Berlin against the war
Protests against the escalation of tensions in the Middle East are taking place in Berlin. Left politicians have condemned both the Iranian regime and US warmongering. Meanwhile, a memorial service for Qassem Soleimani has caused controversy. Carmela Negrete reports.
The killing of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by a US army drone in Baghdad on January 3rd has led to worldwide protests, including in Berlin.
On Saturday, approximately 200 people gathered in front of the US embassy, close to the Brandenburg Gate. Under the motto “No war between the USA and Iran”, the gathering was convened by the Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft (German Peace Association).
Middle East expert Prof. Mohssen Massarat of Osnabrück University told the rally: "The [German] federal government must take all possible steps to prevent a war of the USA against Iran." He also said the withdrawal of German troops was "very important for the peace efforts in the region".
Prof. Massarat said Chancellor Merkel should send a message clearly condemning the human rights violations and breach of international law committed by the USA in ordering the assassination of General Soleimani.
"International law has to govern and not the violence of a hegemonic state," he said. "Conflicts must be regulated, contained and solved with the the participation of the UN." He said this was the normal method "to which the international community has committed itself."
Heike Hänsel, vice-chair of the Left faction in parliament also took part in the demo. He explained to the socialist newspaper Neues Deutschland the demand for the withdrawal from Iraq of German troops, who are involved in training Iraqi forces. "In the current situation, this training mission is irresponsible and does not help the stabilization of the region," he said. "On the contrary, German-trained Iraqi security forces have contributed to the suppression of recent demonstrations."
More than 500 people have been killed during the protests in Iraq in the last couple of months, Hänsel said. In addition, he highlighted how the training was contributing to the conflict between the Kurdish autonomous region in Northern Iraq and the central Iraqi government in Baghdad. "There has been fighting between Peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] trained by German troops and Iraqi security forces, who have also been trained by German forces." The Iraqi federal government should "rely on dialogue" instead, said Hänsel.
The members of parliament Dieter Dehm and Sevim Dağdelen, both from Die Linke, were present as well.
Dehm wrote on his website ahead of the protest: "Whoever still wants to prevent a world war should not just give advice for Iran but also take to the streets against US imperialism."
Dağdelen told the German broadcaster ZDF: "The Europeans must explain to president Trump that they will not support a US war against Iran."
Attention had already been drawn to the possible war on Iran, albeit with a quite different emphasis, by a memorial service for Soleimani in Berlin on Thursday.
Officials from the Turkish "Islamic Center Imam Ziza" in Neukölln, which organized the event, did not want to talk to the press.
Approximately 50 people demonstrated against the ceremony under the motto "Against Islamism and antisemitism, for human rights in Iran". The demonstrators, including Iranian exiles, carried American and Israeli flags. The participants chanted the slogan "Down with the Islamic Republic" and "Soleimani was a mass murderer".
General Soleimani's name had been on a list of international terrorists. Jörg Rensmann, political scientist and program director of the think tank "Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin" called for Germany to ban the pro-Iranian Hezbollah.
The organizers of the counter-protest wrote in their appeal: "We protest against the glorification of Islamic terror and antisemitism and in support of the democratic protests in Iran".
The planned memorial service had been criticized by the mayor of Neukölln, Martin Hikel (SPD), on Wednesday. He wrote on Facebook that “a memorial service for a terrorist is inappropriate”. The conflict in the Middle East “cannot be resolved in Neukölln, and we will not allow it to be continued here”, he said. He called for “restraint from all parties and a peaceful coexistence.”
During the protest and counter-protest in Neukölln, an announcement was made that the memorial service would instead take place in the district of Tempelhof, so it would not be disturbed. At the new venue, no-one wanted to confirm the event was happening. In front of the Islamic Center, the organizers had placed tables with homemade food and tea. The press was allowed to attend the ceremony. Not only Iranians, but people from other nations -- Afghans, Iraqis and Turks -- got together. Approximately ten counter-demonstrators from Neukölln came to Tempelhof and repeated their concerns.
A version of this article was published by Neues Deutschland. Reproduced with the author's permission. