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Taksim In Berlin: What Germany's Huge Turkish Population Thinks Of Erdogan

Rally in solidarity with Taksim in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood.
Rally in solidarity with Taksim in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood.
Til Biermann

BERLIN - At the end of Oranienstrasse in the Berlin borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Gürkan runs a tailor shop. The 41-year-old conservative Muslim, of Turkish origins, is all for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan"s taking a hard-line stance against demonstrators in Turkey, who began their protests over development plans in central Istanbul's Gezi park.

"He has made Istanbul a lot greener," Gürkan says of Turkey's Prime Minister and former mayor of the country's largest city. "And when Koç University cut down 80,000 trees there wasn’t a peep out of anybody!"

For days the brutal unrest in and around Istanbul’s Taksim Square has been making world headlines. But what do the three million Germans of Turkish origin make of the protests in Turkey? Gürkan lives in the heart of the Turkish community in Germany: Berlin-Kreuzberg. And he believes the demonstrators are vandals and anarchists.

"These people are not democratic," he says.

A kilometer away, on Oranienplatz, Erhan sells Turkish specialties at a kebab stand. He says that when Erdogan first came into office, he did a lot of positive things, but that now many people are disappointed that he hasn't delivered on promises to make Turkey more open. "But for example he called the demonstrators çapulçu – stupid peasants – and that didn’t go down well at all."

Demonstration in Kreuzberg - Photo: Montecruz Foto

A few meters away, shaven-headed Selçuk, clad in a Jamaica soccer jersey, stands waiting for the bus. The 25-year-old, who is unemployed, gets irritated when asked about the demonstrations in Turkey. "It’s all media propaganda! They want to see an "Arab Spring" situation down there. It’s ridiculous, the whole thing’s about a park, what the hell for?" he says as the bus pulls up and he boards.

Days of kings

Doran, a 40-year-old newsstand owner, doesn’t share that opinion. "Erdogan is a dictator, we need to get him out of office," he says.

He says Turkey's "days of kings are over," and doesn't believe the Prime Minister's pious proclamations are even sincere. "It’s all an act," Doran says. "The man doesn’t have a heart."

Standing in front of Doran’s kiosk are Gamze and Hilal, 16 and 17 years old. The girls are high school students, and bit more circumspect about what’s going on. "I didn’t have anything against Erdogan, but he’s gone too far. Now it's not about trees anymore; it's about toppling Erdogan," says Gamze.

Hilal believes, however, "that there is the question of what comes afterwards." Erdogan did a lot for the economy, "but now he’s ruined everything." The girls add that being for or against Erdogan is, they believe, to some extent a generational conflict.

Some of those questioned tried to skirt the issue. "I’m happy to be in Berlin. Things are bad down there but I need to focus on my life here," says 19-year-old Aslanid, a student and freelance photographer.

On Adalbertstrasse, taxi driver Hüseyin is leaning against his car. The heavy-set 38-year-old is very interested in politics. "Erdogan is a fundamentalist, an Islamist who wants to introduce Sharia law," he says. So the demonstrations are really about saving secularism.

"Taskim was just the last straw," says Hüseyin. "It’s unconstitutional. They should ride around on camels if they want things to be the way they were back in the days of the Prophet. The Prophet was more advanced than these people are."

Café Kotti at Kottbusser Tor is where Turkish intellectuals meet. Journalist Mehmet Uluisik is sitting at a table enjoying the warmth of a midday sun streaming through the window and sipping a Weissbier (white beer). "As an atheist I’m of two minds," says the 54-year-old. "I was for Erdogan’s AKP party and against the Kemalist military dictatorship."

But things have changed now. Erdogan’s attitude and manner are dictatorial, he says: "He issues rules about how I’m supposed to dress, how I’m supposed to behave, how I’m supposed to eat."

The deputy head of the Turkish community in Germany, Hilmi Kaya Turan, is also here. The 52-year-old says cautiously: "That little green space on Taksim Square was a welcome pretext for many young people to vent their anger at Erdogan."

Turan just spent nine days in Istanbul: "These are not anarchists. After demonstrations they even cleaned up after themselves, picked up cigarette butts -- and they held vandals back," he says. Turan says he hopes that Erdogan will "find the path towards dialogue."

On a nearby square in the Turkish heart of Berlin, some protesters have erected a tent from on which floats a banner that reads "Taksim is everywhere!". Süheyla, a 22-year-old student, is painting posters. She says: "This is pure facism. You can compare Erdogan with Hitler. Some people here side with him, but about 80% of all the Turks in Kreuzberg are against him."

Denis sits in the sun a few meters away. The 25-year-old student says that the new limits on alcohol risk being only the beginning of an imposition of piety on the population. "That’s why they’re protesting," he says. "The Turks were never very religious. Erdogan’s approach isn’t relevant. Turkey is a secular country."

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world! info@worldcrunch.com

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