German state's animosity against Kurds

The German state, in an attempt to repair their relationship with the Erdoğan government, has been targeting the Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan with unprecedented special laws.

In the last month, the Merkel and Erdoğan governments have been getting closer and there have been more meetings between them, which led to an increase in the pressure on Kurds in Germany. The wave of police pressure and bans started in the 25th International Kurdish Culture Festival held with the motto, “Freedom for Leader Apo, Status for Kurdistan and Democracy for the Middle East” on September 17.

The festival brought tens of thousands of people together, and the Cologne police banned foods, drinks, books, CDs, Öcalan posters, YPG and YPJ flags and flyers demanding Öcalan’s freedom. Then, on November 4, the German police attacked the mass march held for Öcalan in Düsseldorf at a level of harshness comparable to the Turkish police.

The bus tour hit the road on October 9 from Strasbourg with the motto, “The Öcalan Library - Freedom for Öcalan and All Political Prisoners”, and ran into police terror in the Hannover leg of the tour. The police attacked Kurds coming in to greet the bus because they were wearing t-shirts with Öcalan’s photograph on them. The bus was similarly targeted in Dortmund later.


So why is the German state so intolerant against photographs and banners of Öcalan? Germany is no stranger to the Öcalan name. One of the most important stations in the international conspiracy that resulted in Öcalan’s capture was Germany. With Öcalan stepping foot in Italy on November 12, 1998, Germany was one of the leading countries that surveiled Öcalan closely.

The German Federal Court had issued an arrest warrant against Öcalan in January 1990 due to the lawsuits on the PKK in their country. A week after Öcalan arrived in Italy, on November 19, 1998, the Federal Court reissued the arrest warrant. International Law dictated that Öcalan be handed over to Germany.

Öcalan’s case was the main point in the agenda in the meeting between then-Prime Minister of Italy Massimo D’Alema and then-Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schröder in Bonn on November 27, 1998. After the meeting, Schröder said, “We don’t want Öcalan.”

With the political power intervening with the legal power, Germany removed the arrest warrant and isolated Italy. Germany played a determining role in removing Öcalan from EU territory and shutting the gates of the EU in the days of the international conspiracy that resulted in the capture.

In later years, Germany continued the special approach towards Öcalan. They attempted to ban Öcalan photographs and “Bijî Serok Apo” (Long live Leader Apo) chants in demonstrations with special bans. Most recently, in March the German Interior Ministry sent a notice to state administrations to expand the PKK ban, banning the Öcalan photographs with the blue shirt and yellow background.


And, while it was permitted to carry Öcalan’s photographs in demonstrations about Öcalan’s health before, lately the German police have been intolerant towards even that. In big cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover and Munich, security units stand out with their harsh stance against symbols of Öcalan. In demonstrations in these cities, a single Öcalan photograph can be used as an excuse for an attack for the police.

According to political observers and experts, behind the harsh stance against Öcalan, who some 10 million people call their “political will”, is both attempts to mend the relationship with Turkey and an attempt to sever the ties between Öcalan and the Kurdish people. A prominent observer, journalist and writer Dr. Nick Brauns, spoke to the ANF about the reasons behind the harsh stance against Öcalan.

Dr. Brauns has been closely monitoring the Kurds’ struggle for freedom in Germany, and thinks Germany’s stance against Öcalan is harsher than the Turkish government. Dr. Brauns said Öcalan can’t be thought of as separate from the Kurdish freedom struggle and the PKK movement and pointed out that the bans against Öcalan is full of contradictions.


Dr. Brauns said the attempts to ban Öcalan’s photographs and banners have been brought forth with the PKK ban enacted in 1993 and added: “In the mid-1990’s, one of the first people to receive a sentence was a friend of ours named Max Brym. Brym had been put on trial for chanting ‘Bijî Serok Apo’ in a demonstration held in solidarity with Kurdistan in Munich.”

Dr. Brauns said his home in Munich was raided in 1997 because he sold the German-language journal “Kurdistan Report” and continued: “The excuse was the Öcalan photographs in the journal. I said the same photographs had been published in newspapers and magazines like Der Spiegel and Süddeutschen Zeitung and that those weren’t considered criminal. The prosecution said, ‘Those are neutral publications.’”

Investigative journalist Dr. Brauns pointed out that the Öcalan Library bus completed its journey in Berlin and Hamburg without problems, but experienced problems in Hannover and Dortmund. Dr. Brauns said: “Now if the government expands the bans against Öcalan and ban all photographs, that will mean Germany has bowed down before the Erdoğan regime.”


Dr. Brauns pointed out that after the release of Peter Steudtner, one of the German citizens held hostage by the Erdoğan regime, the pressure against Kurds in Germany increased. Dr. Brauns said: “If Steudtner, who spent time in prison without a crime, was swapped with rights of Kurdish people, that signifies something more extreme than desperation.”

Dr. Brauns stated that the bureaucrats in the Interior Ministry, the courts and police officers see Öcalan as limited to being the leader of the PKK and added that that is an insufficient restriction. Dr. Brauns continued with the following analyses:

“Öcalan is an ideological architect who has made the coexistence of many ethnic groups, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens, Syriacs and others, who live in the north of Syria possible. And, according to millions of Kurds, he is the architect of the peace process. Limiting Öcalan’s role to the PKK would be like limiting Lenin who influenced the whole world to the leadership of the Russian Communist Party. Germany must see this.”


The meeting State Interior Ministers and Police Chiefs held in the Federal Parliament on November 14 about the banned Kurdish symbols had been on the press. Die Linke MP Ulla Jelpke demanded a statement about this meeting from the government.

Jelpke submited a short written inquiry about the meeting reportedly on the method and content of the ban against the PKK, and demanded an answer to the question, “Who attended this meeting and what was discussed?”