Lawsuit against German police over banning peace delegation from leaving for Kurdistan

Two women from Hamburg have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Police at the Cologne Administrative Court. The police had prohibited them and 15 other people from participating in a peace delegation in June 2021.

On June 1, 2022, two women from Hamburg filed a lawsuit against the German Federal Police at the Cologne Administrative Court. In June 2021, the police banned them and 15 other people from leaving the country for the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. The police had thus prevented their participation in a peace delegation on the occasion of the Turkish military's war of aggression on Kurdish territory, which continues to this day, according to the press release. With the exit prohibition, the commitment to peace and transparency in the region is criminalized and raises at the same time questions about the involvement of the German state in the belligerent activities of Turkey.

Illegal exit order

The lawsuit was presented today at a press conference of the international initiative "Defend Kurdistan" at the Curio Haus in Hamburg. Lawyer Cornelia Ganten-Lange, who represents the plaintiffs, reported on the legal aspects.

The lawyer stated that the prohibition of departure was justified according to the passport law, according to which it was possible in principle to prevent the departure if the internal or external security of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) was endangered. However, this was not mentioned in the justification, but the reason that "other considerable interests" of the FRG were affected. She remarked that mainly assertions and speculations were presented in this regard, over an alleged "human shield action". The lawyers and the plaintiffs consider this injunction to be unlawful, because there is nothing in the injunction that justifies the prohibition.

"We were treated like criminals"

Ronja H., one of the two plaintiffs, began by saying that despite the difficulty of comparing wars, she felt powerless regarding the different attention the wars in Ukraine and Kurdistan received. As early as 2021, there was little coverage of Turkey's war in Kurdistan. She said she spontaneously decided to join the delegation to support peace efforts on the ground. For a long time, she said, she had been inspired by the democratization movements that oppose both Islamist terror and autocratic regimes.

Reporting on the procedure in Düsseldorf, she stated, “After passport control, me and about 20 other people were stopped. The officers started questioning me only after the flight had already been missed. We were detained for several hours, the hallway was not ventilated and it was very hot. Only after an hour and a half did we get water, which we had asked for several times by then. We were treated like criminals. We were only allowed to go to the toilet with a police escort. Around noon, I was released with a one-month ban on leaving the country. The inspection of the files, which was subsequently requested, has been of little significance. The freedom to travel taken on the basis of an untenable allegation is an encroachment on fundamental rights.” She added that she was now suing to find out why the commitment to peace was prohibited.

"I was deprived of a piece of my right to have a say"

"Why should a peace delegation that positions itself against attacks that violate international law be a detriment to diplomatic relations - and what does that say about these relations? What should strain relations with Turkey is that the Turkish military violates human rights, not infrequently with the combat equipment of German arms companies. By banning me from leaving the country, the federal police prevented me from working for peace. In doing so, they also took away part of my right to have a say in the future and present of our global society. I cannot, will not and will not accept that," said Ronja H.

"Kurdish identity is being forcibly assimilated"

Theda Ohling, the second plaintiff, explained her motivation to participate in the peace delegation. She stated that in her time as a teacher, she had been in contact with Kurdish pupils for many years and had insight into the problems of the cultural and political situation of the families arriving there and their reasons for fleeing. "The Turkish state's attempts to assimilate the Kurdish language and the entire Kurdish identity by force is part of the policy against which the Kurdish people are rebelling."

Self-governing structures as a target of Turkish attacks

In southern Kurdistan, there are self-governing structures that promote Kurdish as a mother tongue, Theda Ohling continued: "At the same time, these structures are repeatedly the target of Turkish attacks. For example, the Maxmur refugee camp was attacked by drones during the military offensive in 2021. The concern of the peace delegation, as well as to give me an impression of the humanitarian situation due to the Turkish war of aggression on civil society and to support their concerns for a stable peace in the region, were a reason to participate in the trip."

"Will continue to advocate for democratic causes"

“Personally, I felt the arrest in Düsseldorf as intimidation and deprivation of liberty. Nevertheless, I will continue to stand up for democratic causes, whether here or in Kurdistan. So far, it is not clear who gave the order for this illegal measure, and to find out, I decided to act as a plaintiff."

Ohling remarked that the attempt to make peace through talks and diplomacy and to prevent the expansionism of the Turkish state had been torpedoed by the German government, which supplies Erdogan with weapons and earns well from it. “It is to be suspected that the government of the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq acted in close cooperation with Turkish and German departments for unwelcome political activities to prevent the Hamburg peace delegation from entering."

"Women have outstanding importance in peace processes"

Finally, Dr. Mechthild Exo reported on the delegation's stay in South Kurdistan. She stated that the number of participants from twelve countries had been reduced from 150 to about half due to obstructions by the authorities. The delegation met with members of the most important political parties and numerous social organizations, with relatives of the victims of the war as well as representatives of the ecology and women's movements. "Particularly impressive for me was the meeting with the peace mothers, who lost their children in the war and are working for peace. These women have a clear analysis on the war and the Turkish policy of annihilation. From feminist conflict analyses, the outstanding importance of women's participation in peace processes is well known. Peace needs democratic participation at all times of the process."

KDP on the side of the occupation war against international law

The KDP tried to prevent the peace delegation's activities on the ground, in addition to the entry bans. The participants were detained in the hotel and prevented from holding a press conference in front of the UN building in Hewlêr (Erbil).

Mechthild Exo continued: "The KDP, which is controlled by the Barzani family, has long behaved as an enemy of its own people as well as an enemy of all people who strive for freedom and self-determination. For its own enrichment and maintenance of power, it delivers the people to imperialism and the hatred of the Turkish government. It plunders the country's resources, sells oil to Turkey for its own benefit, and now places its own security forces alongside the Turkish military in a war of occupation that violates international law."

"Push for termination of good relations with Turkey"

Mechthild Exo continued, Already a year ago, the delegation was an obstacle to the further escalation of the war. Today, too, such a peace delegation is necessary in view of Turkey's continuous attacks. Currently, a dramatic use of chemical weapons, bombings, destruction of nature and drone killings is taking place again. The Turkish state is threatening to further invade and occupy areas in the north of Syria. In the shadow of the war in Ukraine, NATO countries, including Germany as Turkey's main partner, are allowing these crimes against international law and human rights to continue without protest. We must not allow Turkish demands for more repression against Kurdish political and social structures, including in Finland and in Sweden, but also in Germany. Instead, we must use all means at our disposal to press for the crimes of the Turkish state to be charged. If people who are committed to peace, including German MPs, are illegally banned from leaving the country on the grounds that German diplomatic relations with Turkey could otherwise be damaged, then the consequence can only be to press massively for the termination of these good relations with the current Turkish government."