German court rejects ban on YPJ flag

Wladimir van Wilgenburg
3 min readDec 19, 2020


Protestors wave flags of the YPG and YPJ during a protest in Germany. (Photo: DPA/Ralf Hirschberger)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) — The Bavarian Supreme Regional Court on Tuesday denied the German public prosecution’s appeal to prosecute a Kurdish activist who waved a Kurdish Women Protection Units (YPJ) flag during a protest.

According to Neues Deutschland, the Munich public prosecution wanted to fine Kurdish activist Kemal G. for 2,400 Euro’s for using the ‘banned flag’ during a protest in solidarity with Syrian Kurds and the Turkish attack on Afrin in 2018. The flag according to the prosecutors was associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

However, a German court in the Bavarian capital of Munich in mid-June acquitted Kemal G. But the Munich public prosecution did not accept the judgment and appealed against the ruling.

In March 2017, the German Interior Ministry issued a notice to all states with the title “Update on the PKK ban” and prohibited various Kurdish symbols including YPG (People’s Protection Units), YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) and PYD (Democratic Union Party) flags.

The Ministry said the ban was an “update” to the PKK ban in place since 1993.

The PKK is a Kurdish rebel force currently engaged in a decades-long war with the Turkish government for broader Kurdish rights.

Turkey, the European Union, and the United States label the PKK a “terrorist” organization.

Turkey has accused the YPG of being an offshoot of the PKK, although the US disagrees with its NATO ally, and even provides military support to the Kurdish forces in Syria in the fight against ISIS. The YPG has also denied being linked to the PKK.

Read More: Syrian Kurds call on Germany to abolish YPG flag ban

Despite of the notice, many local courts since then, such as the court in Berlin, have ruled against the ban on YPG and YPJ flags, resulting in de-facto of easing of the de facto ban.

But there are still conservative states, such as Bavaria, where the ban continued. Several activists had to appear in court, and their homes were searched for having YPG flags.

The decision by the Supreme Court could end the prosecution of pro-YPG activists in Bavaria. As a result, it’s a big setback for the German Justice Minister Horst Seehofer who issued the YPG/YPJ flag ‘ban’ notice to all German federal states, German media reports.

The pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency (ANF) reported that the court ruled that the protests “that the YPJ are fighting on the side of the USA against ISIS. Addressing these issues is not propaganda for the PKK, even if there are political and personal ties between the YPJ and the PKK.”

The home of the Kurdish academic Kerem Schamberger, a well-known pro-left-wing activist, was raided in November 2018 for “solidarity with the YPG.” He also faced many judicial issues in Germany due to his pro-Kurdish stance.

Schamberger told Kurdistan 24 that the court decision is a victory for the Kurds living in Germany, since many of them wanted to “show their solidarity with the YPG and YPJ in Rojava in their fight against Daesh (ISIS) and also against the Turkish aggression. So it’s a big success.”

He also underlined the court decision was the result of the work of activists who continued using YPG and YPJ flag online and in real life despite of the ban. “So they even couldn’t even persecute all of them and this also showed the ridiculousness of this prosecution of the flag.”

However, Schamberger that the underlying fundament for the prosecution of Kurdish symbols is the PKK ban in German from 1993. “And I even fear that the YPG and YPJ might be made illegal as a whole. In that case not only showing their flags will be banned, but even YPG leaflets, etc.”

Nevertheless, he said there is so far no sign that the German Interior Ministry would take such a decision.

“But it’s obvious that they wont give up after this defeat. I think the prosecutor was very angry. There will be some further repression against us (Kurdish activists), but for now these days we can celebrate this success, which was the result of pressure from the street.”

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Wladimir van Wilgenburg

Jamestown Analyst & freelance journalist based in Kurdistan vvanwilgenburg m