BERLIN - While a recent study reveals that Turks are failing to integrate into German society and most Turks say they do not feel German, the younger generation tells a different story.
"I feel Turkish and I will always feel Turkish in my heart despite my German passport," says the man who runs a second-hand clothes shop in Kreuzberg, a Berlin district dubbed "little Istanbul".
Akın Ğ who declined to give his second name Ğ said he identified completely with the tens of thousands of Turks who, according to a report published recently by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, are failing to integrate into German society.
Although Turks have been in Germany for nearly 50 years and are the largest ethnic immigrant group, numbering some 2.8 million, they are the least well integrated of all immigrant communities, the report found.
"In hardly any area is the integration of this group going well. The impression is growing that a part of the Turkish citizens are drawing back into their own societies," concluded the study, widely reported in the German press.
The statistics in the report tell their own story: only one in 20 Turks marry someone from another race, two-thirds have kept their Turkish nationality.
Turks are also bottom of the pile when it comes to education: 30 percent of students of Turkish origin do not have a school leaving certificate and only 14 percent pass their final secondary school examinations, the study found.
But to judge from several members of the Turkish community in Kreuzberg, the report only tells half the story. For while the older generation tended to hold views similar to Akın's, younger Turks see the situation in a different light altogether.
Akın's 18-year-old assistant, Gulbian, says she considers herself "100 percent German", prompting a heated rebuke from her boss. "Germans live in Turkey, Turks live in Germany. We're all mixed up," she said.
"I don't feel foreign here at all."
Ümit, a 30-year-old owner of a shop that sells exclusively Turkish music and video says things have changed enormously in the space of a generation.
'We feel German'
"The younger people, they come here to Germany, they speak German, they work hard and there is no problem. For the older generation, it is not the case." He puts it down to increased economic pressure. "Before it was easy to work and get money. Now times are harder. The younger people work harder at school and are more integrated. I think it will be better in the future," he said.
Ümit arrived in Berlin as a 10-year-old and says without hesitation, "of course I feel German. I am proud to hold a German passport."
Researchers have documented this "generation gap" and reached the same conclusion as the anecdotal evidence from the streets: younger Turks are integrating into German society much better than did their parents.
A study by Dirk Halm, from the Centre for Turkish Studies at the University of Essen-Duisberg, showed that 43 percent of Turks over 60 are "segregated" into "parallel communities", compared to only 16 percent of under-30s. Halm predicts that as the younger generation takes over, Turks will become better integrated into German society but warns it will not happen overnight. "I'm convinced this will occur, but beware: it will be a slow process," he told AFP.
Nevertheless, with 50 percent of Turks under the age of 27, the new generation is quickly taking over from their parents. Young German Turks banded together in 2007 to form a group called the "DeuKische Generation", play on the German word for German and Turkish, to promote integration into German society.
Working with the government, they now have 150 members across Germany aged from 14 to 29.
The founder, Aylim Selçuk, 19, says the third generation of Turks in Germany sees things "completely different from our parents".