buruma200_Omer MessingerGetty Images_turkish voting erdogan Omer Messinger/Getty Images

Nationalists Abroad

While facing an uphill political battle at home, Turkey’s recently re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan handily won the diaspora vote. He did so by capitalizing on the resentment and alienation felt by second- and third-generation Turkish immigrants who often feel estranged in the countries where they were born.

BERLIN – President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan probably did not need the votes of German- and Dutch-Turkish citizens to prevail in Turkey’s recent presidential election. Even so, Erdoğan won a majority of the international vote, including nearly 70% of the votes in Germany and the Netherlands. Since not all Germans or Dutch with a Turkish background vote in Turkish elections, such statistics need to be treated with care. But right-wing Turkish nationalism does appear to have a strong appeal among dual citizens. And such overseas nationalists tend to be noisy about their convictions, driving through German cities honking their horns and shouting political slogans.

These demonstrations have an air of defiance, a blaring kind of identity politics, and they function as a sign to the majority population that the ethnic minority has a voice, too. But they are also representative of a broader trend: certain members of immigrant communities tend to be more extreme when it comes to the politics of their countries of origin than the citizens who still reside there.

Khalistan separatists who call for an independent Sikh country in Punjab, for example, are sometimes more vociferous in Canada or the United Kingdom than in India. Likewise, the Irish Republican Army received generous financial support from Americans of Irish heritage, Hindu nationalists thrive in some parts of Britain, and radical Islamists have found fertile recruiting ground in Western European cities. While this partly reflects the greater political freedom in the West, other factors also explain why some second-generation immigrants are drawn to right-wing nationalism.

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