YEK-KOM – Federation of Kurdish Associations in Germany

9 September 2012

Dialogue not violence: Lift the PKK ban now

We regret the violent clashes between the police and some Kurdish youths so close to our 20th International Kurdish Culture Festival. In the one-sided coverage, what was not mentioned was the fact that approximately one hundred visitors to the event were injured by police batons and tear gas. Our sympathy goes out to those injured on both sides and we wish them a speedy recovery.

Yesterday, on Saturday, tens of thousands of Kurds from Germany and other European countries celebrated peacefully, together with international guests, a gathering under the motto “Freedom for Ocalan – a status for Kurdistan”.

The responsibility for the outbreak of violence must go primarily to the police, who in the days before bullied and attempted to provoke the Kurdish youths. The Turkish Entrepreneurs Association in Mannheim claimed, in the run-up to the event, that PKK attacks were planned on Turkish institutions. The police also alleged beforehand that those Kurdish participants to the event would be extremely violent and a security problem. Due to the disinformation on the part of the Turkish lobby the security situation was purposely endangered and criminalised.

On Friday, the police in Mannheim disbanded a march involving around 100 Kurdish youths, which began in Strasbourg and which was repeatedly the target of fascist Turkish attacks. According to the most recent information, at least two Kurdish youths were victims of brutal mistreatment in police custody. In one case, the police officer beat the prisoner with a baton on the head and back, as well as punching him in the face. After his release, the youth had to remain immobile until midday on Saturday in hospital. The second prisoner suffered from bruises on his ankles. The officers released the injured youths from France, despite the demand to call an ambulance.

A trigger for the clashes on Saturday was the attempt by police to take away a flag with a Kurdish symbol banned in Germany from a 12 year old child. The child was treated harshly and ran into the crowd out of fear. Three policemen tried to grab the child and were held back by other participants.

Prior to this, at around 14.30, Kurdish security forces for the event organisers were forced by the police to get away from the entrance area. Therefore the security plans for the entrance, which were worked out and up till this point had guaranteed a peaceful event, were deliberately sabotaged by the police. Then, due to the heat and the clashes with police, thousands of participants tried to leave the compound. This led to an enormous mass of people at the entrance. The participants felt as if they were surrounded and wanted to get away from the area. Numerous participants were injured in the end and could not be treated.

One visitor, Berivan O, said yesterday: “We fled from the Turkish police. Here, in Germany, it should be different. There should be a difference between the German and Turkish police. This was not evident yesterday. When it is a matter of Kurds, the police all act the same.”

For millions of Kurds, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, is a legitimate representative for their democratic rights, which leads a fair fight against war and oppression. For this reason, the Kurdish people do not allow PKK symbols to be banned in public and they admit it. As this case also shows, no peaceful co-existence is possible through bans, violence, seizure and arrests.

Instead of like the “Arab Spring”, where the international legitimacy of resistance against long-standing  injustice was recognized, such resistance, in the case of the PKK, is arbitrarily defamed as terrorism and criminalised by the German government. The state’s prohibitive policies and the police security measures are, most of all for the third generation Kurdish migrants in Europe, unreasonable and incomprehensible. This always leads to such clashes like those in Mannheim, which we as organisers regret.

We condemn the demands of the Baden-Württemburg interior minister Gall and the police union to further restrict the freedom of assembly for Kurds. A further restriction of the democratic rights of the Kurdish population is unacceptable. At the – up till now predominant – event peacefully held in North Rhine-Westphalia, there were no riots like in Mannheim. In contrast to the police, the work with the city of Mannheim was extremely cooperative prior to the event.

As organisers, YEK-KOM demand, as a consequence of the events that occurred at the margins of our celebration, that the PKK ban be lifted, and that the state repression and criminalisation against politically active Kurds be stopped.

The German government must retract their support for the Turkish government, as long as it continues to wage war, implement bans and mass arrests against the Kurdish opposition.

For press enquiries, contact the chair of YEK-KOM, Mr Yuksel Koc, who can be reached at 0173-8244709, and the acting chairman, Erol Polat, is available at 0173-2791277