A massive brawl involving over 180 people broke out inside a terminal at Hannover Airport in Germany on Monday related to protests of Turkey’s military invasion of Kurdish areas in northwest Syria – an operation which began over the weekend and has received condemnation from multiple countries.
Turkish-Kurdish tensions have increasingly exploded into serious confrontations and violence within diaspora communities in Europe and the United States of late. Last May for example a huge brawl broke out between Erdogan’s bodyguards and Kurdish protesters outside the Turkish embassy in D.C. after the Turkish president’s private security detail attacked the pro-Kurdish activists, leaving a number of protesters with serious injuries.
And at an Erdogan speech delivered at a New York City hotel on the sidelines of a September UN meeting, pro-Kurdish Americans and Kurdish activists were again beaten by both Turkish security guards and rabid supporters of Erdogan, angry that protesters disrupted the speech.
Though not always picked up in international press, a quick search of social media shows that Turkish-Kurdish violence has become somewhat routine on the streets of Europe over the last few years. But the latest brawl is perhaps the first time an entire airport terminal was overtaken by mass violence between Kurds and Turks.
The footage can be viewed here:
…And footage from another angle showing the clashes:
— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_) January 22, 2018
The UK Daily Mail describes the scene as follows:
A mass brawl has broken out at a German airport, sparked by demonstrators protesting about Turkish military action against Kurdish fighters. Kurds who had gathered at airport for the protest came under attack from Turkish Airlines passengers, haz.de reported.
Video shows protesters waving flags exchanging punches with a group of men, who ran towards them, and some of the flags being used as improvised weapons. According to haz.de, the police had to use pepper spray to separate both sides.
Turkish media is predictably blaming Kurdish protesters for randomly attacking Turkish passengers; however, most international reports blame Turkish travelers for initially confronting and then attacking a group of Kurdish demonstrators. The video shows a pro-Kurdish, anti-Erdogan protester holding a flag stepping toward a crowd of presumably Turkish passengers, after which the flag-bearing man is punched – and from there chaos ensues. However, it is unclear if fighting had already broken out prior to the video recording.
Chants of “Fascist Erdogan” were reported as echoing through the airport terminal before the violence erupted. The dramatic footage shows both sides grabbing at flag poles to use as makeshift weapons while bystanders flea to safety, after which German police surrounded the terminal, placing it on lockdown.
Kurdish groups have accused Turkey’s Erdogan of seeking to ethnically cleanse Syrian Kurds residing along the Turkish-Syrian border, while Turkey claims it is fighting “terrorists” as it sees the US-backed YPG/J forces (“People’s Protection Units) as an extension of the terror designated PKK. Protests condemning the incursion, which Turkey has dubbed ‘Operation Olive Branch’, have taken place across multiple cities in the West, including New York City.
Photographed today in NYC:
Kurdish & Turkish activists protest against the Turkish Army’s invasion into #Afrin, civilian casualties & ongoing clashes against the anti-ISIS @DefenseUnits. #TwitterKurds #AfrinNotAlone #DefendAfrin #Efrin #Rojava #Syria pic.twitter.com/wnpopEPDaW
— Joey L. (@joeyldotcom) January 22, 2018
According to Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights – a pro-Syrian opposition media outlet – 21 civilians, including six children, have been killed in the operation as both the Turkish air force and artillery units have pounded urban areas in Afrin Canton, near Turkey’s border.
Likely, we have not witnessed the last massive Turkish-Kurdish diaspora street fight as international tensions over Turkish military action continues.