Germany fears return of Turkish-Kurdish violence on its soil

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 4:30 PM

Germany is residence to about three million people of Turkish origin. Roughly one in four are ethnic Kurds who came to Germany to work in the one thousand nine hundred sixty and seventy, or as refugees fleeing violence in the one thousand nine hundred eighty and ninety.

As Germany scrambles to contain a diplomatic row with Turkey over a comedian'south mocking of President Tayyip Erdogan, executive are growing worried about another byproduct of their Faustian migrant pact with Ankara: an upsurge in violence between nationalist Turks and militant Kurds on German soil.

Germany is residence to about three million people of Turkish origin. Roughly one in four are ethnic Kurds who came to Germany to work in the one thousand nine hundred sixty and seventy, or as refugees fleeing violence in the one thousand nine hundred eighty and 90s.

Intelligence executive estimate that about 14.000 of these Kurds are active supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the militant grouping whose armed struggle against the Turkish state has escalated following the collapse of a two-1/2 year ceasefire last July.

Clashes between Turks and Kurds in Germany aren't new. At the altitude of the conflict between Ankara and the PKK in the early one thousand nine hundred ninety, Kurdish militants overran the Turkish consulate in Munich and launched arson attacks against Turkish facilities across Germany. This led Germany to outlaw the PKK in 1993.

But the combination of rising violence in Turkey and Chancellor Angela Merkel'south controversial refugee deal with Ankara has raised the risk of a new wave of clashes, government and intelligence officials worry.

"When you've a full blown civil war there, then there is the risk of direct transmission to German cities," said a senior German diplomat on condition of anonymity. "This is the other side of Merkel'south refugee deal. It makes it all the more challenging to manage."

CLASHES IN BAVARIA

On Easter Sun in the Bavarian city of Aschaffenburg, roughly three dozen Kurds threw rocks and shot fireworks at a grouping of six hundred Turks demonstrating against the "terror" of both Islamic State and the PKK.

The Kurds barricaded themselves in a cultural center, attacking police from the roof, before reinforcements arrived and the offenders were arrested.

Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said the incident showed the dangers of offering Turks visa-free travel, a key plank of the European Union'south migrant deal with Ankara that Merkel has championed in the face of deep scepticism at residence and elsewhere in the bloc.

Latest Sunday, more Turkish demonstrations were held in cities across Germany, although this time only minor scuffles were reported thanks to the deployment of thousands of police.

"There was a time in the one thousand nine hundred ninety when you'd serious clashes in Germany," said Kristian Brakel, a Turkey expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "It's not unlikely that this sort of thing could happen again."

An internal report from the Berlin department of Germany'south domestic intelligence agency echoes that sentiment, warning of an "emotionally charged" mood among PKK supporters in Germany, in portion because they view the EU'south migrant deal with Turkey as a form of "collaboration" with their arch-enemy Erdogan.

"Against this backdrop we cannot exclude militant acts in Berlin over the course of two thousand sixteen, particularly by younger PKK activists, against Turkish facilities," says the report, which was seen by Reuters.

Kurdish organizations in Germany have denounced the Turkish demonstrations as a indicate of power by Erdogan and called on supporters to rally against them.

"These aren't demonstrations against the PKK and IS as advertised in German, but rather serve pan-Turkish ideologies and promote hatred of Kurds and non-Turks," a grouping of organizations representing Kurds, Armenians, Yazidis and others said in a statement last week.

BALANCING ACT

The conflict is another conundrum for Merkel, whose political future may ride on Erdogan delivering on his finish of the migrant deal, below which Ankara has agreed to get back refugees from Greece in exchange for billions of euros, visa-free travel for Turks and accelerated talks on EU membership.

Merkel faced powerful criticism in Germany this week for condemning a sexually-explicit satirical poem about Erdogan by comedian January Boehmermann as "deliberately insulting" instead of defending the principle of free speech.

As Berlin works to hold Turkey on side, it's also providing arms to Iraqi Kurdish security forces in the fight against Islamic State militants in their country. And many German politicians, particularly in the far-left Linke and Greens parties, are active supporters of the very Kurds that Erdogan is vowing to crush.

This has forced the German political establishment into an awkward balancing act.

This week, Bundestag President Norbert Lammert, a member of Merkel'south conservative party, and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier hosted Selahattin Demirtas, a boss of Turkey'south pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party. (HDP)

While Demirtas was in Berlin for the talks, the Turkish government was submitting a draft proposal to parliament that could strip HDP lawmakers of immunity from prosecution. Erdogan has accused the HDP of being an extension of the PKK.

"Berlin has a lot riding on this Turkey deal," the German diplomat said. "But there is plenty that can go wrong."

(Reporting by Noah Barkin; editing by Peter Graff)

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