War contravening international law
Since April of this year, the Turkish army has been waging an extremely aggressive war against the PKK and the civilian population in Southern Kurdistan / Northern Iraq in violation of international law. There are reports of targeted killings and expulsions of the Kurdish civilian population and the use of banned chemical weapons. Countless villages have been destroyed, people have been deprived of their livelihoods and herds of cattle have been killed. Meanwhile, there are also almost daily reports that Turkish soldiers have introduced chemical gases into the tunnel systems of the guerrillas. There are eyewitnesses to many of these war crimes. Clearly, even in the framework of this prolonged offensive, the Turkish army is unable to achieve its goal of occupying the region and destroying the PKK, and therefore is resorting to outlawed weapons.
In recent days, there have also been killings of Yezidi security forces by Turkish drones and a hospital has been bombed in the Sinjar (Shengal) region by the Turkish army. Again, these are war crimes and attacks that violate international law. Moreover, while the world or the mainstream media are focused on the foreseeable takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its consequences, the Turkish army is also intensifying its attacks in Rojava and targeting leaders with drones.
The UN report on the systematic ethnic cleansing, human rights violations and war crimes committed by Islamist mercenaries and the Turkish army against Kurds, Yezidis and Christians in Afrin should move all people with a humanist conscience to do something about it immediately. Similar things are already happening in northern Iraq and further systematic violations of international law and human rights can be expected if the Turkish army takes hold there. The aim of the attacks is the expulsion or even the annihilation of the Kurdish population. Overall, the Erdogan regime is pursuing a neo-Ottoman project, [ie, a project reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire], and among other things, is laying claim to resources in the Mediterranean, areas in northern Iraq, Syria, Libya and Armenia.
Why do the federal governments support the Erdogan regime?
In fact, the attacks of the Turkish army in northern Iraq for which the Erdogan regime is responsible, and which violate international law, and its policy of occupation in Afrin as well as its attacks on Rojava ought to finally be stopped by international political pressure. However, this international pressure is not being built up. Not only the US government, but the German government too is playing a leading role in this disastrous policy. Actually, the German government is also jointly responsible for the observance of international law and should even have a decisive influence in enforcing it. However, it is doing exactly the opposite. This became clear once again when the Federal Police stopped a peace delegation to northern Iraq at Düsseldorf airport at the beginning of June 2021, under the pretext that some of the travellers would endanger the foreign policy interests of the Federal Republic of Germany vis-à-vis Turkey. Members of Hamburg Federal Parliament (Bürgerschaft), Andrej Hunko (DIE LINKE/Left Party) and I, as a staff member of the member of the Bundestag (German National Parliament) were also part of the delegation. The prevention of our departure in this manner was absolutely illegal and, moreover, cynical. The logic behind it turns facts, human behaviour and reason upside-down. The interests of the people of West Germany and of all people worldwide are peace, dialogue for conflict resolution and the observance of international law. And this is exactly what the delegation prevented from leaving the country in Düsseldorf stood for, while the Turkish government systematically violates human rights and international law.
However, preventing the delegation from leaving the country is only the tip of the iceberg. Basically, since the founding of the Federal Republic, the German governments have consistently continued the almost unconditional German-Turkish arms brotherhood, that has existed since the genocide against the Armenians. The cooperation includes large scale arms deliveries, military cooperation, cooperation of police and secret service apparatuses and covering up of the systematic human rights violations and war crimes for which the Turkish government is responsible.
In this context, left-wing Turkish and Kurdish politicians in exile in Germany are also criminalised. According to §129b of the German Criminal Code, Kurds who work for democracy in the Federal Republic of Germany within the framework of the Kurdish movement can be sentenced to up to five years, without being accused of any crime, since the PKK is classified as a terrorist organisation abroad, and theoretically anyone associated with it can be prosecuted. Experts consider §129b to be unconstitutional, as it leads to conviction through general suspicion without concrete accusations. In addition, there is no state support for the teaching of the Kurdish language, and Kurdish science and even culture in the form of publishing houses and television stations are suppressed and partially banned. Those who are politically active as Kurds in Germany, even in exile, often have difficulties obtaining German citizenship.
