MAINZ, Germany – Outraged politicians and journalists in Germany and elsewhere rose to the defense of the Kurdistan Region, after a German state broadcaster accused the Kurds of ethnic cleansing and asked: “can we trust them?“
On Wednesday, German news broadcaster Deutschlandfunk published an article on its website denouncing the Kurdistan Region’s elected parties and the Peshmerga. Comparing the Kurds to the Islamic State (ISIS) zealots, which the Peshmerga have been fighting with world support, the article accused the Kurds of “ethnic cleansing (of Arabs), black sites (secret prisons), torture” and much worse.
Author Marc Thörner blames the Kurdish army for the destruction of Arab homes in the liberated areas of Kurdistan.
“I have been to the Kurdistan Region, I have been to Kirkuk and Shingal and I have seen the refugee camps where I talked to many people,“ German journalist Enno Lenze told Rudaw. “I can’t understand any of the accusations against the Peshmerga. But what I do understand is that sometimes just half of the truth is being told,“ he added.
Lenze, who will visit Kurdistan again in the next week, understands the destruction of some buildings as part of security measures to prevent harm to the population:
“I know that some abandoned buildings are being blown up by the Peshmerga. But these houses — Kurdish and Arab — are highly dangerous for the population due to booby-trapping by ISIS,” he said.
The Deutschlandfunk report questioned German policy toward the Kurds: Berlin has been in the vanguard of countries directly arming the Kurdistan Region against ISIS. In this, the Germans have broken ranks with the United States, which leads the coalition against ISIS but insists on arms deliveries to the Kurds only through the tattered central government in Baghdad.
In its report on the Kurds, Deutschlandfunk asked: “Can one really trust them?” German liberal party politician Tobias Huch trashed the report as “a falsification of the facts.“
“I really doubt that the author dealt genuinely with the topic. This is a politically motivated article and not journalistic work,” he told Rudaw.
Deutschlandfunk also accused the leading political parties in Kurdistan of operating black sites – secret prisons — for dissidents. It said the torture they faced there was “only slightly different“ that at the hands of ISIS.
That remark ignited an storm of protests on Facebook, with people of all nationalities accusing Deutschlandfunk of “carrying out propaganda“ for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has refused to make much progresss on a peace deal with Turkey’s Kurds.
Some noted that the anti-Kurdish article had referred to Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani’s political party as the “ruling party“ in Turkey’s Kurdish regions, proving the writer had not even done basic research.
“The young democracy of Kurdistan is not errorless. But we are on a good way to democratize our administrations and institutions,“ said Nihad Salim Qoja, the German-speaking mayor of Erbil, the Kurdish capital, responding to the article.
“On a daily basis, critical newspapers and magazines are being published in Kurdistan without any censorship. More than 40 Kurdish channels, of which only 7 or so are under the influence of some parties, are broadcasting on local and worldwide events,” he told Rudaw.
“Over the last 20 years the political constellation in the Kurdistan Region has diversified noticeably. (Various) parties, including the parties of (minorities), represent the population of Kurdistan in the parliament. Also, the article forgets to mention that the Kurdistan region has adopted nearly two million refugees, of whom the majority is of Arab origin,” Qoja said.
Former German green party parliamentarian Siegfried Martsch expressed scorn for the writer of the article.
“Mr. Thörner writes his article on the Peshmerga and the Kurds in a rabble-rousing manner, which reminds one of already bygone times in Germany,“ Martsch said.
“Mr. Thörner has no idea of the history and the reality of that particular region. If he wants to talk about ethnic cleansings around Kirkuk, he should mention the ethnic cleansings against the Kurds in that region, because that would be the real truth.”
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