Would you be delighted if disputes in a country thousands of miles away led to a wave of arson attacks and violence in you country?
That’s what is happening in Germany right now. There are something like 600-800,000 persons of Kurdish descent living in Germany right now, the majority of whom hail from Turkey. They entered Germany gradually, over years, as a result of chain migration, without anyone ever making a conscious decision to make this happen, or, for that matter, justifying it to the German people.
As most Germans are dimly aware, Kurds in Turkey have been staging an armed separatist insurrection for decades now. The main force behind this revolt is the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), founded by Abdullah Ocalan and a few others in the late 1970s. It started out as a Communist group, but has changed its orientation to be somewhat more accepting of Islam, to try to attract more Islamic members. Its ideology is now a murky mix of socialism and elements of Islam, held together by Kurdish nationalism.
The Turkish government has responded to the PKK with repression, some of which involves human-rights abuses. The PKK has responded with bombing attacks which have, on occasion, cost many civilian lives. Human-rights groups regularly condemn both the Turkish government and PKK for abuses and atrocities. The PKK has been declared a terrorist group by the European Union, and displaying its flag or propaganda is illegal in Germany.
If you’re interested, here are the main propaganda points for both sides, as distilled from dozens of conversations and written accounts I’ve heard or read over the years:
Kurds say they want only autonomy, not to destroy Turkey. Turkey has repressed their language, culture, and legitimate national aspirations brutally for decades. The PKK is the most legitimate and active Kurdish nationalist group, and it primarily targets Turkish and government military officials. The declaration of the PKK as a terrorist group was a political result of Turkey’s strategic importance to Europe as a trading partner and NATO member. Turkey has used illegal and brutal tactics to suppress Kurdish groups, and has committed numerous human-rights abuses.
Turks, on the other hand, condemn the PKK as a straight-out terrorist organization, similar to the separatist Basque ETA in Spain. The Turkish state has made many concessions to legitimate Kurdish interests, but will not tolerate extreme demands, just as Spain and France do not tolerate separatist agitation. The PKK is waging a guerrilla war and intentionally mixes with the civilian population to generate civilian victims and sympathy. The PKK has carried out numerous bombing atrocities which have intentionally targeted civilians. Therefore, its designation as a terrorist group is well-earned. Talk to any Turk or Kurd (except for cosmopolitan elites), and you will hear these arguments repeated ad infinitum. Gather nationalist Turks and Kurds in one place, and conflict will inevitably break out.
Right now, the Turkish government is prosecuting a military campaign in the city of Afrin, which has inflamed Kurdish passions. So what have Kurds done? Well, many of them have staged more-or-less peaceful demonstrations to protest this action. I say more-or-less because once Kurds begin protesting, it is only a matter of time before gatherings of nationalist Turks appear to start a fight, in which the Kurdish protesters are eager participants. As Deutsche Welle reports:
In a sign of how quickly things can escalate, Kurdish protesters demonstrating at Hanover’s airport on Monday clashed with Turkish passengers exiting their flight. Separately on Monday, unknown assailants vandalized two mosques run by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), Germany’s largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet.
The incidents come as Der Spiegel reported that some Turkish mosques and imams in Germany invoked prayers for the success of the Turkish military against the “terrorists” in Afrin. The prayers were the same as those read at some 90,000 mosques in Turkey.
Because pro-Kurdish demonstrations routinely generate mass brawls at the edges, German taxpayers must pony up millions of Euros in police overtime, not to mention interpreters for the ensuing court proceedings. Many demonstrations are also broken up by police for displaying PKK flags or propaganda.
And then there are the illegal actions. There have been a wave of mosque bombings in Germany in the last few days — almost universally of mosques which are partially funded by the Turkish government and generally preach a pro-Ankara line. Kurdish militants within Germany are claiming credit for many of these attacks, and doing so by the pretty convincing method of posting videos of themselves actually conducting the arson attacks. One of these videos, purporting to show the bombing of a mosque in Lauffen am Neckar yesterday, can be seen here (not embeddable, for obvious reasons). This website, a German-language portal for Kurdish militants, features dozens of reports and often videos of arson attacks against cars and buildings owned by “Turkish fascists”, conducted by young Kurdish militants in Germany.
A spontaneous, illegal protest at the airport in Düsseldorf yesterday also devolved into a brawl, because Turkish passengers (who knows, perhaps even airport employees) attacked (g) the illegal protesters. The police had to use pepper spray and evacuate parts of the airport. There were injuries.
Here’s a report on spontaneous fights between Kurds and Turks in Stuttgart in January 2018:
There are hundreds of videos like this.
So, are these violent actions and illegal protests helping the Kurdish cause? The answer is a loud, emphatic no. Under every newspaper report, there is a seemingly endless stream of comments from German readers which basically boil down to ‘a plague on both your houses‘. Germans wonder why buildings and cars are burning in Germany, German airports and inner cities are being turned into mini-Thunderdomes, and police and security services are spending tens of millions of Euros — all because of some squabble occurring in a corner of a country thousands of kilometers away. Instead of sympathy for the Kurdish cause, you’re likely to read demands for mass deportations of Kurds — and for that matter, Turks — since they apparently can’t figure how to live alongside one another like civilized people.
Why is this happening in Germany? The answer, of course, is that Germany imported this conflict. Operating in a fit of absent-mindedness, not pursuing any conscious, logical policy, it imported such large numbers of Turks and Kurds that both communities are now massive and self-perpetuating. This guarantees that the Turkish-Kurdish conflict will continue to have considerable knock-on effects in Germany for generations.
You would think Germany might have learned some valuable lessons from this experience, but it seems to catch them by surprise every time.
UPDATE (later that same day): How about a constructive suggestion? Young Kurds, if you feel so strongly about the Turkish military operations in northern Syria, you could go join one of the Kurdish groups fighting there.
That’s what this man did, and he’s not even Kurdish:
An account from the Reykjavik Grapevine:
Icelandic activist Haukur Hilmarsson was reportedly killed in combat in Afrin, Syria. He was 32 years old.
According to a post from the International Freedom Battalion (IFB), a group of international fighters working alongside the YPG in Syria, this was his second tour of combat in the region. After first being deported from Iraq after trying to enter Rojava, he returned shortly thereafter and distinguished himself in Raqqa, where he rose to the rank of commander. After helping rout the Islamic State from the area, he later joined the fighting against encroaching Turkish forces in northern Syria. It was in Afrin, a Syrian city that has seen heavy casualties lately, where he ultimately fell in combat.
“In death we say he has become immortal,” IFB writes of him. “For we will never forget his struggle, his name, and his example – and we shall never give up his fight.”
If an Icelander can volunteer to fight the good fight, I’m sure a young, healthy German Kurd would be even more valuable. Same culture and language. And the offer isn’t just good for males, since the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units are world-renowned.
What’s more likely to help the Kurdish cause: brawling with random Turks in cold, rainy Dortmund, bombing a mosque in the Neckar valley, or actually taking up arms to bravely and valiantly defend the Kurdish homeland? Or put another way, if a 32-year-old Icelander can die for the glorious cause, what’s stopping you?
I think we all know the answer to that question.