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Eye for an Eye: Turkish Community Simmers After Killings

November 25, 1992

BERLIN (AP) _ Some immigrants believe its time to fight firebomb with firebomb. That’s certainly the mood in Kreuzberg, the heart of the city’s Turkish community and of Germany’s radical leftist scene.

After Monday’s arson deaths of three Turks, and Friday’s subway stabbings of three leftists, the word in Kreuzberg is revenge.

″Ten Germans for every Turk,″ said an 18-year-old member of Boys 36, a Turkish street gang that teamed with leftists Monday night in a rock-throwing melee against police.

The youth, who strongly resisted requests that he give his name, flicked out a blue-handled switchblade and playfully poked the chest of his friend’s Chicago Bulls jacket.

″The skinheads are afraid of us,″ he said.

″Everyone is angry,″ said Irfan Kizgin, an official of Berlin’s Turkish Parents Association. ″It is difficult not to be.″

Kizgin said the federal government’s efforts to stop the record flow of foreign refugees into the country only encourages rightists to believe their attacks are accomplishing something.

″I think many people feel the other side should also respond with violence,″ Kizgin said. ″But this escalation will bring us nothing, only more death.″

More than two years of steadily escalating attacks on foreigners reached a crescendo Monday when an arson attack in the west German city of Moelln killed a 51-year-old Turkish grandmother and two children.

The attack came three days after rightists knifed three members of a leftist squatters commune in an east Berlin subway station. One of them died. A 17-year-old turned himself in Tuesday because, according to police, ″he couldn’t sleep any more.″

The killings have triggered a wave of counter-demonstrations, some of them violent.

The Kreuzberg district is the scene of frequent violent protests by the radical anarchists, who live communally in garishly painted apartment buildings and advocate the dissolution of Germany.

Kreuzberg remains Germany’s hip Bohemian district, a charmingly blighted pastiche of ethnic eateries, art houses, counterculture clothing shops and bars so progressive some hold occasional lesbian nights.

Though it is a magnet for both polemists and poseurs as well as yuppie trendmongers, its heart remains Turkish, the center of life for Berlin’s 140,000 Turks.

On Oranienstrasse, across from Frank’s Billards, stands the Borderless Cafe, a meeting place for Third World immigrants and headquarters for the Third World Action and Education Center.

Center coordinator Wahid Wahdatehagh, a German citizen of Iranian extraction, said he feels the recent slayings have upped the ante.

″It makes an explosive situation worse,″ he said. ″There is a violent counter-movement growing among the Turks.″

One person who understands this is Mahoma Mwaungulu, 60, a political prisoner from Malawi who was granted asylum in Communist East Germany in 1967, then in West Germany nine years later after the Communists expelled him for criticizing the government.

East Germany ″made it a crime to even be a racist,″ said Mwaungulu, who said he lost his front teeth in a recent skinhead beating.

″When (the Communists) went away so did that law. In West Germany, I don’t know. I think the government has always tolerated racism.″

Mwaungulu is director of the Umoja (Swahili for ″unity″) Center, an association of German Africans. In his 25 years here, he said he has never felt so unwanted.

″The problem is broader than skinheads. There is less tolerance among normal Germans.″

And there is less patience among foreigners, especially boys in Boys 36, which takes its name from Kreuzberg’s zip code.

The 18-year-old with the knife said he was born and raised in Kreuzberg and barely speaks the Turkish spoken by his parents, who came here as guest workers in 1965.

He criticized Turks who don’t believe in an eye-for-eye response to rightist violence.

″That could have been my family,″ he said, referring to the Turkish deaths Monday. ″We can do the same things the skinheads can.″

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