Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Germany's Kurdish and PKK Policy: Balance and Strategy

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Germany's Kurdish and PKK Policy: Balance and Strategy

Article excerpt


The activities of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeren Kurdistane, or PKK) have been outlawed in Germany since 1993. The organization, however, remains active in the country through the proxy of a series of affiliated associations -which is interpreted in Turkey as proof of Germany's tacit support of PKK terror. In this regard, Turkish officials and representatives have repeatedly called on German authorities to take more decisive steps against the group and show zero tolerance to terrorism. (1) Although Germany refuses to meet Turkey's demands and continues to turn a blind eye to the PKK's activities, German authorities have at times cracked down on terror networks extensively and, other times, loosened their grip on the organization, which has been closely associated with the cyclical developments. Meanwhile, the German government tends to closely follow developments in Turkey, on which the PKK's armed struggle primarily focuses. In this sense, Germany has been watching the PKK's return to violence and a series of counter-terror operations conducted by the security forces since July 22, 2015.

In the wake of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's terrorist activities (hereafter DAESH) in Iraq and Syria, the German government, along with a number of Western countries, delivered weapons and ammunition to Kurdish groups in Northern Iraq. Both Turkish and German news outlets, however, have claimed that the military aid ended up in the hands of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) which Turkey considers a Syrian affiliate of the PKK. (2) German citizens losing their lives among PYD ranks in Syria, (3) the growing number of German journalists reporting from Southeastern Turkey, (4) and the close involvement of certain German politicians in the area (5) have brought about the claims in Turkey that Germany was supporting the PKK. In other words, Berlin's Kurdish and PKK policy has become a subject of interest among the Turkish public.

The most recent developments, therefore, call for an examination of Germany's position on Kurds and the PKK. This study aims to provide a summary of Germany's view of the Kurdish question and PKK terrorism and to offer insights into Turkish-German relations with an eye to providing a proper perspective. Although this article concentrates on Germany's Kurdish policy in general, it primarily focuses on Berlin's position toward the PKK terror group and their activities.

This study argues that the German government seeks to maintain a delicate domestic and international balance with regard to the Kurdish question and PKK terrorism. The country's strategic goals, too, have a notable influence on policy-making. In this regard, there are at least two key aspects of Germany's Kurdish and PKK policy: First and foremost, the German government constantly attempts to prevent the PKK challenge and related issues from putting strains on their commercial and political relations with Turkey. At the same time, the German authorities seek to strike a healthy balance between addressing domestic demands to provide greater support to the Kurdish movement on the basis of human rights, and the need to maintain public order by preventing PKK-related violence, including clashes between Turkish and Kurdish groups on German soil. The issue is complicated by Germany's attempts to form an alliance with the Kurds by directly and covertly supporting armed groups in order to access energy reserves in the Middle East and thereby to gain a strategic depth in the region. Germany's politics of balance disappoints and even frustrates Turkey and the PKK leadership alike at times, but the policy has remained unchanged for years. (6)

Main Factors Behind Germany's Kurdish and PKK Policy

The politically well organized Kurdish community in Germany is the leading factor behind Berlin's PKK and Kurdish policy. (7) Although a serious number of Kurds from Iran, Iraq and Syria have sought political asylum in Germany over the years, the vast majority of the Kurdish community consists of Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin, most of whom arrived in German cities as guest workers from the 1960s onwards. …

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