Are the Turks white

Constitutional referendum in Turkey : Of black, white and house Turks

There are three types of Turks, the Black Turks, the White Turks, and the Domestic Turks.

For example, I am a typical Turkish house, explains Nuran David Calis, and I have the facial expressions of people who are in an awkward but inescapable situation. How permanently jammed in existence. But what on earth is a domestic Turk?

"The servant of a foreign power, someone close to the establishment who believes he already belongs, but that is a mistake."

But then we are all Turkish citizens!

Calis smiles with just one corner of his mouth. He used to be a boxer and a bouncer too. Instead he seems irritatingly gentle, there is a hint of melancholy in his brown eyes. He speaks Turkish like other Turks, but his father was an Armenian foundry worker, his mother a Jewish cleaning lady, both illiterate. Most Turks have more manageable origins. And now Calis, of all people, has become one of the most successful German theater directors, in demand on the big stages, a Turkish man. If only it wasn't for this sadness.

Next door is Keupstrasse, where the NSU nail bomb exploded

In the morning at ten in the canteen of the Schauspielhaus Cologne. Rehearsals will begin soon. But there is still something to explain. Because at the moment the Cologne Schauspielhaus is by no means where it has always been, i.e. near the cathedral. Four years ago - due to general renovation - it temporarily moved from the “good side of the Rhine” to the “bad side of the Rhine”, to the “Schäl Sick”.

The former mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, was of the opinion that Bolshevik foreign countries were already beginning on the other side of the Rhine and closed the curtains of his train compartment as a preventive measure if he had to cross the river. He would probably not have followed the theater to the other bank. Most Cologne residents think differently.

Good and bad side of the Rhine. White, Black and House Turks. What irritating coordinates for a single start of the day. And right next door is Keupstrasse, where the NSU nail bomb exploded in 2004. When you finally knew who it was, Calis thought: They mean me too!

He's a racist !, say the stubborn

Rehearsals begin in a 19th century industrial hall. Actors and assistants are there, and Ismet Büyük and Dogan Akhanli are sitting in the middle, next to each other. Büyük is a businessman from Keupstrasse next door, Akhanli is a writer. They have both lived in this city for a long time, but Akhanli is home to Cologne; for Büyük it is a kind of prison, like an open prison, permanent strangers. He's a nationalist. He's a racist !, say the stubborn. For the writer Erdogan Turkey is on the way into the abyss, for the businessman from Keupstrasse it is on the way to salvation.

So a Black Turk and a White Turk. White Turks, Beyaz Türkler, are the ideal descendants of Ataturk, the traditional elites, living in the West, loving West, drinking West, and generally earning better money in Turkey. When they want to travel, they usually take the plane, the Black Turks take the bus. Black Turks, Kara Türkler, are those for whom yesterday is the better future, their present is anyway. Erdogan was always proud to be a born Black Turk and to have sold sesame rings as a child, in a part of Istanbul that Beyaz Turklers never even entered.

What distinguishes Erdogan from Ismet Büyük is that the latter only became a self-confessed Black Turk in Germany. Sometimes he hates this country. This dialectic shakes the director. Ismet Büyük is also his friend. They have almost nothing in common, but they would do anything for each other.

But who else should do it?

“I don't give up on people!” Says Calis afterwards on the large industrial courtyard that the Schauspielhaus Köln had transformed into a garden. The first transatlantic telephone cable connecting Europe and America was manufactured in the old cable factory in 1904. Today flowers, vines and grain grow here from old sacks, huge pallets, boxes and barrels. Every industrial wasteland is a misunderstood Garden of Eden! Such utopias do not seem to apply only to human things.

"I no longer understand the level of self-destruction," says Calis. Three times a day he wonders why he's doing this in the first place. And then he asks: But who else is supposed to do it?

Yes who if not him? Last June, his experimental arrangement “The forty days of Musa Dagh” premiered at the Munich Residenztheater. It is - loosely based on Franz Werfel's novel of the same name - about the genocide of the Armenians, and he, the child of a Turkish Armenian, staged it. It's always sold out, says Calis.

It was obvious to bring the "Forty Days" to Cologne for a guest appearance, but nobody wanted to take responsibility. Not on the bad side of the Rhine, not next to Keupstrasse. “Everyone signed it, everyone,” says the director; he speaks of the protest against the resolution of the Bundestag on the genocide of the Armenians. All of them are 119 out of 120 business people on Keupstrasse; 119 are Turkish, the 120th is a German printer.

A theater Turk could only be a faked Turk

Keupstrasse and Calis belong together. I want to do a piece about them, he knew that straight away. No, not about them, with them.

In 2013 the theater came across the Rhine to Cologne-Mühlheim, and the following year it was the 10th anniversary of the nail bomb attack. The date was set, only the participants still had to be informed of their task. And so the chief dramaturge and his director finally stood in front of every door on Keupstrasse and knocked. They looked into ultimately amazed faces. What did the theater want from them, this invention of the unbelievers?

You have never been to the theater, and a theater Turk could only be a faked Turk. On the other hand, they were too polite to slam the door right in front of the emissaries of Western decadence. This hesitation decided everything: This is how “Die Lücke” came about.

