Turkish offensive leads to soaring tensions between Germany’s Turks, Kurds

Turkey’s offensive in northeast Syria targeting Kurdish forces has led to soaring tensions between Germany’s sizeable Turkish and Kurdish communities, Germany’s the Local said on Saturday.

The strained relations have led to shops being trashed, reports of knife attacks, among others, sparking a call for restraint from the country’s integration commissioner Annette Widmann-Mauz, it said. 

Turkey launched its cross-border offensive into northeast Syria on Oct. 9, aiming to clear the region of Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers "terrorists" linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is an armed group that has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey for over 30 years.

Hundreds of fighters and civilians have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee during the offensive, which was paused on Thursday for a five-day ceasefire.

Of Germany’s 3 million population with Turkish nationality, around 1 million are Kurds and the offensive was felt deeply in both communities. 

"The emotions here cannot be viewed in isolation from the political developments in Turkey, which are mirrored in Germany," it quoted Turkish expert Burak Copur as saying.

"The emotions here cannot be viewed in isolation from the political developments in Turkey, which are mirrored in Germany," he added. 

Tens of thousands of pro-Kurdish demonstrators are set to take to the streets in Cologne on Saturday, with similar plans for protests in other European cities.   

German police remain on high alert to avert any new violence from protests over the Turkish operation following clashes on the sidelines of a demonstration on Monday in the western city of Herne, where five people were injured, the Local said. 

Germany's Kurds, for their part, fear that the Turkish operation could pulverise the foundations they have built in Rojava, the self-proclaimed Kurdish zone in northeast Syria while Turks fear for the security of their country, faced with a Kurdish militia with links to the PKK that control swathes of land in northern Syria. 

"We are sending our soldiers to their deaths to free Syrian children and families, and be it against the terrorists of PKK or IS, Erdoğan is a man of his word and he won't leave until our Syrian Muslim brothers are secure within their borders," the article quoted Mehmet Yavaş, a Turk living in Berlin, as saying. 

"Turks and Kurds, we live, work and sometimes we laugh together there or here in Germany. My colleague is Kurdish and that's fine. But the PKK is something else," he added.

The offensive has permeated Germany’s world of sports, too.

"Five German regional football teams face disciplinary action after their players imitated the military salute performed by the Turkish national team during matches earlier this month,’’  it said.

Kurds are accusing Germany mosques run by one of Germany’s largest Islamic organisations, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), of pushing Ankara's views on the sidelines of prayers, a claim rejected by the organisation.

Some feel like there is no need for the conflict to spill over into Germany. 

"I only go back (to Turkey) once a year... we live well here. So let them sit down at the same table and find a solution, and let us live peacefully in Germany," the article quoted Cezal Vedat, 43, who runs a travel agency specialising in holidays to Turkey, as saying.