Participants hold flags depicting jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan during a demonstration in Cologne, Germany, on September 3. Photo: Oliver Berg | AFP via Getty
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Germany's Ambassador to Turkey was summoned to Ankara's foreign ministry for allowing Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) "terror propaganda" at a Kurdish rally in Cologne.
Turkey's foreign ministry stated late Saturday night Ambassador Martin Erdman was summoned because German officials had stated not to allow such arrangements and this was the second such activity.
The ministry added the rally used “symbols” of the PKK, including pictures of the group’s leader Abdullah Ocalan, imprisoned in Turkey.
On September 3, more than 10,000 people demonstrated in Cologne at an even organized by the Democratic Social Center for Kurds that has been held for the past 25 years. It is described as a "cultural festival" by the German newspaper Die Zeit.
Photos published by German Press Agency (dpa) showed demonstrators carrying flags bearing Ocalan's image, as well as PKK, YPG and other banners. The YPG (People's Protection Units) is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party in Syria and is spearheading the fight against ISIS in northern Syria, as a main component of the international anti-ISIS coalition. Ankara maintains the PKK and YPG are the same, while YPG denies any organic links.
The main stage at the rally featured a large banner with Ocalan's face as a backdrop and a banner above him that read "Freedom for Ocalan - Recognition for Kurdish democracy for Middle Easterners" in German.
On Sunday, the German newspaper Die Welt reported German police as saying they did not intervene in the demonstrations "to avoid escalation," but they have subsequently initiated investigations.
The PKK has been fighting a three-decades-long guerrilla insurgency against the Turkish government that re-ignited in July 2015 after peace talks stalled.
There have been a number of pro-Kurdish rallies in Europe recently; including one in Cologne on August 26 — for which Rudaw was a media sponsor. These rallies have supported the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum on September 25. Banners with Ocalan or PKK symbols have not been permitted by those event's organizers. German police told Rudaw on August 26 that they had removed banners that featured Ocalan as it is outlawed by German law.
Germany is home to the largest Kurdish diaspora, where some 1.2 million Kurds are estimated to live, according to The Kurdish Project, which called the numbers hard to quantify because of the lack of accurate census data. Kurds in Germany originate from all four parts of Kurdistan, in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.
Much of the Kurdish diaspora in Germany came from Turkey. Ankara became angry when Berlin had previously banned Turkish politicians from campaigning in Germany ahead of Turkey's constitutional referendum this spring. The rift has continued as Germany approaches its federal elections on September 24.
The PKK is a banned party in Turkey and Germany. It is listed by Turkey and the European Union as a "terror" organization. Germany, however, generally only charges PKK supporters if they're alleged to have committed or directly supported violence.
The Turkish statement said Germany had “a double standard in combating terror.”
Also this week, the Turkish ministry called a ruling of the Belgian Chamber of Accusation that prevented the referral of investigation of "36 PKK-individuals and legal entities to the Criminal Court ... unacceptable."