Christian Herrmann

Another way of looking at young people

From 7 to 10 October, Turkish youth work professionals were in Berlin to take part in a study visit about youth work at municipal level. We asked Christiane Reinholz-Asolli, who had prepared and supported the programme on behalf of IJAB, to share her impressions.

Besuchergruppe im Jugendzentrum
BildImage: Christiane Reinholz-Asolli   Lizenz: INT 3.0 – Namensnennung – keine Bearbeitung CC BY-ND 3.0

Mrs Reinholz-Asolli, who were the Turkish colleagues you were out and about with in Berlin?

Reinholz-Asolli: They were an interesting group of people. Normally, our contact in Turkey is through the Ministry for Youth and Sport, which selects the participants. One of the results of the last committee meeting between the Turkish and German youth ministries was to also include in these seminars staff from the Ministry for Family and Social Policy. This makes sense because both ministries have overlapping target groups. And so the Turkish delegation included youth centre managers under the authority of the Ministry for Youth and two regional directors from the Ministry for Family and Social Policy.

What were the Turkish guests focusing on and what were they expecting from this study visit?

Reinholz-Asolli: They were interested in the German concept of using youth work and youth social work to provide advice and support to young people. We now generally tend to look at young people not in terms of their shortcomings but in terms of building on their strengths. The Turkish way of looking at young people is still very different. This is anchored in the Turkish constitution, which talks about protecting young people. Young people are to be protected from bad influences, and, by definition, this means focusing on problem situations. Drugs and sexual abuse, for example, are regarded as problem situations and are currently in the spotlight. This is why our Turkish colleagues were very interested in examples of preventive measures.

But isn't prevention a typical instrument of youth protection?

Reinholz-Asolli: It is for us. But in Turkey, problems are not normally talked about unless matters have grown so bad that they cannot be ignored anymore, at which point they will of course be scandalized in public. Preventive measures would have to be put in place much earlier and are based on information and education, not on prohibition and scandal. That's why this is of interest.

Why choose Berlin for the study visit? Is that because it has a large community of people with Turkish roots?

Reinholz-Asolli: Yes, most certainly. Some participants were greatly surprised to find so many colleagues of Turkish origin here who were so deeply involved, and, of course, they were very interested to learn how they interact with young Turkish people. The Berlin Senate Department as well as the organisations we visited were very cooperative and went out of their way to enable them to talk with just such personnel. It's important to realize that this is about a paradigm change in Turkish politics. For quite some time, there has been a lot of interest in the Turkish community in Germany. This was to be expected but it can be confusing - and not just for a German public. The President of Turkey, Erdogan, even came to Germany during his electoral campaign, and there has been a new shift of emphasis in youth exchanges recently, wanting young people of Turkish origin to get to know their "authentic Turkish culture" in Turkey. In the past, German youth centres made these young people feel that they were not "German" enough - for example, by not allowing them to speak Turkish - and now the Turkish community tells them that they are not "Turkish" enough. It's not easy!

Do we have an idea whether and how these new realizations are going to be utilized in Turkey?

Reinholz-Asolli: No, and that's not how it works, either. It often takes years and years for any single element or idea from these seminars to develop and be put into practice by the participants. Important are the impressions of a youth work concept based on giving advice and support. I believe that we provided food for thought because there were lots of discussions. And I also believe that the networking aspect was important for our Turkish colleagues. Co-workers from the Youth and Family Ministries may not always be in touch with each other, but the projects they develop have the same target group.

How did the colleagues in Berlin approach the Turkish guests, and did they learn something new, too?

Reinholz-Asolli: At the very least, they were quite impressed by the Turkish delegation's great expert knowledge. But sometimes it seemed they didn't dare ask questions. For example, we visited a centre for media competency, and during the preparatory work, a question emerged about whether one could ask about Turkish media policy - this was about the temporary block on YouTube and Twitter - or whether this would offend the Turkish guests. In fact, there was absolutely no need to worry about this question. Social media is widely used in Turkey and many professional people use Facebook and Twitter as a matter of course, not only privately but also in a professional context. Official media policy has no impact on this whatsoever and is not even an issue. So it would have been OK to ask!

Lizenz: INT 3.0 – Namensnennung – keine Bearbeitung CC BY-ND 3.0

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