A mosque in Herford, Germany, that is under the control of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) in response to public outrage has removed most of the photos and videos from its web page showing children parading in military uniforms and carrying fake firearms with a giant Turkish flag laid out on the floor in front of them.
The mosque, like many mosques in Germany, operates under DİTİB, which is controlled by the Turkish government led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. DİTİB claims the event was intended to commemorate the fighting at Gallipoli in World War I during which an allied invasion was repelled by the Turks.
DİTİB, which is also one of the key examples of the Erdoğan regime’s long reach in Germany, organised an event at one of its mosques and put Turkish children between the ages of 4 and 7 in army fatigues, later making them sing marches holding toy guns. DİTİB shared images from the event in online venues as if it were a good thing, but the footage was later removed as it caused an uproar among the German public and politicians.
Carsten Linnemann, a deputy of ruling Christian Democratic Union in the German Federal Parliament from Herford, said the images were shocking. Linnemann said the incident was further proof that the Erdoğan government is trying to create a parallel society in Germany loyal to himself.
Herford teacher Birgit Ebel spoke to the local press and stated that Turkish children even go to school in similar uniforms. Ebel said the education system must be stronger and teachers need to be equipped to keep Turkish-German children away from such racist spectacles.
Herford Mayor Tim Ostermann has also said he demanded a written statement from DİTİB regarding the incident, adding that no such statement has yet arrived. “I was shocked to see the images. We can see once again that the desired harmony has not been achieved. Even if it was adults rather than children displaying this spectacle, it still wouldn’t have been acceptable,” Ostermann said and added that the video has been sent to security units so a criminal investigation can be launched.
The German government has expressed concern about the Turkish government’s efforts to exert political influence in mosques linked to DİTİB, which controls more than 900 mosques in Germany, to garner support for a military operation in northern Syria, according to a story in the Turkish version of Deutsche Welle (DW) on Friday.
Responding to a parliamentary question submitted by the Left Party to the German Federal Parliament, the government said calls at DİTİB mosques promoting the ongoing Turkish military operation in the Afrin region of Syria are worrisome.
The Turkish military and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters on Jan. 20 launched Operation Olive Branch in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The German government said in a statement that such actions help the importing of Turkey’s domestic issues to German society and increase the already existing tensions in the country. The German government also said it is against the mosques being involved in tasks other than providing religious services.
Last month German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply criticized the Turkish military offensive in Afrin, describing it as unacceptable. Speaking to lawmakers in the Bundestag’s lower house, Merkel said Turkey’s actions in Afrin were unacceptable despite its security interests. “I’m also condemning this in the strongest terms,” she added.