The federal governments and authorities are fully aware that the Erdogan regime is responsible for human rights violations and war crimes, that the PKK was responsible for rescuing far more than 100,000 Yezidis from the IS and that it is ideologically very close to so-called European values with its orientation towards respectful coexistence of all ethnic and religious groups as well as equal rights for women and democratisation of the Middle East.
Foreign and Security Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany
The problem, however, is that the federal government favours reactionary unity with the Erdogan regime, and the suppression of left-wing movements, the wars and the human rights violations in contravention of international law that are associated with this, in order to push through its own neo-colonial interests. An independent and self-determined organisation of the people in the Middle East does not fit in with the aggressive neo-colonialist policy of the German government. The danger of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman project is completely disregarded, or rather, accepted. In my opinion, the extent of the neo-Ottoman Project is completely underestimated out of arrogance towards non-Western people.
Let me outline this in more detail. The foreign policy of the German government and the EU has been becoming increasingly aggressive and militaristic for a good 20 years and is geared towards establishing the EU as a major military power under German and, to some extent, Franco-German hegemony.
Instead of building up international and intra-European solidarity in times of the corona crisis, for example, the competition is being driven forward and the logic of the use of enemy images against China and Russia is being built up. In addition, Italy, Greece and Spain, among others, are left alone with their massive economic and healthcare problems by the German government and the EU. The wars in Syria and Rojava, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen are being perpetuated, and a new war has been started in Northern Iraq by the NATO state Turkey.
At present, the Bundeswehr is involved in 13 foreign missions on three continents with almost 3,500 soldiers: in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, the Mediterranean, Mali, Lebanon, Somalia on the Horn of Africa, South Sudan, in the “enforcement of the arms embargo” against Libya, in the Western Sahara and in Yemen. In addition, the Bundeswehr is involved in several “mission-equivalent commitments”. These are mainly carried out with “partners” from the EU or NATO: In Lithuania, the Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP) mission supposedly serves to “secure NATO’s eastern flank”; in the Baltic States, the Bundeswehr has been participating in the NATO mission “Air Policing Baltic” since September 2020, and in the Aegean in a mission to strengthen the exchange of information in order to be able to take action against “traffickers”. The permanent naval unit SNMG 1 in the North Atlantic serves primarily “to control and protect strategically important sea routes in the North Atlantic and the North Sea”; the permanent naval unit SNMG 2 patrols the coasts of North Africa and the Middle East; the operational area of the permanent naval unit SNMCMG 1 is the North Atlantic and especially the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and the permanent mine countermeasures unit SNMCMG2 is active in the Mediterranean and adjacent sea areas.
Since the “mission-equivalent commitments” are also basically foreign deployments, one can speak of 20 foreign deployments in which the Bundeswehr is involved. Particularly noteworthy is the navy’s deployment for refugee defence in the Aegean Sea. Here, the military is increasingly taking over tasks from custom authorities or the police.
The central powers of the EU, France and the Federal Republic of Germany in particular, each with their own interests and in competition with each other, are also pushing forward the militarisation of the EU. The EU’s defence agency, the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), which was founded on the impulse of the EU Commission in 2001, is a central actor in this process. The EUISS repeatedly plans and clarifies the aggressive foreign and security policy of the EU and the EU member states, and at the same time tries to legitimise it on the basis of often questionable studies that are supposed to give the impression of a scientific approach. The Institute’s guidelines or attempts at justification are often implemented one-to-one by the EU.
Since 2009, as part of the further development of foreign policy, the EU has been planning, among other things, an “expansion of military interdiction and combat operations” to secure resources and to seal off the EU against “poverty refugees from the South” as well as measures to combat any resistance. This objective was already succinctly outlined in the study “What ambitions in European Defence 2020” published in 2009. The Institute writes there that the wars of today and the future will mainly no longer be fought between states, but between “unequal socio-economic classes in world society”. On the one side is a “metropolitan elite composed of transnationally operating corporations, the states of the EU, the EU and the emerging countries” – and on the other side is “the global poverty population and its organisations”. This would result in “increasingly explosive tensions”. A class struggle from above is envisaged and carried out here.
In order to avoid a collapse of the global economic system, the EUISS calls for the use of the entire spectrum of highly intensive struggle measures against the “bottom billion of humanity” (the cynical term “bottom billion” speaks for itself). These include “building a fleet of helicopters to fight insurgency in developing countries, new steps towards total surveillance of the world’s oceans, the use of unmanned combat aircraft (drones) and securing the EU’s borders against refugees”.
