Germany bans Kurdish symbols, including YPG, YPJ flags – report

Kurdish demonstrators hold up images of Abdullah Ocalan PKK, YPG, YPJ and Kurdish flags. The banner reads, "The life of our leader (Ocalan) is our independence, the life of our leader is our freedom."

According to a report in German daily Der Spiegel on Friday, the country’s Interior Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, has allegedly ordered the banning from public display of more than 30 Kurdish political symbols.

A document seen by the newspaper and forwarded to all regional authorities and federal law enforcement on 2 March by Maiziere, gave instructions on the ban, as well as a list of the prohibited images.

YPG and YPJ symbols banned

Included in the list are images of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan and symbols associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been banned in Germany since 1993.

In the document Maiziere justifies the move saying Ocalan’s portraits have “a significant emotional impact” and therefore should be forbidden as they are “especially suited to promote cohesion of PKK which is banned in Germany.”

Surprisingly the ban also allegedly includes symbols of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) and the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), who are key allies of the US-led global anti-IS coalition and not proscribed organisations.

German-Turkish relations

The move, if it is true, has been deemed by many as lip-service to Ankara following the recent escalation of tensions between Turkish and German officials. Turkey sees the YPG and PYD as “terrorist organisations” affiliated to the PKK and has called for an end to US support for the group, a demand that has so far been rejected.

According to RT the interior ministry has denied speculation that the move is aimed at appeasing Ankara, arguing that it regularly monitors if the ban on certain group’s insignia should be specified according to the way this group operates.

Others have defended the decision arguing German authorities are trying to diffuse possible tensions between the country’s Kurdish and Turkish citizens.

German policy needs to change

Speaking to Ara News Agency, a leading executive of the Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) in Europe said Germany had always “victimised and sacrificed Kurds for its own interests”.

“There is a pressure from Turkey on Germany, but the best way is to defend democracy instead of limiting the rights of others. To ban the YPG logo will only make ISIS and dictator Erdogan happy and harm the German’s understanding of tolerance.”

The Kurdish politician called on Germans and policy makers to stand against the decision and added, “things have changed and Kurds have become an actor in the Middle East. It is even the time for German policy to change.”

PKK ban

Germany has been Turkey’s biggest supporter in its 33-year struggle against the PKK. As a NATO ally it has provided Turkey with intelligence, counter-guerrilla insurgency training and was the first country to outlaw the Kurdish group imprisoning hundreds of people on charges of supporting it over the years.

Discussions on de-listing the PKK in Germany gained pace after the group in 2014 rushed to the aid of the Yazidis in Iraq. They were credited with saving the lives of thousands of people from an Islamic State (IS) onslaught that the UN has since called genocide.

Turkey criticised the initiative for delisting, which was launched by several left-wing lawmakers of the Die Linke party. Discussions have stopped since clashes between Turkish forces and PKK fighters in 2015 resumed after a 2 year solution process and ceasefire was ended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.