A Turkish military attack in Iraq in June has led to questions about the possible involvement of German military technology in the death of a German national.
German national Thomas Spies, known by his nom-de-guerre Azad Şerger, was reportedly fighting with the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), an armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), when he was reported killed along with two others in the Xakurke area of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) in combat against Turkish forces on 15 June 2023. The incident has prompted the German government to investigate the circumstances of Spies’s death, as they are obliged to do for any German citizen dying abroad.
Despite the efforts of the government, the whereabouts of Spies’s remains and the specifics of his death remain unclear. This lack of clarity led Gökay Akbulut, a member of the Left Party (Die Linke) in the Bundestag, to address direct questions to the federal government. Contributing to her inquiry was a report suggesting that injured Turkish soldiers were transported from the KRI to Turkey around the same time, raising the possibility that Spies might have been found alive and taken to Turkey. Another supporting detail for this hypothesis is the fact that Turkish government agency Anadolu Agency obtained information about Spies’s identity and death before the Kurdish media did.
The government responded confirming that it was only made aware of Spies’s death through media reports, and that it had received no official communication from either the Turkish or the Iraqi authorities. This response left open the question of potential informal communications. On further questioning, the government stated that it had contacted the Turkish and the Iraqi authorities numerous times through various channels to verify the media reports, but had received no response.
The government referred to the case of Konstantin Gedig, another German national, killed in a 2019 Turkish airstrike in northern Syria while fighting with the People’s Defence Units (YPG), giving it as another example of lack of response from the Turkish or Iraqi authorities, But they provided no specific details about actions taken in Gedig’s case, citing privacy rights of the individual.
Simultaneously, the German government appears to be obfuscating in the matter of the use of German military technology in the KRI. In response to Akbulut’s inquiry about the deployment of German or NATO equipment in the attacks on KRI soil, the government claimed to have no information. This statement contrasts with the known fact that the Turkish army and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) forces who collaborate with Turkey are heavily armed with German weapons. Notably, crucial components of Turkey’s TB2 killer drone and its weapons systems, responsible for the systematic extrajudicial executions of civilians, are produced in Germany and supplied to Turkey. KDP troops also possess German military equipment, including Dingo armoured vehicles and Milan missiles, further implicating German technology in potential war crimes.