Why did you and others found the political association “Democratic Alliance for Diversity and Awakening” (DAVA)?
We have noticed that there is an increasing gap between those represented and those who are represented; people with an immigration background in particular are not taken seriously in the established parties.
And you want to address them in the European elections?
Everyone with an immigration history is meant; people with a Muslim and Turkish background are strongly represented. It's about people who were born and grew up in Germany and want to take part in social life, but don't feel like they are part of society because they are always reduced to their immigration history – even within the established parties. Turks are asked about Turkish policy issues, for example. The question is then asked very bluntly: Are you for or against Erdoğan? You then have to commit yourself and each individual feels like a kind of quasi-ambassador for Turkey.
Is DAVA close to the Turkish ruling party AKP?
No, we are not the extended arm of Erdoğan or the AKP. We are a so-called other political association that wants to pursue politics in Germany. This discussion started after the Bild newspaper wrote: “Now comes the Erdoğan party”. She didn't provide any proof.
You are personally close to the Turkish president and have often defended his positions.
I don't think it's all that bad for a newly founded association to have someone at number one on the list for the European elections who has dealt with Turkish policy issues in the past, because you have to assume that two thirds of all Turks living in Germany think similarly to me.
So you're targeting a group that admires a president who restricts free speech, persecutes critics and governs in an authoritarian manner?
No, that is not so. We want to address the problems of people who are excluded. We should deal with German problems and not distract from them by always talking about Mr. Erdoğan. People are tired of this. They are always asked whether they are for or against Erdoğan. That's one reason why so many people get involved in DAVA, because they don't want to do that anymore and want to talk about the problems in Germany.
It is still legitimate to ask how a political group in Germany feels about Erdoğan.
We always distract from more important debates. We have to talk about racism in Germany. Thank God that many people who defend the values of the Basic Law are now taking to the streets. We missed that in the past. Those with a history of immigration know exactly what discrimination and exclusion mean.
German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir, who has Turkish ancestors and rejects Erdoğan, would also agree that something must be done against racism.
When Mr. Özdemir was in mosques and cultural associations and asked for votes, people said: That's one of us. When he then turned against these people and every mosque association, no one could say anymore: This is someone who represents us. He never misses an opportunity to demonize people just because they go to a mosque and perform their prayers. There are people who oppose Mr. Erdoğan and there are people who support him. And there is always the question, for example at school or at work: Are you for or against Erdoğan? People then have to confess. But I haven't heard anyone ask: Are you for or against Olaf Scholz?
Because Olaf Scholz is not an autocrat.
That may be so, but why does this question keep bothering us?
Because you cannot stand up for the free democratic basic order if you support an autocrat.
We stand for the free-democratic basic order, we share the values of the Basic Law and that is the basis on which we operate and we will under no circumstances allow anyone to push us into a corner, that we are anti-constitutional, that we approve of restrictions on freedom of expression or something similar. We want to defend the values of the Basic Law.