BERLIN — Germany’s parliament elected Thursday a new anti-discrimination Commissioner to the government. This was a journalist who was controversially nominated last month for comments she made about Germans without immigrant roots.

Ferda Ataman (42), was elected head of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. She received a narrow majority. The government nominated her, but Free Democrats members and lawmakers from the conservative Christian Democrats and far-right Alternative for Germany sharply criticised the selection.

They called Ataman, among others, a left-wing activist, and questioned Ataman’s suitability for the job.

Ataman’s parents were immigrants from Turkey. She was particularly attacked for an Op-Ed she wrote in Spiegel Online magazine 2020 in which she called Germans without immigrant roots “potatoes”. Sometimes, the term is used in a derogatory manner for ethnic Germans.

Ataman supporters, especially those of the ruling Green Party and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ Social Democrats, called the accusations against Ataman slanderous. They also claimed that the attacks on her were discriminatory because she is a second-generation immigrant.

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

Agnieszka Brugger, Green Party deputy leader, wrote that Ataman had made her feel “smart, very empathetic”, friendly, dialogue-oriented and reflective,” German news agency dpa reported.

She added, “What others write about her is not the same person I met at all.”

Ataman, who was looking at the vote in parliament through the visitors’ gallery from his window, briefly rose and bowed slightly when the result was announced.

According to dpa, she stated that “Those who haven’t yet been able trust me, I would love to convince with my works.”

People who have been discriminated upon because of their race, religion, gender, or ethnic origin are advised by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. This includes discrimination based on a foreign-sounding name when applying for a job or looking for an apartment.

Public relations work is also done by the agency, which commissions studies and produces guidelines.