Istanbul—Hasibe Koyun has her first German class in Istanbul on a crisp January morning. She’s so nervous that her hand, where she wears her large diamond engagement ring, quivers. When she introduces herself to the class, she twirls the ring around her finger and glances at the whiteboard, where the teacher has written the German words for “I’m called,” Ich heiße. Koyun’s cheeks turn red. “Ich hei-zze Hasibe,” she stammers with a thick beginner’s accent. For 23-year-old Koyun, these first words of German, spoken at the Goethe Institute in Istanbul, mark the beginning of an odyssey that will, she hopes, take her from her hometown of Ören—a tranquil village of 1,500 in Turkey’s western Anatolia—to Germany, where she plans to join her new husband, Ilhan, in the Rhineland city of Düsseldorf.

Koyun has a lot to be nervous about. She...

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