Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is seeking a third consecutive term in office in elections in May marks 20 years in power on Tuesday.
The 69-year-old, who served as prime minister from 2003-2014 and as president thereafter, started as a reformist who expanded rights and freedoms, allowing his majority-Muslim country to start European Union membership negotiations.
He later reversed course, cracking down on dissent, stifling the media and passing measures that eroded democracy.
The number of political refugees in Germany has drastically increased since 2016 when there was a failed coup attempt in Turkey.
Germany’s Interior Ministry told Euronews that more than 21,000 Turkish nationals received asylum or refugee status in the years since.
According to human rights organisations this is when the crackdown on critical voices in Turkey began.
One anonymous Turkish academic who lives in Berlin said: “This feeling, a kind of a loss. Even if you can visit it, there are so many things you give up before you decide to leave the country and make a fresh start. And this is something you carry always.”
One professor specialising in human rights in Turkey predicted that the flow of political dissidents will stop if Erdogan loses.
“Because establishing rule of law will take some time but even after the rule of law is established, if people have court cases and verdicts about themselves they will not turn back immediately,” said Salim Cevik from the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies, German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
Some who left say a return or visit after an opposition win would be a relief.
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