Reports: Eastern Germany on path to becoming center of xenophobia

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 11.11.2019 21:38
German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the commemoration park made in the honor of Turks killed by the NSU, Nov. 4, 2019.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the commemoration park made in the honor of Turks killed by the NSU, Nov. 4, 2019.

As the European country with the second-largest Muslim community on the continent, Germany, especially in its eastern states, suffers from rising of xenophobia, which has threatened civilian security

On the 30th anniversary of the demolition of the Berlin Wall, Germany celebrated its unity, democracy and achievements made after the historic event. Yet, one problem remains unsolved by the strategic European country: the presence and rise of xenophobia and right-wing terrorism in the country, especially in eastern Germany.

Although three decades have passed, reports show that eastern Germany continues to be inferior to its Western counterpart in many ways, including harboring a lack of security for its citizens and the presence of widespread right-wing movements that threaten locals and foreigners alike. According to some pundits, the situation has accelerated to such a point that the region is on its way to becoming a center for neo-Nazis and xenophobia.

According to a report released by Bundestag on the unity of the country, in the eastern states of the country, xenophobia poses a threat to social accord and peace. Underlining that there are constant attacks on refugee centers, mosques and Islamic cultural centers in eastern states, the report warns that the xenophobic attacks pose a serious threat to the national security of Germany.

"While the overall number of right-wing extremist offenses registered in 2018 fell by 0.3% compared to 2017, the number of violent crimes committed by right-wing extremists rose by 3.2%. Among these violent crimes, all cases of attempted homicide (six in total) were motivated by xenophobia. The number of xenophobic offenses resulting in bodily injury rose by 7%," the report named "Brief Summary 2018 Report on the Protection of the Constitution" said. It underlined that the number of violent xenophobic offenses rose by 6.1% to 821, which was 774 back in 2017.

The report underlined that, although anti-Semitism continues to be an "area of agitation and an ideological identifier for right-wing extremists," currently, the right-wing ideology is mostly dominated by "hostile stereotypes."

"These hostile stereotypes include 'foreigners,' in particular asylum seekers and Muslims, but also policy-makers. Right-wing extremists focus on what they consider excessive foreign influence and an imagined threat to national identity," it expressed.

The recent success of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) is an example of the increase in right-wing extremism in Germany. The anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim AfD has consistently remained above its 12.6% level of support in the 2017 general election in the Emnid polls and recently came close to becoming the largest party in two eastern German states. Another example is the neo-Nazi terrorist group National Socialist Underground (NSU), which is also based in eastern Germany and killed eight Turkish immigrants, one Greek citizen and a German police officer between 2000 and 2007, but the murders had long remained unresolved.

Police recorded 813 hate crimes against Muslims last year, including verbal insults, threatening letters and physical attacks which led to the injury of at least 54 Muslims. More than 100 mosques and religious institutions were also attacked by far-right extremists in 2018. A country of over 81 million people, Germany is home to the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country's nearly 4.7 million Muslims, at least 3 million are of Turkish descent.

Yet, despite the worrying rise of these groups and attacks in the country, another recently released report handles the issue, seeing minor decreases in the number of attacks as a major achievement.

"Fortunately," the report says, "violent acts motivated by right-wing extremism declined considerably in 2017 (2017 with 1,054 and 2016 with 1,600). This trend also applies to eastern Germany (2017 with 572 compared to 2016 with 774)."

Underlining first how great of a county Germany is by pointing to its democracy and freedom, the report named "Annual Report of the Federal Government on the Status of German Unity 2018" lightly accepts that "xenophobia, race discrimination, stereotypes, prejudgments and violence also exist in Germany."

"The violence from left-wing and right-wing extremists against the police, rescue forces and other representatives of the state and of the civil society must be systematically countered at all levels. The task of the federal government is to prevent extremist trends lastingly and sustainably and to promote a peaceful democratic society," it suggests as a solution without touching upon any concrete cases.

PKK continues to terrorize Germany

Apart from the crimes fed by xenophobic ideologies, another interesting fact touched upon by the Bundestag is the rise of politically motivated crimes in the country.

"The number of extremist offenses categorized as 'politically motivated crime – foreign ideology' came to 1,928. This very sharp rise of 62.4% was mainly attributable to nationwide protests – mostly by PKK members – against the Turkish military offensive in northern Syria," the report acknowledges, referring to Turkey's Operation Olive Branch that was launched to clear the terrorist elements from northwestern Syria.

"Compared with 2017 (with 182) the number of violent crimes nearly doubled, most of them being cases of bodily injury (60.3 %). In 2018, these violent crimes included five homicides (four attempted and one successful)," the report highlighted with the recognition of the fact that in Germany, the PKK is "the most powerful extremist organization of foreigners with the largest membership figure of 14,500 members."

Despite its international status as a terrorist organization, the PKK has enjoyed relative freedom in European cities and has a particularly strong presence in Germany.

PKK followers committed 1,873 criminal offenses in Germany last year, according to annual statistics announced by the German Interior Ministry, an increase of more than 80% over the previous year, while violent offenses rose from 152 to 305. Supporters of the PKK and its Syrian branch, the People's Protection Units (YPG), claimed responsibility last year for dozens of attacks on mosques, associations and other Turkish institutions in Germany to protest Turkey's counterterrorism operations in northwestern Syria. Similar cases were observed this year as well, in which PKK terrorists used Turkey's Operation Peace Spring as an excuse to attack civilians and terrorize Germany.

The report explains this weird relationship of Germany with the terrorist group as follows: "According to a judgment pronounced by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), the PKK structures in Europe, and therefore in Germany too, are no autonomously organized (sub-)associations. They depend on the foreign main organization of the PKK when it comes to making decisions. First, the (sub-)associations are seamlessly incorporated into the PKK structure, and second, their political and ideological objectives as well as the latter's implementation are set by the PKK's leadership and are binding to its structures abroad," it says, adding that the PKK structures' ability to make autonomous decisions, therefore, is very limited.

Yet, for many pundits, this explanation is far from convincing since in the end, the PKK is a group recognized as terrorist by Germany and yet, somehow, still capable of acting freely all over the country. Ankara has long criticized Berlin for not taking serious measures against the PKK and its affiliates in Germany, which use the country as a platform for fundraising, recruitment and spreading propaganda.

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