And he? Calis knows that he has to talk about himself now. But it is difficult. He has started to write the novel of his childhood and youth. After four hundred pages he stopped again, as he said earlier during the rehearsal. Too heavy. Too close.

They went to the hospital to shower

His parents met in Istanbul, they got married and came to Bielefeld, where their grandparents were guest workers. That was in the early 1970s. Nuran David Cali's father Aris probably sensed straight away that he would always remain a stranger in this country, which is undercooled from inside and outside. Your son was born in Bielefeld, but he said to his wife: Let's go back! Let's open a restaurant in Istanbul!

In 1977 the young family was back in their hometown. Cali's birthplace Bielefeld would not have been much more than an exotic irritation later without the military coup in 1980. The Armenians, who had almost been wiped out, sensed its approach seismographically, and pogroms occurred again. Istanbul was no longer a good place for an Armenian-Jewish family.

“My parents left in the spring of 1980,” says Calis, “the coup came in September.” Bielefeld again, Bielefeld-Baumheide, social housing, a room of eleven square meters, no bathroom. They went to the hospital on Fridays to shower. But it wasn't the narrowness, it wasn't the poverty, says Nuran David Calis: “My father started drinking.” As if it were possible to drink yourself back to a home that never existed.

He grew into the language as if by himself

Bielefeld-Baumheide was a mistake, every empty glass was a correction. But the next morning the world was even more wrong than before, and in the evening a little boy looked for his drunken father on the park benches of the city, and took cover with his mother from his violent disillusionment.

Calis sits in the glaring sunlight of the Cologne spring, next to him growing vines from a bucket, it's Grüner Veltliner, and daffodils. This spring day he says in his indifferent face what was then about the strength of a little boy. They were asylum seekers, only tolerated, they were never allowed to leave Bielefeld, this is called Residenzpflicht.

There were many little Turks in Bielefeld-Baumheide, but they didn't go to a Protestant school like him. He grew into the language that everyone around him spoke. And he had liked Bielefeld from the very first moment, including the people his father couldn't talk to. And it was sometimes uncomfortable for him to meet his classmates with his speechless parents. The father felt that he would lose his son to this strange, cold country.

"I don't belong here!"

But for a long time nothing indicated that he would lose him to its high culture. Nuran David Calis learned to box, he wasn't bad. Once he will strike, too hard, and personally take his victim to the hospital. And then it happened: he spoke to a girl he had known for a long time - knew, and yet did not know - because they stood at the same bus stop almost every day. Shortly afterwards they went to the theater together, because the Bielefeld bourgeois daughter wanted to be an actress, it was “cabal and love”.

Schiller's language grabbed the son of two illiterates in the heart, brain, soul and stomach at the same time. A world was opening up and he knew he would never leave it again. The Baumheiden nightclub owner noticed when his doorman slammed a strange document on the table with the words: “I'm out. I can also earn my money differently! ”It was Cali's first author's fee.

Ismet Büyük, who first found the utopia of yesterday in Germany, was also fate of the 1980 military coup. He was eleven at the time and grew up with his grandparents near the Black Sea coast; now it seemed safer to send him to his guest worker parents in Cologne. The 11-year-old's original experience: How complete strangers talked to his father! He counted nothing here, nothing at all. It was so humiliating, the boy was ashamed. He was ashamed of his father and of this country at the same time. It was then that he felt for the first time: "I don't belong here!"

Listeners, questioners, translators, sufferers too

The piece “Istanbul”, which is supposed to have its premiere here in May, doesn't even exist yet. It arises from the soul lava of those involved, from the spirit of unconditional sincerity. Calis, the director, the Turk: he is still a listener, questioner, translator, sufferer too.

But what else is a director according to his deepest profession? He definitely forces worlds unwilling to appear to appear. Two years ago in Leipzig, Calis staged Brecht's “Baal”, which is, first and last, a single great monologue of gender, of the blind triumphant instinct that chooses a person. What an evening!

Anyone who wants to understand the psychodynamics of what our latently impotent communication language calls "radicalization" should see Calis "Kuffar - The God Deniers" at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. No, a director is only apparently someone who holds all the strings in his hand: he makes it visible, he is a translator.

At some point during the morning of the rehearsal, the black Turk Ismet Büyük will put his hand on the arm of the white Turk Doghan Akhanli: as you do with a friend, soothing, brotherly, comforting.

He felt the city like an embrace

The writer Dogan Akhanli was arrested in Turkey in 1975 for buying a Marxist magazine. Tortured almost to death, he fled to Germany in 1991 and came to Cologne.

To see his dying father one more time, he returned in August 2010, against the advice of his children and friends. Everything started from the beginning. When, contrary to expectations, he saw Cologne again six months later, he felt the city like an embrace.

In the face of the other, as it were in the face of the opponent, they talk about how they became what they are, often on the edge of what is barely communicable. Documentary-existential theater. Here in Cologne-Mühlheim, where the first transatlantic cable was manufactured: Connecting different continents is therefore an original Mühlheim matter.

“We have almost nothing in common, but we would do anything for each other.” Ultimately, no enlightener understands this sentence, and the Turkish state founder Kemal Ataturk was certainly one of the greatest. And nevertheless. What could be more human, more hopeful, more future than this sentence? How good that we are all much more than enlighteners.

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