Selafet Hizarçi about experiences of discrimination
Selafet Hizarçi came to Germany from Turkey in 1969, where she immediately began to work, learn the language and started a family. As part of the project “Mutige Entdecker Bleiben” (“Courageous Discoverers Stay”), she talks, along other Muslim and Jewish pensioners, about her experiences of migration. In this excerpt she remembers various experiences of discrimination in everyday life.
Haben Sie Diskriminierung erfahren?
Es gibt immer wieder Situationen. Einmal saß ich in der U-Bahn. Da setzte sich mir eine Frau gegenüber. Sie lächelte mich zunächst an, dann fragte sie plötzlich: “Warum tragen Sie Kopftuch?” Ich fragte zurück: “Warum tragen Sie kein Kopftuch?” Sie sagte: “Weil ich Deutsche bin!” Ich antwortete: “Ich trage Kopftuch, weil ich Muslima bin.” Da war sie still.
Ein anderes Mal beobachtete ich, wie eine Frau in einem Bus eine türkische Frau anpöbelte, weil sie auf dem Behinderten-Platz saß. Die Frau setzte sich um, aber die andere Frau pöbelte weiter. Als ich sie ansprach, meinte sie, der Platz stünde ihr zu, weil sie deutsch sei. Da wurde ich wütend: “Hören Sie mal”, sagte ich zu ihr, “wir leben nicht mehr in der Hitler-Zeit.”
Mein Mann wurde im Beruf gemobbt. Er war der einzige Ausländer in seiner Abteilung und die Kollegen machten ihm immer wieder Probleme. Einmal packten sie ihm einen Schweineknochen in seine Aktentasche, ein anderes Mal wurde er bestohlen. Sie haben oft gestänkert oder seine Anweisungen nicht befolgt. Der Chef stand aber immer hinter ihm und hat im den Rücken gestärkt.
Have you experienced discrimination?
There are always situations. Once I was sitting in the subway. A woman sat down opposite me. She smiled at me at first, then suddenly she asked: “Why are you wearing a headscarf?” I asked back: “Why don’t you wear a headscarf?” She said: “Because I am German!” I replied, “I wear a headscarf because I am Muslim.” Then she was silent.
Another time I saw a woman on a bus molesting a Turkish woman because she was sitting in the seat for the disabled. The woman changed her seat, but the other woman continued to scold. When I approached her, she said that the seat was hers because she was German. Then I got angry: “Listen,” I said to her, “we no longer live in the Hitler era.”
My husband was bullied at work. He was the only foreigner in his department, and his colleagues kept causing him problems. Once they put a pig bone in his briefcase, another time he was robbed. They often moaned or did not follow his instructions. But the boss always stood behind him and backed him.
Selafet Hizarçi came to Germany from Turkey with her future husband in 1969. They lived together in a one-room apartment in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Selafet started working in a restaurant, later in a can factory and as a cleaner in a kindergarten. Although she was illiterate and never went to school, she learned German over time. In 1975 and 1983 her sons were born. In 1987 she was hospitalized with meningitis for four months, two of which she was in coma. Today Selafet and her husband live in Berlin-Neukölln.
Selafet Hizarçi was interviewed about her experiences of arriving in Germany as part of the project “Mutige Entdecker Bleiben” (“Courageous Discoverers Stay”). The book, in which Jewish and Muslim immigrants of the generation after 1945 are asked about their experiences of arriving in Germany, was created as part of the project “Schalom Aleikum. Jüdisch-Muslimischer Dialog” (“Schalom Aleikum. Jewish Muslim Dialogue”) by the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (Central Council of Jews in Germany).
Even though Selafet Hizarçi and her husband came to Germany as migrant workers, their experiences of discrimination and exclusion, which are discussed in this interview excerpt, show great parallels with other migrant experiences, past and present. In particular, she describes how she and her husband were discriminated on the basis of their Muslim identity – and the associated external characteristics such as the headscarf – and how they were confronted with prejudice and unfair treatment in public space and at work.
This excerpt from the interview with Selafet Hizarçi is published in the We Refugees Archive with the kind permission of the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (Central Council of Jews in Germany).
First published in:
Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland (ed.), 2019: Mutige Entdecker bleiben. Jüdische und Muslimische Senioren im Gespräch. Schalom Aleikum Buchreihe 1. Berlin/Leipzig: Hentrich & Hentrich. p. 48.