Sevim Dagdelen has just been elected chairwoman of the German-Turkish parliamentary group. She is considered a harsh critic of Erdogan.
Left-wing politician Sevim Dagdelen Photo: dpa
site: Ms. Dagdelen, you, one of the harshest critics of the Turkish president in the Bundestag, have been elected chairwoman of the German-Turkish parliamentary group. Despite this or because of it?
Sevim Dagdelen: I have been a member of the German-Turkish Parliamentary Group since 2005 and have now been unanimously elected chairwoman by my parliamentary group. Competence and expertise must be compatible with a commitment to a reorientation of German policy on Turkey. German-Turkish relations have been close to my heart for years. Especially in times when Erdogan and his AKP are trying to transform Turkey into an Islamist dictatorship, it is important to intensify parliamentary contacts. That’s what I’m standing up for.
You have not been traveling to Turkey for several years because there is a real danger that you will be arrested there. So how can dialogue take place in the future?
Since the adoption of the resolution in the Bundestag recognizing the Armenian genocide, there have been major rifts. Contacts have been boycotted by the Turkish parliamentary group since 2016. Michelle Muntefering, the previous head of our parliamentary group, was included on a list of the Turkish secret service as an alleged terror supporter. It is important to me to improve relations between the Bundestag and the Turkish National Assembly again. This naturally includes reciprocal visits. The safety of all delegation members must be guaranteed. I am optimistic that Turkey will move here.
Are you planning trips to Turkey yourself?
As Chairwoman of the German-Turkish Parliamentary Group, I will of course be making trips to Turkey. I am promoting direct exchange.
The 42-year-old belongs to the left wing of the Left Party and has been in the Bundestag since 2005. As deputy parliamentary group leader, she is responsible for foreign and security policy. Dagdelens’ parents immigrated from Turkey, and she herself was born and raised in Duisburg. Since the Bundestag’s controversial Armenia resolution in 2016, she has been the target of fierce hostility from the Turkish side and has not traveled to Turkey for that reason.
So there are still talks going on?
Despite the boycott, there have been repeated visits by journalists and cultural workers, but also by members of parliament from the HDP or the Social Democrats, who have visited us members of the German-Turkish Parliamentary Group in Germany.
Who would you like to meet in Turkey in the future?
Turkey does not stand for Erdogan and Erdogan only stands for a minority of the population in Turkey. I would like to hold talks also with deputies of the Social Democrats, the HDP and with all those who stand for the other Turkey. The former editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, Can Dundar, put it this way: My election as chairwoman of the German-Turkish parliamentary group is an opportunity to cultivate friendship with the other Turkey as well. Up to now, contacts have mainly been with the AKP.
Parliamentary and presidential elections will be held in Turkey on June 24. Are Erdogan and the AKP already certain winners?
No, according to independent polls, the Islamist-nationalist electoral alliance of AKP and MHP is currently at 43 percent. In this respect, I don’t think the election has been decided yet. It may be that Erdogan loses the election despite all the manipulations, and that includes the early election date. This will be an exciting time and it is important to strengthen contacts now.
How much are the other members of the parliamentary group behind this idea?
The group has not yet been constituted; interested parliamentarians can register until April 30. But from my experience, we have worked closely and mostly consensually across parliamentary groups for years. Among other things, we also launched the "Parliamentarians Protect Parliamentarians" protection program for persecuted parliamentarians in Turkey. That we also seek exchange with these MPs is, presumably, in the interest of all MPs in our group. It is also in the interest of all members of our group that we, as parliamentarians, form a contrast to the government’s line. For example, the government has not condemned the war of aggression in Afrin against the Kurds, which is contrary to international law, unlike all the parliamentary groups in the Bundestag.
Have AfD deputies also registered and will you be working with them?
An overview will be drawn up after the registration deadline. Every member of the German Bundestag has the right to work in three parliamentary groups.
If Erdogan wins the election, the constitutional amendments that strengthen the president’s power and weaken the parliament will come into effect. How might that affect the exchange between the Bundestag and the Turkish parliament?
If President Erdogan is re-elected – also with the support of the German government and the EU through the millions in financial and economic aid – then the massive executive powers will apply. This is a very difficult situation, especially for the people in Turkey. Therefore, everything must be done to strengthen the other Turkey, which also exists and is the majority, and to give it more voice.