In the German city of Hamburg, a savage battle erupted last week as ISIS supporters attacked a protest by Kurds, prompting police to respond with water cannons and batons. The level of violence shocked police and residents alike and was described, in reports, as “unprecedented” and as ferocious as any unrest the country had witnessed in years.
On the evening of October 7, Kurds had gathered outside the Al-Nour mosque in a central district of the city. Numbering around 400, they had come to protest the continuing Islamic State assault on the town of Kobane in northern Syria. Kobane, close to the Turkish border, is a Kurdish town that, after weeks of heavy fighting between ISIS and Kurdish fighters, has seen the civilian population driven out and may be close to falling into the hands of the Islamic extremists. Although the Islamic State’s advance upon the town has been slowed by US and allied airstrikes, the Kurdish defenders have made little progress in their efforts to stave off an ISIS takeover.
According to reports, the Kurdish demonstration in Hamburg had begun peacefully but protesters were accosted by a large group of ISIS supporters armed with bats, machetes, bricks and skewers. In the ensuing violence, one man was stabbed and another was attacked with a machete, sustaining serious injury to his legs. Over a dozen injuries were reported and hundreds of weapons were eventually seized by police, who also made 22 arrests. The violence lasted through the night and around 1,300 police officers deployed with batons and water cannons in an effort to quell the unrest.
On the same day, violence also erupted between Yazidis and Chechen immigrants in the town of Celle, about one hour south of Hamburg. Police have accused radical Muslim preachers of using social media to incite the Chechens. Yazidis are not Muslims but are a Kurdish-speaking people who have been heavily persecuted by ISIS. There is a large Yazidi community in Celle. The confrontation in Celle resulted in nine injuries.
Germany has a large Muslim population and it is estimated that at least 100 Muslims, who traveled from Germany to the Middle East to fight with ISIS have now returned to Germany. More than one of the country’s leading politicians have been threatened with death by Islamists. Tobias Huch of the Free Democratic Party [FDP], who has been actively raising money to provide humanitarian aid to the besieged Kurds in Iraq, was threatened with beheading. Huch is currently being protected by German police and says that he is not afraid, but has taken additional security precautions to avoid a potential assassination attempt.
Addressing the recent violence in Hamburg, German Police Union chairman Rainer Wendt said that police in the city had “experienced life-threatening brute force” and went on to warn that the continued clashes between supporters of the Islamic State and the Kurdish community was “threatening to unleash a proxy war on German soil.” Joachim Lenders, head of the Police union in Hamburg, said “The violence in the early hours of Wednesday was of a ruthless and inhuman brutality as I have rarely experienced.”
The night of savage violence in Hamburg is not expected to be the last confrontation between Kurds and ISIS supporters in Germany and the nation’s police remain in a state of readiness, in anticipation of further confrontations.
Graham J Noble