The strategies and techniques formulated by the EUISS in this and many other strategy papers as well as in strategy papers of German thinktanks and the German army have already been implemented by the EU or its lead states in Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine and Mali.
The “package of measures” ranges from the targeted creation of enemy images to economic sanctions, the creation of more or less directly controlled resistance groups and militias, the recognition of non-democratically elected governments, coups and wars. This also includes the lasting destruction of previously stable states. In some cases, the inhumane techniques and imperialist claims are named unadorned and directly in this way, in others they are disguised behind euphemistic terms such as “responsibility to protect”, “regime change” or “human rights intervention” and “good governance”, or an attempt is made to legitimise them through assumed threats to security.
Foreign and security policy towards Turkey and the Kurds
On the basis of this described concept, the aim is no longer to establish stable colonially dependent states with “marionette” governments, but similar to the Greater Middle East Project of the USA, new entities subdivided on the basis of ethnic, religious or clan-related dividing lines. Divide and rule is the motto. Actors such as Al-Qaeda (in Afghanistan and Libya), the Taliban (in Afghanistan and Pakistan) or the Islamic State (in Iraq, Syria and parts of Africa) are being built up as destructive forces or allowed to grow stronger. This is a cynical concept of scorched earth.
The procedure is absurdly concealed behind human rights rhetoric or the supposed fight against terror. But none of the wars against Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan or the PKK was ever about that. It is about the redistribution of resources and geostrategic power (in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan), about preventing the establishment of an African Monetary Fund and an African Central Bank and thus Africa’s self-determined development (in Libya) or about preventing self-determined development in the Middle East (against the PKK).
Viewed in this framework, the policies of recent German Governments towards the Erdogan regime and the Kurds make perfect sense. Turkey is an emerging country and a NATO ally in the desired suppression of the “bottom billion” and the warding off of refugees fleeing from crisis and war zones. The Turkish government is allied with the so-called Islamic State – a militia to destabilise regions – what is included in the strategy as well.
The Kurdish movement and especially the PKK organises the “bottom billion” in the Middle East. The criminalisation of the organisation and the prevention of a peace process in the Middle East fits very well into the concept described. For it is not about human rights and international law, but about power, profit and resources.
This concept, however, is varied in the foreign policy of the USA and the EU towards Russia and especially China. Here again, according to leading US generals and the US government, a confrontation between states in the next five years is being at least intimated. This is one reason for the withdrawal of the NATO troops from Afghanistan.
Nothing is static. Peace means more than the absence of war. Peace means living together in respect and solidarity and respecting international law and human dignity, it means equal social rights and equal access to housing, education, work, health, art and culture.
In capitalism, worldwide and lasting peace is not possible, as the pursuit of profit and competition are anchored in the capitalist system and war in this system is merely the most ruthless form of asserting one’s own interests – beyond respect for the lives of others on the basis of structural and real violence.
Peace comes through dialogue, understanding and respect for each other’s culture, religion and society. In many ways, a good framework for security is governed by the Charter of the United Nations.
Security comes from solidarity based on human dignity. This knowledge finds social expression in human rights conventions and fought-for Labour rights, political and fundamental rights and freedoms, as well as in living together in solidarity. This knowledge finds expression as well in the writings of Abdullah Öcalan and his concept of democratic confederalism. And this is what the German Government and imperialist actors are afraid of – that people could see these ideas as more attractive than the capitalist system. That is why it is forbidden to show pictures of Abdullah Öcalan on public display in Germany and that’s why the PKK is still listed as a terror organsization.
War, oppression and deterrence are concepts for securing domination and exploitation on a material level. On a spiritual level, war and deterrence are the poverty of insight into one’s own and others’ strengths and weaknesses and a lack of realisation of the equal value of all life.
Despite technological and material advances in the 20th century, we must therefore confront the totally unacceptable fact that war, poverty and environmental degradation continue to threaten the lives of millions.
I think it is necessary that all people be allowed to live together in dignity and peace and that nature is preserved. And for this it is worthwhile changing the world step by step with our allies. And for this it is also worth fighting in the Federal Republic of Germany to implement a peaceful foreign policy, to stop arms exports, to force the government to put more pressure on the Erdogan regime to respect human rights and international law, to lift the ban on the PKK and finally to overcome capitalism.