From A World To Win News Service

Tuğçe Albayrak—A heroic and inspirational act

December 22, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


15 December 2014. A World to Win News Service. In the bathroom at a McDonald’s in Offenbach, Germany on the evening of 15 November, two teenage girls were screaming for help. A 22-year-old German-born student of Turkish origin, Tuğçe Albayrak, heard their cries and alone rushed to their aid. She found several men harassing the two young girls and stopped them.

Later when Tuğçe left the McDonald’s, one of the young men took revenge on her in the parking lot. He beat her over the head with a baseball bat or other very hard object. She fell unconscious to the ground. A young man who was taken into custody initially admitted striking her on the head now refuses to say more.

The story of Tuğçe’s heroic act, covered by international media and many blogs, touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world. With tears and anger, people of all backgrounds and ages from cities across Germany poured into the streets in demonstrations of tribute to her. Candlelight vigils were held at the hospital where she lay in a coma for two weeks before doctors pronounced her brain dead. Her parents decided to remove her from life support on 28 November, her 23rd birthday.

Demonstrators in Berlin hold photos of Tugce Albayrak, November 30, 2014

November 30, 2014: Demonstrators in Berlin hold photos of Tuğçe Albayrak. AP photo

In an effort to burnish its image, McDonald’s took out a full page ad in Bild, one of Germany’s largest selling newspapers, in Turkish and German: “We mourn the loss of an extraordinary woman who showed courage and lost her life... In this moment, our thoughts are with the family of Tuğçe Albayrak, we wish them strength in this difficult time.” Cynically, McDonald’s added it condemns any kind of violence, “especially in and around our restaurants”.

In the face of this outpouring from people across the country, the German president was obliged to make a public statement to her family. “Our entire country mourns with you. Where other people looked away, Tuğçe showed exemplary courage.”

The hypocrisy of this statement is stunning. The oppression of people from non-German backgrounds living in Germany has a long history rooted in German imperialism and the structural relations embedded within. “Guest workers” from Turkey who played a huge role in German prosperity after WWII have never been welcomed in the closed society that Germany is.

The structure of oppressive social relations in German society is not only anti-immigrant but also anti-woman. Traditional public opinion scorns a working mother as a Rabenmutter, a heartless “raven mother” who should be at home caring for children rather than pushing them out of their nest. Early child care and schools are often organised so that the hours are inflexible, making it difficult for women to work at more than part-time jobs. Alongside this aspect of patriarchal relations, Germany is home to the biggest brothels in Europe. In fact, the county has been called one giant brothel, where more than one million men pay for sex every day. So women out in the evening unaccompanied by men are considered fair game for other men to prey on them. The young man who killed Tuğçe to defend male “right” may not have been born in Germany, but he learned society’s lessons very well.

Tuğçe Albayrak broke through some of these social constraints in many ways. Aspiring to teach high school youth, she was an excellent student with a full life before her. When she rescued the two teenage girls, all that was snuffed out because she refused to look the other way.

Now almost 200,000 people have signed an online petition to get the German government to honour her bravery by awarding her the National Order of Merit. What is it in this situation that has touched people so deeply?

By many “good German” standards Tuğçe was not one of them, yet she defended one of “theirs.” She broke out of the stultifying societal confines of how people are supposed to think and act: “mind your own business,” “keep your head down” and “look out for number one.” She dared to stand up to the male privilege that society tells men is their birthright.

That so many people have been moved by Tuğçe shows that the oppressive, narrow-minded and suffocating culture that characterizes not just German society but Western countries in general is not inherent in human nature. It arises from and helps perpetuate a system that people are forced to live under. That so many people were inspired by an act that provided a glimpse of a different way of thinking and being shows what could be unleashed if people saw the real possibility of stepping out of the confines of the old ways to help bring into being a world of mutual respect free of all relations of domination and exploitation.

Tuğçe’s heroic act was inspiring and forward-looking, a manifesto of non-accommodation to the world as it presently is.


A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.


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