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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 12:58 GMT
Germany's guest workers mark 40 years
Turkish woman runs belly-dancing class
Turkish workers say life has improved since the early years
By Rob Broomby in Berlin

At the Serhat Turkish bakers in Berlin, the bread emerges from the oven.

Baker Yueksal Tuncay came in the 1960s to work for the car maker Daimler Benz. He now owns his own business.

Yueksal Tuncay
Yueksal Tuncay saved enough money to get his own bakery
In the four decades since the first Turkish guest workers came to Germany they have learned to sustain themselves.

"I thought I would be here for 10 or 15 years," Mr Tuncay says.

"But I saved a little money and now I have my own business and I'm happy. Things are good."

It is 40 years since the deal was signed allowing the first Turkish workers to come to Germany.

It was a deal which transformed the society forever.

When I meet an official or a policeman they see my black hair and to them I am still a foreigner

Yueksal Tuncay
There are now more than two million Turks in the country, but they are still regarded by many as aliens.

"When I meet an official or a policeman," says Mr Tuncay, "they see my black hair and to them I am still a foreigner."

In the Hasir Turkish restaurant across the road they are hard at work.

The restaurant never really closes. It is evidence of the hard work which has brought some Turks prosperity.

They came to do the jobs no-one wanted and became the unsung heroes of the economic miracle.

I am not a real Turk or real German - I am something in between, but I am happy

Suekran Ezgimen
But until the 1970s they lived solitary lives, cut off from their families back in Turrkey.

Restaurant manager Ilhemi Isci says for his parents the separation was the hardest.

"It is one of the worst punishments for a Turkish father - we are family-orientated people," he says. "For my father it lasted 10 years."

But progress has been slow. Passport reform has made it easier for second generation Turks to become Germans.

Bakery worker
Many workers believe their children will be accepted as Germans
But they will still have to ditch their Turkish nationality with adulthood in order to get a passport. For many that is an unwelcome choice.

Across the city at the Tuerk Sehitilik Camii Mosque the call to prayer echoes across the skyline.

Germany has begun to accept that it needs immigrants.

But the attacks on America have made people uneasy.

We came as guest workers and 40 years later we are still guest workers - but the third generation will be German

Recep Tuerkoglu
Most of the Muslims here are moderate, peace-loving people, but they fear that Islam could be demonised as a result.

"We came as guest workers and 40 years later we are still guest workers," says Recep Tuerkoglu, head of the Islamic Turkish Association. "But it will change, the third generation will be German."

The forthcoming immigration law was intended to pave the way for more economic migrants in the decades to come - especially for those with valuable computer skills.

But the talk now is of clamping down on Islamic militants operating within the country.

As one senior government official put it: "These are difficult times for those who want integration."

Confidence growing

Yet 40 years on and Germany's Turkish community is increasing in confidence and investing in the future. A new dome is replacing the flat roof on the mosque.

The message is clear: Germany's Turks are here to stay.

The so-called first generation had very badly paid and very heavy jobs and it was no fun - now they have more fun than in the first years

Saftir Cinar
Many gave the country their best years. In return they wanted something better for their children.

"I think it was a battle all the time at first," says Saftir Cinar, vice-president of the Turkish community.

"The so-called first generation had very badly paid and very heavy jobs and it was no fun. But now they have children and their children have children.

"Now they have more fun than in the first years," he says.

Dreams live on

Evidence of that emerges at the Karayilan belly dancing school.

The raven-haired teacher Suekran Ezgimen goes by the stage name Black Snake.

She says came "like a lamb" to work in the Siemens factory and had no idea what to expect. But she emerged with her dreams intact.

"I am not a real Turk or real German," she said. "I am something in between. But I am happy. I now live through my dancing."

It's a personal success story. One of thousands. But life has not always been easy. The battle for true equality is only just beginning.

See also:

04 Jul 01 | Europe
Germany's immigration revolution
13 Sep 98 | German elections
Anti-foreigner campaigning in Bavaria
01 Aug 00 | Europe
Germany tackles skills shortage
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