Falling Down

Nick: Just what kind of vigilante are you?
Bill Foster: I am not a vigilante. I am just trying to get home to my little girl's birthday party and if everyone will just stay out of my way, nobody will get hurt.
European Dream Ends with Kidnapping, Prison

Turkish-born Muharrem E. spent 34 years living the life of a respectable German in Munich. He was employed, raised his children and owned a condominium. Then his daughter fell in love with a German. The Turkish family kidnapped the boy, turning their story into a lesson about the limits of integration ...

The family stands accused of having kidnapped a young German man one December morning at a Munich subway station, and of beating and threatening to kill him ...

They spotted Sascha ... the two men grabbed him ... and threw him onto his back ...

Sascha, a 19-year-old blonde, his hair cropped short, a boy who liked playing football and was learning the interior decorating trade ...

He was a German who had been dating Fatma, the family's youngest daughter, for two years. The couple had been living together for the past few weeks ...

Despite his protests, the men dragged him into the car and the father slapped him across the face twice ...

"Where is she?" he screamed ...

The men became furious. The mother sat in the back seat, saying nothing.

"I'd really like to kill you! The police won't find anything, I'm wearing gloves," the brother screamed.

"Give me back my daughter or I'll kill you!" the father screamed.

The family had already purchased one-way tickets from Munich to Istanbul, and one of them was issued in Fatma's name. Their plan was to return to the home they had left decades earlier and take their daughter with them. To them it suddenly seemed to be the best solution ...

[In the Whammy Burger]
Bill Foster: Why am I calling you by your first names? I don't even know you. I still call my boss "Mister", and I've been working for him for seven years, but all of a sudden I walk in here and I'm calling you Rick and Sheila like we're in some kind of AA meeting... I don't want to be your buddy, Rick. I just want some breakfast.
Sheila: You can call me Miss Folsom if you want.
Muharrem E. had been a seemingly well-integrated German resident for a long time.

He came to Germany in 1973, a single young man who had grown up in ... Turkey ... His father was an imam, and he had seven siblings. After attending school for five years in Turkey, Muharrem E. became a steelworker and went into the military.

After arriving in Munich, he soon found work ... Every morning at 4 a.m., Muharrem E. rode his bicycle the three kilometers to the factory where he worked ...

Muharrem E. was more punctual than most Germans ...

In his 34 years at the factory, he was never late for work -- until the day of his arrest. That was the first time Muharrem E. ever pulled a no show at work ...

Muharrem E., says Turan, respected the law -- he never even ran a red light. He wanted to make sure, says Turan, that he would never make a mistake ...

Sascha and Fatma met in front of the bulletin board at their vocational school ... The first thing he noticed about Fatma was her dark locks.

They went out for ice cream a few times. Then they began writing letters to each other. Fatma left one of Sascha's love letters on her desk one day, in the room she shared with her brother. Mehmet saw the letter, read it and wanted to know what it meant. That was three years ago.

Mehmet decided to meet Sascha ... he asked Sascha whether he was serious about Fatma. Sascha nodded, which was enough for Mehmet. Later, when Fatma's mother asked Mehmet what was wrong with her daughter, who had begun wearing makeup, Mehmet told her that she was in love with Sascha, a German boy.

Father Muharrem kept on reading his Koran, as he did every evening, and pulling out his prayer rug from a closet in the bedroom, laying it out on the floor and praying until sundown. Then he would watch the news on television, as he did every evening. But he knew nothing about Fatma and Sascha.

Whenever Muharrem E. visited the Turkish Islamic Association, he would laugh, tell jokes and serve tea and Coca-Cola ...

Muharrem E. was kept in the dark about the romance for two years.

But when the two began skipping class to see each other and their grades suffered, and when Fatma failed her exams, her father became concerned ... and ... asked her brother and mother what was wrong with Fatma.

They told him.

One morning in the spring of 2006, Mehmet confronted Sascha on the school grounds and asked him why he was in love with Fatma. Sascha responded: "I just happen to love her."

"You can't be together with her," Mehmet said.

From then on Fatma was told to be home on time, and if she wasn't, perhaps because her train was late, her brother would hit her. He did it because his father had told him to.

The family went to Turkey on vacation in the summer. Fatma missed Sascha, and when they returned to Munich she went to Sascha's apartment and spent the night with him, for the first time.

The family reported the incident to the police, but they were told that Fatma was of age and living in Germany.

[William Foster picks up the flat hamburger he just ordered, comparing it to the picture behind the counter]
Bill Foster: Can anybody tell me what's wrong with this picture?
From then on, when he visited the community center Muharrem E. was no longer as jovial as he had once been, but no one knew why ...

When Muharrem E. spent time in the hospital for a knee operation and asked to see his daughter, Fatma didn't visit. After that, when he would go to the community center, his friends asked him why he had suddenly become so angry and aggressive. Muharrem E. said nothing and started going to work at the factory even earlier than usual. Around this time, Mehmet starting thinking about moving out.

There were too many problems in his family. Mehmet wanted to be part of a world in which he was German, but he also wanted to remain his father's son. On a Sunday Muharrem, Mehmet and Fatma's mother sat down at the kitchen table and talked about what they should do. They put together a plan ...

That was when everything fell apart. The man who had managed to become a perfect German was suddenly a foreigner who had failed to integrate.

According to Turan, the eldest daughter, the people at the community center said: "The daughter of Mr. E. ran away." No one said: "Fatma ran away."

"Do you understand?" she asks.

The family's honor and reputation were at stake. People in the Turkish community had already started talking about Muharrem. Turan says that in many Turkish families things can only go well as long as German values and Turkish values don't collide. It's a common problem in the community, she says.

According to Turan, her father only realized that he had done something wrong when he was sitting in the courtroom, listening to what people had to say, when the prosecutor argued that he should be sentenced to seven years in prison without the possibility of parole, and when the judge rendered his verdict ...

When he leaves the prison in three years, Muharrem E. will find himself standing where he was when he first came to Germany -- at the beginning.

Sergeant Prendergast: Let's meet a couple of police officers. They are all good guys.
Bill Foster: I'm the bad guy?
Sergeant Prendergast: Yeah.
Bill Foster: How did that happen?


European Dream Ends with Kidnapping, Prison - Spiegel Online, August 23, 2007

Falling Down



  1. Not that this is a "good news" article, but at least this didn't end in death, as too many "honor" crimes do.

    Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
    "Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

  2. Ellen, true, it could have ended much worse - like it does for many other women. What "honor" there could be in killing your own daughter though is a mystery.

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