From Kobane to Celle

Jens Schulz

Jens Schulz is a research intern at AICGS during the fall of 2014, where his duties include writing the AICGS Notizen Weekly, assisting with the contact database, summarizing AICGS events, and contributing to the AICGS Notizen Blog, as well as Social Media. He is particularly interested in the Foreign & Domestic Policy and Business & Economics Programs at AICGS, focusing on international relations theory, foreign policy, as well as education policies in Germany.

As a fellow of the Adenauer Foundation, Mr. Schulz is currently enrolled in the Graduate Gateway Program at American University in Washington, D.C. and is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Göttingen. He graduated from the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen in the summer of 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science. Mr. Schulz intends to eventually pursue a career in academia and education.

The serene town of Celle is home to 70,000 people in the state of Lower Saxony, more than 3,000 of which are Kurdish Yazidis. This town is mostly known for its picturesque old town center and its renaissance ducal palace. Thanks to its long lasting history of German nobility and almost 500 half-timber houses, it is a popular tourist attraction for both German and international visitors.

This small town in the heart of Germany has little to do with the devastating barbarism of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Yet, Celle became the site of surreal street riots as an offshoot of violence against Kurds in the Middle East. On Monday, October 6, Kurdish Yazidis started a quarrel with a Chechen man, who they had mistaken for a radical-Islamic Salafist. The families involved were able to settle the dispute. However, it was refueled by reports on continuous violence against Kurds in the Syrian city of Kobane. Consequently, radicals from both minorities found themselves in a mass brawl on the streets of Celle later that night. With hundreds of Islamic Chechens fighting against Kurdish Yazidis, nine people were hurt. A large police deployment was necessary to prevent further violence the following night.

That Wednesday, a representative of the Muslim community met for reconciliation talks with Yazidic representatives. Both communities distanced themselves from the violent incidents and demanded that all perpetrators should be called to account. Lower Saxony’s Secretary of the Interior, Boris Pistorius, criticized the abuse of private conflicts for ideological or ethnic violence. However, similar incidents occurred in the city of Hamburg. In Düsseldorf, protests against ISIL’s violence remained peaceful.

This surreal incident indicated how asymmetric conflicts cannot be contained by national borders anymore. They affect the neighboring countries, the region, and eventually the entire global community. After the international community took serious time to consider possible reactions, the United States and its allies decided to stop ISIL through targeted air strikes. Germany started equipping and training the Kurdish minorities in the area to defend themselves. Whereas these initial military steps were necessary to respond to the violence at hand, the incidents in Celle and Hamburg remind us of more far-reaching implications of our actions.

The way German authorities handled the violence in Celle and Hamburg showed how firmly the German people can rely on their law enforcement agencies and the rule of law. Iraq and Syria are not in such a position. Therefore, the international community must think beyond delivering weapons and bombing terrorists. They need to consider international regimes and institutions that secure the stability of the region. They need regimes that make sure weapons, which are now being delivered to Iraq, do not fall into the wrong hands.

Since ISIL is yet to pass its zenith, it might seem early to think about these long-term implications. But the moment the fights in Syria find their way to our doorstep, we know it’s about time to start thinking about the consequences for everyone involved.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.