A rally supporting the outlawed PKK in Cologne has left some German media outlets giving credence to Turkish claims of double standards.
German media this week questioned whether Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's criticism of Germany's stance towards PKK and FETO, or Fetullah Terrorist Organisation, was justified.
Very often, any criticism of Germany by Erdogan is dismissed, but an analytical piece by the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur or DPA, that was widely published in German newspapers such as Die Welt and Süddeutsche Zeitung, did the opposite.
President Erdogan has often in the past accused Germany of embracing PKK militants, whom he says threaten Turkey's national security. Turkey is also Germany's NATO ally.
The DPA article says that the law in Germany is very clear on the activities of the PKK and it further points out that this naturally has to raise questions from Turkey's perspective as to why authorities are not doing more to prevent such activities.
On Saturday, German authorities allowed about 14,000 PKK sympathisers and militants at a cultural festival to display banners of the outlawed organisation and its leader Abdullah Ocalan, who has been behind the bars in Turkey since 1999.
The PKK has conducted armed campaigns against Turkish officials and civilians since 1983 and is recognised as a terrorist organisation by NATO and the EU, alongside many other countries.
Following the Cologne rally, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the German ambassador to Ankara to condemn the country’s authorities for allowing it.
The organiser of the "cultural" gathering was the Democratic Society Center of Kurds in Germany (Nav-Dem), which according to the DPA article, is known for having close relations with the PKK.
The DPA article cites a domestic intelligence report, which says: “The PKK mainly uses the local Kurdish clubs, which serve as a meeting point and a starting point for the supporters of the organisation. The umbrella organisation of the clubs is the Nav-Dem.”
According to the article, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency reported that a recent campaign to raise donations for the PKK had achieved “an outstanding result” in Germany, more than doubling donations in the past 10 years. More than $15.6 million (13 million euros) were raised for the PKK from September 2015 to the beginning of 2016. In contrast, donations in the rest of Europe had stayed constant at around $30 million (25 million euros).
The article further cites a 2016 annual report compiled by the intelligence agency which states that the donations are spent on propaganda and funding attacks against Turkey.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said in June that the pro-PKK rallies and waving PKK banners were forbidden in Germany.
"The PKK … is deeply involved in arms and drug trafficking and protective charges and to leave no room for them on German soil, which is a point which Turkey rightly addresses," Gabriel said.
The German authorities earlier this year also allowed the 13th “International Zilan Women’s Festival” to be held in Dortmund.
Zilan was the code name of Zeynep Kinaci, a PKK militant that conducted a suicide attack in 1996, killing seven and wounding 33 in Turkey.
The DPA article questioned whether the German authorities turned a blind eye to the PKK when Erdogan raised the issue. Turkish media claims around 14,000 PKK members are living in Germany.
Erdogan has also criticised Germany for giving asylum to FETO suspects who were accused by Turkey of attempting to militarily overthrow the Turkish government and parliament in July 2016.
Turkey filed a dossier with many countries, including Germany, calling for the extradition of FETO members, who are led by Fetullah Gulen, a self-exiled congregation leader who has been living in the US since 1999. Gulen is blamed by Ankara for instigating the attempted putsch, but he denies any involvement.
Germany said that they received 249 asylum applications from Turkish citizens and granted asylum to 196 people after the July 15, 2016 failed coup that claimed 250 lives and injured more than 2,000 people.
Tellingly, the article states that there has been little recognition that Gulen's followers have infiltrated the Turkish state apparatus for years.
It quotes a senior German official, without naming him, as saying that the authorities' dealings with the movement in the Federal Republic is "blue-eyed."
"This is just not a tutoring association," he says of FETO.
Another piece in Stuttgarter-Zeitung, highlighted that the Cologne rally by PKK affiliates had left the distinct impression that they are allowed to do as they please while Turkish politicians were banned from campaigning in Germany.
This, it said, fits well into “the picture of double standards of the West” that Turkey has long complained about.
During the past few years, the EU and Turkey’s relations have deteriorated. The EU, especially Germany, accuses Turkey of undemocratic governance following the failed coup. Turkey accuses the EU of protecting suspects allegedly involved in the attempt to undermine Turkey's democracy by way of military coup.
As well as that, Turkey accuses the EU of not upholding other promises. The bloc and Turkey signed a crucial refugee deal in 2015 that aims to halt the influx from war-torn countries, such as Iraq and Syria. In return, the EU had to provide $7.2 billion (six billion euros) by 2018, visa-free travel for Turkish nationals and open a new chapter of negotiations for becoming a member. So far it has only provided $960 million (800 million euros). Visa-free travel has not materialised and neither have the accession negotiations.
Erdogan has in the past pointed to the unfairness that countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Colombia and Malaysia have visa-free travel to the EU while Turkey does not.
Gerald Schneider from Presseportal said that the Kurds could demonstrate against Erdogan in Germany but PKK banners were prohibited.
“Pictures of the demonstration show a whole sea of flags showing the portrait of the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who was imprisoned in Turkey. But this is forbidden,” said Schneider.