Descendants of guest workers now fill halls of parliament in sign of Germany's modernization

Hakan Demir smiled broadly as he stood in front of Germany’s majestic parliament building Tuesday, his first official day of work as a national lawmaker.

“My grandfather would have been mighty proud of me, and my parents are proud as well,” Demir, 36, said, taking a moment to remember his family’s roots in Turkey, from where his grandfather came in the early 1970s as an untrained “guest worker” to help build roads and houses in Germany.

Demir, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party, is one of hundreds of people who ran for Germany’s 735-seat lower house of parliament with backgrounds as immigrants or parents or grandparents who immigrated to the country. The number who won Sunday has made the Bundestag more diverse and inclusive than ever before.

The chamber now includes at least three people of African descent — up from one in the previous parliament. After years of stagnation, the number of female lawmakers also has gone up again, including two transgender women.

Among the newly elected immigrants is Awet Tesfaiesus, 47, the first Black woman to serve in parliament. Tesfaiesus, who fled from Eritrea with her family as a 4 year old, is a member of the Greens who was elected to represent the Werra-Meissner constituency in central Germany.

Other new Social Democratic lawmakers are Armand Zorn, 33, who was born in Cameroon and came to Germany at age 12, and Reem Alabali-Radovan, 31, the daughter of Iraqi migrants.

New parliament member Serap Guler, 41, of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union, is the German-born daughter of Turkish immigrants. She has served in recent years as deputy minister for integration in North Rhine-Westphalia state.

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