German Turks warn of racism in angry World Cup post-mortem

Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan present signed jerseys of their clubs to Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Reuters)
Updated 12 July 2018
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German Turks warn of racism in angry World Cup post-mortem

  • Before the World Cup started Mesut Ozil and his team mate Ilkay Gundogan posed for photos with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
  • Ozil a key player in Germany’s victorious campaign in Brazil in 2014 and Gundogan endured jeers and boos on the pitch in Russia

BERLIN: Since Germany humiliatingly crashed out of the World Cup, a team member with Turkish roots has faced a hailstorm of criticism that Muslim and migrant groups charge is openly racist.
Mesut Ozil, 29, quickly become a scapegoat for far-right populists, but the storm escalated when even German football bosses, rather than defend him, suggested the squad may have been better off without him.
At the heart of the storm is a political controversy that flared before the World Cup started, when Ozil and his team mate Ilkay Gundogan posed for photos with Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The incident sparked heated debate on whether the young men felt greater loyalty to their birth country Germany or to Turkey, the ancestral home of their families and of a three-million-strong minority group.
While Gundogan, 27, who plays for Manchester City, voiced dismay about the controversy, Ozil, an Arsenal midfielder, further infuriated critics by staying silent on the Erdogan affair.
Ozil, a key player in Germany’s victorious campaign in Brazil in 2014, and Gundogan endured jeers and boos on the pitch which, according to Bild daily, reduced Gundogan to tears in the locker room.
But the anger escalated after Germany’s shock first-round defeat to South Korea dismayed the football-mad nation.
First off the mark was the anti-Islam and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which has long railed against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance to refugees.
AfD lawmaker Jens Maier charged bluntly that “Without Ozil we would have won!” in a tweet that also featured a picture of a smiling Ozil and the words “Are you satisfied, my president?“
The far-right AfD has risen to prominence with such shrill provocations, repeatedly suggesting that the national team should be made up of white, ethnic Germans.
But Muslim and other minority groups see the broader finger-pointing as a sign of a dangerous societal drift to the right at a time when immigration is a hot-button political issue.
Cihan Sinanoglu of the Turkish community in Germany told news agency DPA that the charges of disloyalty confirmed many Germans in their belief that “integration and multiculturalism have failed.”
The issue came to a head last week when German Football Association (DFB) bosses, rather than try to defuse the situation, suggested the team may have done better without Ozil.
The head of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, called for DFB president Reinhard Grindel and team director Oliver Bierhoff to resign.
Armin Laschet, the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia state, where the players grew up, also slammed the DFB chiefs.
“The notion that a photo with Erdogan is to blame for the defeat against football giants South Korea,” he said, “is an idea only DFB officials could come up with — after three weeks of pondering the issue.”
Greens party politician Cem Ozdemir said that, although the Erdogan picture was a “grave mistake,” it did not justify the “clearly racist criticism” and accused the DFB of “cowardice.”
Author Baha Gungor said Ozil “is suffering the fate of hundreds of thousands of Turkish-born young people in Germany, who have totally integrated but, because they are also committed to their Turkish roots, always end up back in the crossfire.”
Speaking to a Cologne newspaper, he cited a similar example from France where player Karim Benzema, who has Algerian roots, had once remarked: “If I score, I am a Frenchman. If I miss, I am an Arab.”
He pointed out that after racist attacks against Swedish international Jimmy Durmaz, who has Syrian roots, the entire Swedish team had backed their teammate and shouted “Fuck Racism.”
“And in Germany? Here, the racism raining down on the two players is still met with silence, a scapegoat is being sought by those who want to distract from their own failure.”
Ozil’s 50-year-old father Mustafa told newspaper Bild am Sonntag that Bierhoff’s “insult ... serves to save his own skin” but had left his son “crestfallen, disappointed and offended.”
“We used to say that if we win, we win together. But now that we lost, we lost because of Ozil?“
“If I were in his place, I would say thank you, but I’m done. The hurt has been too much. In Mesut’s place, I would step down.”


El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

Evelyn Hernandez (C) is surrounded by activists after being released from the women's Readaptation Center, in Ilopango, El Salvador, on February 9, 2019, where she was serving a 30-year-sentence for aggravated homicide after her baby died at birth. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

  • Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR: A Salvadoran court on Friday freed Evelyn Hernandez, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after she gave birth to a stillborn baby at home.
After serving 33 months for aggravated homicide, 20-year-old Hernandez smiled as she was reunited with her parents and a brother in the capital San Salvador.
The court in Cojutepeque, east of the capital, ruled that she will be retried but while living at home. A hearing has been set for April 4, with a new judge, her lawyer Angelica Rivas said.
El Salvador has an extremely strict abortion ban. Hernandez gave birth in the makeshift bathroom of her home in the central Cuscatlan region. She was 18 years old and eight months pregnant.
She said her son was stillborn but was convicted of murdering him, abortion rights group ACDATEE said.
ACDATEE cited a pathologist’s report which it said indicated the baby had choked to death while still in the womb.
Prosecutors argued Hernandez was culpable for not having sought prenatal care, ACDATEE said.
The group said Hernandez had not known she was pregnant and gave birth on the toilet after feeling abdominal pains. She got pregnant as the result of a rape, which she did not report out of fear because her family had been threatened.
Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador. Campaigners say some have been jailed after suffering miscarriages.
The country’s abortion law made international headlines in 2013 when a sick woman was forbidden from aborting a fetus which developed without a brain.
Under a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Salvadoran state eventually authorized her to undergo a cesarean section. The baby died shortly after the procedure.