A Kurdish leading umbrella group in Europe has been banned from holding a meeting in Germany’s Cologne on July 11 for its alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The group slammed the decision, saying the local authorities want to silence Kurds.
Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper reported on July 9 that nearly 200 high-ranking officials affiliated to the PKK – which is seen as a terrorist organization by Turkey and some Western allies – planned to meet in Bergisch Gladbach, Cologne on July 11.
Rudaw cited Michael Esser, head of the Cologne police department, as telling the newspaper that they will not allow the meeting to take place “because the PKK and its successor organizations are banned in Germany. They are prohibited from operating.”
The meeting was organized by the European Kurdish Democratic Societies Congress (KCDK-E), which denies links with the PKK but respects the ideology of PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan. Founded in 2015, the umbrella group is leading in Europe and is made up of several Kurdish groups. It is also active in Canada and Australia.
“We have been informed of a meeting that will bring together the top executives of the banned organization across Europe and we will not allow it,” Esser was quoted by Deutsche Welle on July 10.
Fatoş Göksungur and Yüksel Koç, co-chairs of the KCDK-E, told the PKK-affiliated Fırat News Agency on July 10 that they were informed by Cologne police on the phone that their event has been banned despite weeks of preparations. They described the allegation that they have links to the PKK as “a lie.”
KCDK-E “is an officially registered association in Belgium and has the right to organize conferences in all European countries. The reason given by the Cologne authorities for the ban is simply a lie,” they said.
“We were only informed of the ban by phone on July 9, although preparations for the congress have been going on for weeks and people are traveling from all over Europe so that effective legal protection is not granted due to the short notice. We have no written justification for the ban of the event.”
They added that the allegations about their links to the PKK are “a threat to the very existence of our organization. This unsubstantiated assertion is intended to silence the Kurdish self-organization. Depriving us of the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and expression is only the first step.”