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Nights of Kurdish Violence Plague Turks in Germany

July 28, 1995

BONN, Germany (AP) _ The tinkle of shattering glass, the whoosh of flames consuming gasoline-soaked Turkish property has become the nightly battle music in Germany of a far-away war between Turks and Kurds.

Suspected Kurdish militants early Friday firebombed a Turkish travel agency in Giessen, a mosque in Oldenburg, a restaurant in Hanover and a sports club in Bremen. It was the fourth straight night of attacks on Turkish property in Germany.

In Frankfurt, Kurdish demonstrators who had battled police on Thursday raged through the downtown area after dark, smashing windows and telephone booths. In the morning, commuters stepped over piles of broken glass. Police made four arrests.

At a Friday evening demonstration in Frankfurt, police arrested 50 Kurds after protesters pelted police with rocks and bottles, injuring one officer.

The violence, which coincided with Kurdish demonstrations in support of 5,000 hunger strikers in Turkish jails, was at least the sixth eruption of anti-Turkish vandalism to sweep German towns in two years.

More than 140 Turkish businesses have been attacked this year. Police have arrested several Kurds and believe the campaign is coordinated by the underground Kurdish Labor Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK.

Turkey has been battling PKK guerrillas since 1984, when it began its armed campaign for an independent Kurdistan in southeast Turkey. The world’s 20 million Kurds live spread among Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, without their own country.

Perhaps 1 percent of the 450,000 Kurds living in Germany are PKK activists and another 2 percent active sympathizers, according to police. The PKK reportedly finances its activities through drug smuggling and blackmail.

Other Kurds in Germany are active in groups seeking more cultural autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds. They want Germany, Turkey’s largest trading partner, to put pressure on the Turks.

But moderates are drowned out by the din of PKK violence, said Mustafa Kisabacak of the centrist Kurdish Association in Cologne.

``It’s a sad fact that when we try to reach the public with peaceful demonstrations, the media take no interest,″ Kisabacak said.

Some 250 PKK sympathizers have been on hunger strike in Berlin since last week. The protest reached a new emotional pitch Thursday night when one of the strikers died of a heart attack.

Gulnaz Baghistani, a 41-year-old mother of five, had not eaten in eight days and collapsed after a four-mile protest march.

Her husband arrived from the couple’s home in Osnabrueck on Friday to the courtyard in Berlin’s gritty Kreuzberg section, where his wife’s body lay on a bier strewn with rose petals. Hundreds of PKK supporters chanted ``Freedom Requires Many Martyrs!″

The 2 million Turks who began arriving in Germany in the early 1960s are Germany’s largest minority. But the passions that drove Mrs. Baghistani and others are unfathomable to most Germans.

``You have to know the conditions in Kurdistan to understand what she did,″ said Kisabacak, who charged that Turkish troops had destroyed 2,000 Kurdish villages and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.

A similar lack of insight plagues German police trying to stop the wave of arson attacks. There are only a handful of Turkish- or Kurdish-speaking police officers in Germany.

The federal government banned the PKK in November 1993, and has arrested several of its leaders in Germany. But the attacks have only increased. The fact that right-wing racists have also firebombed Turkish installations complicates police investigations.

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