Turkey’s government has reportedly called on imams, teachers and parents to act as their eyes and ears in German schools and report any criticism of its president, Recep Tayyip Ergodan.
The Turkish consulate in North Rhine-Westphalia staged a number of “information events” in Düsseldorf, Essen, Cologne and Münster in January, they say to counter the misrepresentation of the Turkish government in schools.
But attendees at the events have reported that they were urged to act as spies within classrooms, and even told to encourage their children to record their teachers and pass along the evidence.
Sebastian Krebs, a spokesman for the Union for Education and Science (GEW) told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung: “We have heard from various different sources that people were told to report every piece of criticism of Turkey, which had been heard at schools in North Rhine-Westphalia, to the consulate.
“The consulate also encouraged parents to tell their children to film teachers and pass on the evidence to Turkish authorities.”
He said that at the Dusseldorf event, teachers demonstrably refused to heed the call to spy on their schools.
And he added that the GEW had been handed syllabuses for Turkish language and culture classes provided to teachers by the consulate which were found to be “heavily coloured by nationalism”.
However, Ali Sak, a representative of the Turkish Parents Association of Germany (Föted), has defended the meetings, saying: “These parents don’t have anyone who they can talk to about this other than the consulate. The real reason they were invited was so that they could discuss this problem with the consulate and with parent associations.”
The Turkish consulate declined to comment.
The reports come just weeks after a Hamburg court upheld an injunction preventing a German television comedian from repeating sections of a crude poem he wrote about Erdogan. Lawyers representing the Turkish leader had argued that the injunction should cover the whole poem, which described the President as “cowardly and uptight” and a “goat-fucker”.
President Ergodan will travel to Germany ahead of a referendum to be held on 16 April on constitutional changes to Turkey’s governance system. Ergodan plans to lobby the 1.4 million eligible voters living in the northern European state to back proposals which would hand him more power.