ANALYSIS - PKK terror group a regular fixture in German domestic intelligence reports

Terrorist organization first entered German domestic intelligence service’s reports in 1984

Aydin Enes Seydanlioglu   | 24.06.2022
ANALYSIS - PKK terror group a regular fixture in German domestic intelligence reports

The author is a researcher who specializes in migration sociology.


Recently, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) published its 2021 report. In the report, which was introduced in the German capital Berlin by Interior Minister Nancy Faeser and Thomas Haldenwang, president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the activities of the PKK terrorist organization were given comprehensive coverage.

However, when we look at the evaluations of the PKK in the report, like every year, it is possible to say that there is nothing new about how the West perceives the PKK’s activities. Yet, it is stated in the report that the terrorist organization is divided into four areas, nine states and 31 regions in Germany and that there are those responsible for heading these criminal organizations. In addition to this structural information, it says that the PKK has a high potential for aggression and violence. All unlawful activities of the PKK are also detailed in the report.

PKK included in domestic intelligence reports in 1984

The PKK terror group is a potential threat to the safety of Germany. The threat has turned into action many times in past years. Germany received workers who migrated from Türkiye to meet the demand for labor within its burgeoning industries in the 1960s. After the first groups of workers arrived from Türkiye, recruiting workers from the country’s eastern and southeastern provinces continued rapidly.

Many Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin also migrated to Germany during this period. Due to the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d'état in Türkiye and the political refugees who passed through various diasporic networks in the 1990s, Germany became an essential shelter for many marginalized groups from Türkiye.

In this period, the PKK and the associations supporting the organization began to step up their activities institutionally. The Kurds, who came to Germany in the 1960s, later appeared on the radar of the PKK, and the organization increased pressure on these people in various fields, especially after the second half of the 1980s. Notably, in 1984, the PKK was included for the first time in reports of the German domestic intelligence services (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) because other Kurds stayed clear of the terrorist organization that came under pressure and due to intra-organizational executions.

In the 1990s, the PKK created an area of influence in Germany where it could mobilize tens of thousands of people. During this period, the terrorist organization became a severe internal security threat to Germany, and legal cases filed against PKK executives increased. The PKK committed terrorist acts against Turkish consulates in Munich, Marseille, and Bern. In addition, it is possible to come across actions of the terrorist organization against official missions, municipalities, party offices, courts, and unions in the country and abroad in reports of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution published in past years. Even a raid on the office of the mayor of Giessen in Germany can be cited as one example of the PKK's disruption of social peace and public order. In other words, the organization did not refrain from committing a terrorist act when it was cornered in Europe.

Meetings behind closed doors

Some information contained in a report published by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution of Rhineland-Palatinate state in 1995 brought to mind the question of whether some negotiations took place between the terrorist organization and German authorities behind closed doors. Significantly, in the report, there was information about the leader of the terrorist organization, Abdullah Ocalan, which said the Kurds did not expect new bans on their associations but that this happened many times and that the promises made to Ocalan by the Germans were not kept.

Following this, in a story titled "Der Geheime Kanal" in Germany’s Focus magazine, it was stated that the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution sent high-level officials to meet with Ocalan. In addition, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) Parliamentary Deputy Heinrich Lummer's meeting with Ocalan and his efforts to convince him about the PKK's violent actions in Germany came to light.

In the second half of the 1990s, the PKK wanted to continue its activities in Germany with a political dialogue strategy that was free from so-called violence. Following this process, Ocalan emphasized that he was searching for political dialogue and solutions with Germany in his statements to various German newspapers and television channels. In the same years, allegations came to the fore that two high-level German state officials met with Ocalan in Damascus and tried to persuade him to stop the attacks against Turks and Turkish workplaces in Germany.

All these allegations strengthened the suspicions of secret bargaining between some of the political elite in Germany and the PKK. In an interview given to a German television channel in 1997, Ocalan promised that he would maintain his organization’s stance of abstaining from violence in Germany without any conditions in case the ban on the PKK continued in Germany, practically confirming the existence of secret negotiations.

After this process, an increase in terrorist activities in Germany following the capture of Ocalan in Kenya on Feb. 15, 1999, showed the whole world that violence is the only instrument the PKK will resort to when things go wrong.

PKK still has a base in Germany

There have been ups and downs in instances of pressure, harm, threats, and money collection using threats by the PKK in Germany. However, although the PKK is officially defined as a terrorist organization in Germany, it can act very easily despite all its incidents. The fact that the organization has found breathing room in Germany can be understood from its activities reflected both in the last report and in the previous reports of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

We might infer from these reports that the PKK bases itself in Germany to obtain the financial and logistical support needed to commit terrorist attacks in Türkiye. German authorities should restrict the means by which the PKK receives support for its activities. The terrorist organization will also harm German society if these measures are not taken.

The PKK must be treated like any other banned organization in Germany. If a terrorist organization carries out a bomb attack, let's say, in Berlin, would this organization's supporters be nevertheless allowed to freely demonstrate, march and shout slogans on the city's streets? The treatment the PKK should receive in Germany must conform to the answer that will be given to the question whether these actions can be regarded as democratic rights.

As we can see from the past, every concession made to the terrorist organization will cause violence in Germany. If the necessary measures are not taken, Germany will eventually have to deal with the issues that Türkiye is currently dealing with.

[1] Verfassungschutzbericht Rhineland-Palatinate 1995

[2] Mobilizing ethnic conflict: Kurdish separatism in Germany and the PKK ; Alynna J. Lyon and Emek M. Ucarer

*Opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.​​​​​​​

*Translated by Seda Sevencan

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