AGI Profiles: Aydan Özoğuz

Connor Spruell

Mr. Connor Spruell is a research intern at AICGS for the spring of 2022. He supports resident fellows with their research projects, manages databases, and helps organize and document AICGS events.

Mr. Spruell is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs at American University’s School of International Service, with a regional focus on Europe and Eurasia. In his program, he concentrates on issues of nationalism and identity, and his interests include populism studies, nationalism, memory politics, and Transatlantic cooperation and security.

Mr. Spruell holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs from the University of Georgia, where he minored in German. During his master’s program, Mr. Spruell spent a semester studying in Geneva at The Graduate Institute, Geneva, where he was part of an interdisciplinary social science and international affairs program. In his spare time, Mr. Spruell enjoys hiking and reading German poetry.

Vice President of the Bundestag

Aydan Özoğuz is a SPD politician from Hamburg. After serving as State Minister and Federal Commissioner for Immigration, Refugees, and Integration (Staatsministerin bei der Bundeskanzlerin und Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration) from 2013 to 2018, she represents the SPD as one of the five vice presidents of the Bundestag. In this role, she officiates plenary sessions of the German parliament along with the other Vice Presidents and President of the Bundestag. Since 2011, she has served as the Deputy Chair of the SPD and is considered one of the party’s most senior officials who enjoys close ties to Chancellor Scholz (who originally encouraged her to get involved in the SPD and politics).

Ms. Özoğuz is of Turkish descent and a Muslim. She has spoken out against the notion of a German Leitkultur, arguing rather for a German identity based around the German language and multiculturalism rather than a strict criteria based around one definition of what it means to be German. These comments have made her the target of harassment, notably from former leader of the AfD Alexander Gauland, who said she should be “disposed of” in Turkey. She has spoken up on issues of Islamophobia, arguing that terror attacks in Europe perpetrated by Muslims only lead to further Muslim discrimination. In particular, she has spoken out against far-right domestic terrorism in Germany. A year after the Hanau shootings of 2020, she gave an interview where she claimed not enough was being done to weed out far-right extremism in Germany, and that more needs to be done to stop attacks before they happen. As the first Vice President and previously the first federal commissioner of Turkish descent, she has been discussed in Turkish media, including Hurriyet Daily, TRT Deutsch,  and The Daily Sabah, and these accounts range from favorable to neutral. She has publicly acknowledged the Armenian genocide, but she expressed concern that German acknowledgement would not lead to any kind of further reckoning in Turkish memory politics and only cause a backlash from the Erdogan government. She has also criticized President Recep Erdogan, saying that he is exploiting Turkish-German peoples’ relationship with their home country for his benefit.

She has been the president of the German Turkish Society e.V. since 2019, and she is a strong advocate for women’s rights and education, especially in the Global South, and works with NGOs such as PlanInternational Deutschland. She is on the advisory board of the  German-Palestinian Society, which some have criticized for its connections to the BDS movement and criticism of the Israeli government. Due to her seniority, status, and relationship with  Chancellor Scholz, she is a likely candidate for further advancement, making her a possible candidate for the presidency of the Bundestag and beyond if the SPD and Scholz stay in power.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.