wire stories -- that this was all just theater, was borderline offensive.

Many Germans have tried to discredit the opponents of the coup and belittle the coup itself. But Turks expected respect for people who were killed by tanks, bombs, and bullets. They expected unconditional solidarity, before the German politicians started expressing their thoughts on the human rights situation in Turkey.

When German Turks go out on the streets to protest, they do so not because they're acting for Turkish interests, and not because they're conducting "Erdogan's propaganda" -- they're thoroughly convinced that Turkey is the only other option for them should they one day experience attacks in Germany.

Turkey is a safe haven for Germans of Turkish origin who are discriminated against in schools and at work on a daily basis, and who are represented as "Islamists" and as "refusing to integrate" by certain outlets in media. This is why people find it outrageous that some of their schoolmates and work colleagues seemed almost disappointed that the attempted coup failed.

An unarmed civilian who waves the Turkish flag and stands in the way of a tank isn't an "Erdogan supporter," but rather someone who is risking their lives to protect their country from the dangers of an anti-democratic coup.

How can Germans overcome their obsession with Erdogan? The answer is simple: Take off your ideological goggles and try to understand things not by way of imagined nightmare scenarios, but by common sense. People who are waving Turkish flags on the streets of Germany aren't doing it because Erdogan instructed them to do so. Foreign imams aren't in Germany because Erdogan sent them. Other factors play significantly larger roles here.

This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.