Related topics

Turkish Juliet, West German Romeo Fight To Unite Two Worlds

July 5, 1988

FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ Seventeen-year-old Yasemin lives in a modern West German city, but has to wear skirts nearly down to her ankles, plead to go to school and can leave her watchful father only in the escort of a male cousin.

″Yasemin″ is a critically acclaimed film about a young Turkish woman, born in West Germany, who struggles to fit into a society her immigrant parents and family perceive as alien and corrupting.

And, although the story is fictional, it accurately reflects conflicts faced by many of West Germany’s 1.5 million Turkish workers and their families. Many of them were invited to work in West Germany during the country’s post-war economic boom.

The movie, along with a recent film called ″40 Square Meters Germany″ and new Turkish-language cable TV stations in West Berlin, is part of an increasing awareness about the plight of Turks reflected in the entertainment world.

″It’s the realistic story of a cultural conflict,″ director Hark Bohm said in an interview. ″And it has, of course, social implications.″

The combination Turkish-German language movie portrays the large Turkish community in Altona, a working-class neighborhood in Hamburg. Hamburg residents call it ″Little Istanbul.″

There, Turkish women who date German men are thought to have lost their virtue. A bride’s family is disgraced if a bridegroom cannot display a sheet stained with virgin blood after the wedding night. And the threat of deportation underscores relationships with teachers, the police and even doctors, for some of the workers are in West Germany illegally.

Bohm, who lives in Altona and speaks some Turkish, spent three years doing research, talking with neighborhood families and young people. One of them, a Turkish girl, even showed him her diary.

″That became the basis for my story,″ Bohm, a well-known actor and director, said. ″This girl eventually married her German boyfriend, despite conflict with her family.″

The lovers in ″Yasemin″ do not marry, but end up riding off together on a motorcycle.

The love story begins when Yasemin and Jan, a West German, meet in a judo class. At first Jan’s interest in Yasemin is based on a crude adolescent bet.

″There’s no woman I can’t get within three days,″ Jan boasts to friends, and tries for Yasemin, who rejects his overtures.

But Jan persists, despite attempts by Yasemin’s father to keep the two apart. In one touching scene, he spray-paints a request for a date on a wall outside her bedroom window. In another, he runs after a bus in which she is riding, jubilantly holding his new Turkish language lesson book up to the window.

Indeed, the two lovers spend most of their courtship gazing at each other across streets and through windows. Even when they finally kiss, it is only with a window pane between them.

Yasemin’s father catches them and threatens to send his daughter ″back home,″ meaning Turkey.

″You mean your home,″ Yasemin cries. ″I was born here 3/8″

Yasemin’s youngest sister, also born in West Germany, can hardly even speak Turkish.

Like many Turks in West Germany, Yasemin’s father owns a small produce store where all members of the extended family pitch in.

The story has a much more positive note than ″40 Square Meters Germany,″ released two years ago. The movie by Turkish-born director Tevfik Baser concerned a Turkish worker who literally locks up his wife in their tiny Hamburg apartment in order to protect her virtue.

″Turks have told me they find Yasemin’s father much more sympathetic than that husband,″ Bohm said. ″He loves his daughter deeply, and really just wants to protect her.″

Turks have a harder time fitting into West Germany than workers from Spain, Yugoslavia and Italy, Bohm said.

″The Turks brought a whole different cultural tradition here with them,″ Bohm said, adding that much of that tradition stems from their adherence to the Moslem faith.

Jan is played by Bohm’s 26-year-old son, Uwe. Yasemin is played by teen actress Ayse Romey, who was born in the United States to a Turkish woman and an American soldier. She was raised in West Germany, where she now lives.

Update hourly