open letter

Open letter against the criminalization of the YPG/YPJ

Northern Syria 2014 – The Kurdish Women- and People’s Protection Units (Yekîneyên Parastina Gel / Yekîneyên Parastina Jin, YPG / YPJ) make the headlines. Worlwide, people celebrate their sucesses in their fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS). Kobanî, Minbic, Raqqa, Deir er-Zor: all major victories against the IS were fought for by YPG/YPJ and their military alliances.

Germany today – the sympaties for the struggles of the People’s Protection Units are large here, too. To show solidarity with the YPG/YPJ their flags are displayed at demonstrations and their symbols are shared thousands of times via social media. Hereupon, special units of the Bavarian police started to break open doors, confiscate cell phones and PCs. Legal complaints due to the ‘showing of forbidden symbols'[*] are sent out nationwide. All symbols and pictures become the cause of arbitrary criminalizations. The Bavarian public prosecuter’s office treats the YPG/YPJ like a terrorist organization and tries to penalize all solidarity with them.

But what persuades the Federal Republic of Germany (GFR) to prosecute an organization which military sucesses was broadly celebrated by the German public until recently?

The Kurdish liberation movement in Rojava (Northern Syria) does not only fight against the ISIS. It mainly fights for a self-organized, solidly united and anti-patriarchal society. As a part of the Kurdish women’s movement the Women’s Protection Units belong to one of the world’s largest anti-patriarchal movements. In Rojava the attempt is made to create an alternative to the capitalist modern times by building a society based on confederate democracy. The installation of a democratic soviet system is a thorn in the flesh of all bougois nations. Especially Turkey, that brutally opresses all forms of solidly united Kurdish life and culture, inside and outside of their state territory. In January 2018 the YPG/YPJ needed to defend themselves from a war of aggression carried out by the Turkish army, that violates international law, when the Turkish army invaded the self-organized Kurdish canton Afrin on Syrian state territory.

What causes the German judiciary to act as Erdogan’s extended arm?

Turkey is one of the most important partners of Germany. German companies make investments in Turkey. The armament industry sells a vast number of war material – from rifles to tanks – to Turkey and in spring 2016 Merkel and Erdogan negotiated the so-called “Flüchtlingsdeal” (refugees deal). Since then the GFR pays billions so that refugees from Syria are prevented from entering Europe. In return Turkey receives political backing for their interests in the Middle East. Part of that includes the prosecution of oppositional groups that live in European exile. As early as in the 90ies the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was prohibited in Germany. Since two years the federal public prosecutor’s office tries to do the same to the Communist Party of Turkey/Marxist–Leninist (TKP/ML) [2]. Now the YPG/YPJ is the target.
In March 2017 the then minister of Inner Affairs Thomas de Maizière decreed the ban of several Kurdish symbols. Since then not only the flags of YPG and YPJ are prohibited. Even the logo of the Association of Students from Kurdistan (YXK) and images of Abdullah Öcalan [2] must not be shown anymore.
This is justified by the alleged association to terrorism. To demand freedom for political prisoners is already sufficient for an allegation like this. No proofs needed. Directives of the Ministy for Inner Affairs can be enacted according to the general political situation.

But there is also pursuit of own interests. Large parts of the German Left identifies themselves with the achievements coming from building a social society. For us the self-organisation in Rojava is a glimmer of hope. A symbol that there is a perspective beyond economic crisis and the shift to the right, in the 21th century as well, a chance for a better world. But almost everyone who campaigns for a perspective like the one in Rojava experienced that the state defends the ruling conditions with all means necessary. Starting with the struggle for the preservation of the Hambacher Forst, the protests against neo-nazi assemblys, struggles against the European border regime, to the movements against big summits like G7 or G20. Whenever the conditions are actually challenged, the answer oft he bourgois state is the same: prosecution and repression. Criminalizing the YPG/YPJ is meant to attack the international solidarity of the German Left. The Public prosecutor’s office of Munich makes no secret of that and uses demonstations of solidarity from other contexts as additional proofs.

What has our answer to be like?

Isolated pleas to the authorities and governing politicians will not amount to much. We can only face these attacs as a broad movement. Therefore let us make our solidarity visible. We need extensive public relations, direct support for the affected people, money for the court trials and a decisive stance of standing together for a solidly united alternative. Therefore this letter calls you to get involved with the campaign “Solidarität sichtbar machen”/”Make solidarity visible”. Collect donations and take part in public actions – every support is lived solidarity.
Make solidarity visible!

[*] a German law usually used against Neo-Nazism and right-wing extremists that f.e. prohibits the display of swastikas expect for educational purposes. (translator’s note)
[1] Ten people were arrested in April 2015 and sice June 2016 there is a trial in Munich due to the alleged membership in the TKP/ML. The party is only prohibited in Turkey, nevertheless the federal public prosecutor’s office conducts one of the largest show trials since decades – due to the alleged memebership of a foreign terrorist organization.
Some of the affected people are in pre-trial confinement right now.
[2] Abdullah Öcalan was arrested as chairperson of the PKK in Turkey and convicted in 1999. His conditions of detention are critisized by several intiatives and organizations worldwide, among others by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). In addition to his isolation there is a complete denial of contacts. Since 2011 even his lawyers are stopped from visiting him.