New head of anti-discrimination agency elected in Germany

·2 min read

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's parliament on Thursday elected as the government's new anti-discrimination commissioner a journalist whose nomination last month had sparked controversy.

Ferda Ataman, 42, was elected as head of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency with a clear majority. She was nominated by the government, but members of the Free Democrats, part of the governing coalition, and lawmakers with the opposition conservative Christian Democrats and the far-right Alternative for Germany had sharply criticized the choice.

They questioned Ataman’s suitability for the post, calling her, among other things, a left-wing activist.

Ataman, whose parents immigrated from Turkey, was especially attacked for an op-ed she wrote for Spiegel Online magazine in 2020, in which she defended calling Germans without immigrant roots “potatoes." The term is sometimes used in a derogatory way for ethnic Germans.

Supporters of Ataman — especially members of the governing Green Party and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ Social Democrats — called the accusations against her slanderous and discriminating, alleging that some of the attacks were racially motivated because she's a second-generation immigrant.

“The wonderful Ferda Ataman should head the anti-discrimination office — which led to a slanderous campaign including threats against her family,” the co-leader of the Social Democrats, Saskia Esken wrote on Twitter.

Green Party deputy leader Agnieszka Brugger wrote that she had experienced Ataman “as smart, very empathetic, friendly, dialogue-oriented, reflective," the German news agency dpa reported.

“What some write about her does not match the person I met at all,” she added.

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency advises people who have been discriminated against based on their racial, ethnic, gender or religious background. This includes such cases as discrimination because of a foreign-sounding surname when looking for an apartment or applying for a job.

The agency also commissions studies, produces guidelines and raises awareness of discrimination issues through public relations work.

The Associated Press

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