Germany: Stop deportations of Syrian Kurds!

Wolfgang Schäuble

Perhaps someone should send Wolfgang Schäuble a copy of Human Rights Watch’s most recent report, ‘Group Denial’, which outlines Syria’s systematic abuse and torture of its Kurdish population.

Schäuble, then Germany’s Federal Minister of the Interior, signed an agreement with Syria back in July 2008 that paved the way for deportations from Germany of Syrian nationals.  The agreement went into effect on 01 January 2009 and deportations are underway.

Who is this ‘repatriation treaty’ affecting most?  Answer: Kurdish immigrants.  There are presently 7,000 refugees from Syria living in Germany.  Most of them belong to minority groups (Kurds, Yezidis, Christian Assyrian-Aramaeans) facing discrimination and worse back in Syria.  The Kurds seem to be given top priority for deportation.

Who is Herr Dr. Schäuble, the initiator of this agreement?  Well, he was Federal Minister of the Interior from 22 November 2005 until 27 October 2009.  He now serves as Minister of Finance. Schäuble is a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), a centre-right party, and the largest political party in Germany.

Khalid Kanjo

Back in 1999 Schäuble initiated the CDU/CSU campaign against citizenship reform in Germany, which made it easier for foreigners to obtain German citizenship and allowed for dual nationality.

In 2008 Schäuble banned ROJ-TV from operating in Germany saying the television station was a mouthpiece for the PKK.

Schäuble is a strong proponent of using biometric data to track citizens and also favours outlawing access to telephone and Internet for anyone who sympathises with terrorists.  (So I guess if ROJ-TV is a mouthpiece for a ‘terrorist’ organisation, you could lose your telephone and Internet privileges by watching the station?)

Based on his record he doesn’t seem to like ‘foreigners’ on German soil and he is particularly obsessed with internal security.

The most publicised recent case of deportation has been that of 31-year-old Khalid Kanjo.  Kanjo is a Kurd from the northeast part of Syria who arrived in Germany in 2002.  He was deported back to Syria on 01 September 2009, unable to convince German authorities of the risk of torture awaiting him in Syria.

Back in March of 2004 Kanjo’s twin brothers, Ahmed and Hussein, were detained by Syrian authorities.  Ahmed was tortured and severely beaten before being released three months after his detention.  He died shortly thereafter as a direct result of the torture.  The other brother, Hussein, spent more than a year in ‘Adra prison.

Even knowing all this, the Germans shipped Khalid Kanjo back to Damascus.  On 13 September, Kanjo was summoned to Syrian State Security offices in Qamişlo, a mostly Kurdish city in the northeast.  First reports said that he had been transferred to the Damascus Branch of State Security on 25 September.  As of 08 October, Amnesty International reported that Kanjo was in prison in Qamişlo.  He has been charged under Article 287 of the Syrian Penal Code with spreading ‘false’ news abroad that could harm the reputation of the state.  He spoke with a lawyer on 06 October.

Deportations from Germany had been uncommon in the past decade.  This was especially true after the widely publicised case of Hussein Daoud, a Syrian Kurd who applied for political asylum in Germany in 1996.  His petition was denied and he was sent back to Syria in 2000, accompanied by German police officers.  Daoud was arrested upon his arrival at Damascus Airport. He was questioned about his and other Kurdish activists’ activities in Germany.  He was charged with belonging to a secret organisation and tortured.  In March 2002 Daoud was sentenced to two years imprisonment and released in December 2002.

Kurds in Germany protest the agreement (click for larger image)

One difference now with deportations to Syria is that Bonn can now deport those who only have a Syrian residence permit.  Prior to the 2008 Syria-Germany agreement, Kurds in Germany who did not have Syrian identification documents were protected from forcible return even if they lost their plea for amnesty.  This is no longer the case.

Many Kurds were stripped of the Syrian citizenship back in the 1960s and are considered foreigners within Syria.  It was this group that had been given the protection under German law.  Now German authorities have the means to ‘repatriate’ these Kurds too.

Last month a family of Yezidi Kurds were deported back to Syria.  A woman, aged 55, and her four children were arrested upon returning to Syria for participating in anti-Syrian protests in Germany.

Currently Tarek Rasho is being held in detention in Germany awaiting deportation.  He is a 32-year-old Kurdish Yezidi activist who has been in Germany for the past 13 years.

Tilman Zülch: An agreement with totalitarian Syria to surrender members of minority groups to their oppressors is nothing short of disgrace, when torture and imprisonment await those deported back to Syria.

Tilman Zülch, General Secretary of the Society for Threatened Peoples (GfbV), a German-based human rights organisation, has strongly criticised Wolfgang Schäuble.

‘It is irresponsible to send these persecuted, humiliated and discriminated people back to dictatorship and torture.  Many refugees have lived in our country for ten years. Their children have grown up in Germany, they go here to kindergarten or school and are well integrated. Schäuble should distance himself from the agreement on the taking back of refugees between Germany and Syria.’

Kurds in Syria have protested this new agreement between Bonn and Damascus.  Kurds have taken to the streets to voice their anger with the German government.  Some ten Kurds went on a hunger strike in March in front of the Ministry of the Interior.


Deportations to Syria are inhuman. KurdMedia, 18 January 2009.

Deported Kurd arrested and disappeared; Schäuble bears some of the responsibility! GfBV, 01 October 2009.

To His Excellency foreign minister, Dr. Frank Walter-Steinmeier. GfbV, 06 July 2009.

Germany Returns Kurds to Uncertain Fate.  Middle East Transparent, 27 November 2009.

Syrian Kurdish man no longer incommunicado. Syrian Human Rights Information Link.

السلطات السورية تلقي القبض على المواطن السوري الكردي خالد كنجو المرحل من ألمانيا . Free Syria, 24 September 2009.