Corona Dialogues - Hosted by Nevşin Mengü
Enabling dialogues between Turkey and Germany is an important objective of FNF Turkey. In the framework of the digital #LiberalHomeworks series, prominent Turkish journalist Nevşin Mengü hosts the weekly program “Corona dialogues” on her Instagram account. With German personalities of Turkish descent she discusses the impacts of the Corona crisis on society.
Within the frame of FNF’s dialogue program between Turkey and Germany, Nevşin Mengüs first interview guest was Mr. Yankı Pürsün, member of the Free Democratic Party (FDP) in Germany and Member of Parliament in the State of Hessen. On her Instagram account, Ms. Mengü talked live with Mr. Yankı Pürsün about his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The talk started by defining how Germany has been pursuing the struggle against Covid-19. The moderator and her guest discussed the fact that many observers see Germany as the only successful example in the free world in terms of precautions taken against the pandemic and keeping the disease under control.
Mr Pürsün told the audience that in the very beginning of the outspread, the local government in Hessen wanted to keep the local parliament shut, using the pandemic as an excuse. Mr Pürsün shared with us reports about the opposition to this and the struggle to keep the parliament open. According to him, it is thanks to these struggles that the government is now keeping both the opposition and the people informed about each step taken.
Mr. Pürsün also talked about the website of the German health ministry, which is sharing transparent information about COVID-19 at all times. Unlike in Turkey, Germans can easily learn about the number of cases in each city and the recent health status of the patients.
The two discussants also talked about radical movements taking to the streets, which, according to Mr Pürsün, was also provoked by the manipulation of people through conspiracy theories.
Viewers were particularly interested in the question when German tourists may be traveling to Turkey again. According to Mr. Pürsün however, we will need to wait until a vaccine is available before we are able to go back to normal again.
In the second round of the Corona dialogues on May 28, Nevşin Mengü interviewed Erkan Arıkan, the head of Deutsche Welle Türkçe. Naturally, the conversation focused on the media coverage of the COVID-19 crisis in Germany and Turkey.
Mr. Arıkan elaborated on the German term “lying press” (Lügenpresse), which became a major slogan of some media critics who accuse the traditional media of not only reporting in a biased manner but also incorrectly.
During the show, some viewers commented that the German media handled the Corona crisis in a biased manner, too. Yet Mr. Arıkan did not agree with this statement. However, he mentioned that the German media did not show a great interest in how the crisis was handled in Turkey.
Although initially, many did not find the statistics published by the Turkish government regarding the pandemic trustable, the government later started to follow and publish the crisis developments in a timely manner, Mr. Arıkan underlined.
In the third episode of FNF Turkey’s weekly show “Corona Dialogues”, Nevşin Mengü discussed with her guest Önder Sancarbarlaz, Vice President of the German Travel Association, the perspectives of Turkish-German tourism after the Corona pandemic.
Against the background of ongoing “normalization” after the lockdown, the tourism topic is discussed intensely in both countries. Turkey is hoping for high numbers of tourists this year to help the economy while German tourists wonder whether they can and should travel to non-European destinations for their holidays.
Thus, it is not surprising that the discussion of Ms. Mengü and Mr. Sancarbarlaz revolved around the question if German tourists would be able to travel to Turkey this year. So far, the German Foreign Ministry does not list Turkey as travel advice for this year’s holiday season. Naturally this caused much disappointment among Turks.
However, Mr. Sancarbarlaz expressed his optimism. He believes Turkey and Germany will find a middle ground, since for many Germans Turkey is the preferred holiday destination. He is hopeful all the more as he personally thinks Turkey has been successful in the fight against COVID-19 and thus represents a safe holiday destination.
On the other hand, many viewers of the show found him too optimistic. They claimed German tourists would be cautious to travel this year. So, let’s see what the summer brings!
In her fourth episode of the “Corona Dialogues” series, Nevşin Mengü spoke with prominent German-Turkish writer Deniz Utlu. At the time of the interview, Mr. Utlu was residing in a writers’ retreat in the house of Günther Grass, the 1999 Nobel Prize laureate in Literature. Given this interesting setting, Mr. Utlu also talked about his programme in the retreat.
Mr. Utlu talked about how he is observing the Corona lockdown and its psychological impacts from a writer’s perspective. He then touched upon the important topic of racism that became top news internationally after the brutal killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police.
Mr. Utlu explained how the “Black Lives Matter” movement is seen in Germany and how protests took place there, also. One viewer commented, “Turks are the black people of Germany”, yet Deniz Utlu disagreed. He reminded the audience that there is also a black community in Germany, and they face racism.
In the following, Mr. Utlu took up the topic of the Turkish-German community in Germany and their relation to racism. He said, a part of the community has themselves biases against for example people of Asian and Arab origin. He explained how parts of the Turkish-German community use racist rhetoric and show racist behaviour patterns against these people. Ms. Mengü underlined this as an interesting point, because Turkish people usually claim that they are not and have never been racist.
Overall, Mr. Utlu was optimistic though. He evaluates the anti-racism rallies in the US and Europe as positive developments, which show that societies started to observe and question their own behaviours.