(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
BERLIN - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's push to expand his powers in an April 16 referendum is causing deep divisions in Germany's already fractured three million-strong Turkish community, splitting families and turning friends into enemies.
Emotions are running especially high after German authorities banned several planned rallies by Turkish ministers, citing public security concerns. Erdogan has branded such bans "fascist," infuriating the German government.
"My father is pro-Erdogan. When he turns on the television, I have to leave the room," one 22-year old German man of Turkish descent told Reuters in Berlin, where he is completing a year of voluntary work before starting his university studies.
Many of his friends' families have also been split by the looming referendum, said the man, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from ardent pro-Erdogan supporters or a ban on visiting Turkey.
Just down the street in Berlin's multicultural Kreuzberg district, bright red signs proclaiming "Hayir" - 'No' in Turkish - and "No to dictatorship in Turkey" have been ripped from a fence and now lie on the pavement.
Others are shocked by the efforts of German, Dutch and other authorities to prevent Turkish politicians rallying support on European soil for the referendum.
"It's completely right-wing and radical how the Turks are being treated here," said Ergun Gumusalev, another Turkish man, told Reuters in Cologne. "I'm actually opposed to Erdogan, but how can this be? Where are we living? We've been here for 50, 60 years, exploited like pigs ... and here's the thanks we get."