PKK ban is of German origin
There is a legal grey area regarding the flags, and when they will be part of the ban. I believe this grey area is deliberate, and allows space for security forces for house raids, arrests and interrogations.
The PKK ban in place in Germany has continued since 1993 and expanded in time. Lawsuits filed against many Kurdish politicians, allegations by German prosecutors and the current laws advance along a line targeting the political gains achieved by the Kurdish people. Republican Lawyers Association Chairperson Dr. Peer Stolle, who has monitored the PKK bans and the related lawsuits in Germany, spoke to Yeni Ozgur Politika and answered questions.
Dr. Stolle said there are legal grey areas in the policies against Kurds, and that it is a conflict that Syrian Kurds are supported on one hand through the coalition, and their symbols are banned on the other. These conflicts and legal grey areas are created deliberately according to Dr. Stolle, who said Germany is trying to prevent emerging sympathies for Kurdish organizations in the person of Syrian Kurds. Dr. Stolle stressed that leftism has been conflated with animosity against the state in Germany and that Kurds have been faced with pressures brought by this perception in the ideological sense.
The PKK ban was expanded in the last years, and flags for many Kurdish organizations were banned. What do you think about these developments in the legal sense?
By early 2017, Germany’s Interior Ministry expanded the ban against PKK Symbols. They argued that flags of various Kurdish organizations were used in place of PKK flags, and that broke the ban. With these new bans, a wave of criminalization started in Germany. A criminalization that covered Abdullah Öcalan and YPG/YPJ flags in particular. The German government later stated that these bans against symbols don’t mean a ban against the organizations the symbols pertain to, and that they were only banned if they are used in place of PKK flags. But the display of these symbols was banned in every demonstration, and every social media post was subject to investigations. The issue here is this: There is a huge legal grey area regarding the flags, and when they will be part of the ban. This is completely unclear.
I believe this grey area is deliberate, and allows space for security forces for house raids, arrests and interrogations for further criminalization. Then it turns out that the incident leading to the investigation or the house raid wasn’t actually covered by the ban, and doesn’t require criminal charges. But the practice itself by then has already intimidated the people. I believe such legal grey areas are created deliberately to increase pressure on the Kurdish movement.
On top of that, new conclusions were drawn from the PKK ban to ban rallies. For instance, the Newroz holiday was banned, and it was only possible to revert the ban through the court system. That shows that the German government is trying to increase pressure on the PKK.
So, the ban isn’t just the result of the relationship between Germany and Turkey?
It isn’t. I believe we can’t just think of these practices as done on Turkey’s or Erdogan’s demand. This is also something that original German interests require. They are trying to ban or at least hinder the German people’s sympathy and support for the struggle of Kurdish organizations. There is an open oppression in question here. Of course the Turkish state and Erdogan has an effect, but what I mean is that it’s not just them. This is also a result of the German government’s own political agenda.
Talking about where the ban will go to, this is an open ended process. Political discussions will be a determining factor here, but the legal fight is also important. We the lawyers for instance were able to influence the lifting of several bans cited there. Because it is absurd for Germany to ban the flags when on the one hand, the global public has sympathy for Syrian Kurdish organizations, and the international coalition works with and arms Syrian Kurds against ISIS. This is a clear conflict.
What are the arguments the prosecutors use to use the PKK ban to ban symbols? What is your defense against that?
This changes in every region. There are many investigations that prosecutors dismissed, saying the matter is not provable. As I said, the ban against symbols is in place when the flags are used in place of PKK flags, but it isn’t clear when that would be. The police don’t know that either, so they launch investigations and say “Oh well, it will become clear during the investigation” as they can’t tell whether the symbol is used out of sympathy for the organization it pertains to or in place of a PKK flag. The prosecutors have wildly varying approaches. For instance, in the state of Bavaria prosecutors believe all flags should be banned, but as I said, there are regional differences.
Germany or rather the international coalition is in a partnership with the YPG/YPJ, but on the other hand their symbols are banned. How is this issue discussed in the German public?
Actually, this conflicting assessment is unfortunately rarely discussed. Germany has had a 25-year long tradition of a PKK ban, and this is a very extensive ban that encompasses all Kurdish organizations and associations. They say “All these organizations are loyal to Abdullah Öcalan and take orders from him,” and include all of them in this ban regardless of which country they are based in. This is an old tradition in Germany.
Another tradition is that Germany has always considered leftist organizations to be enemies of the state. Kurdish organizations in Syria are fighting for a democratic and pro-freedom society. This approach landing in Germany and spreading would of course go against the interests of the German state. So, they consider the Kurds in Syria to be enemies of the state.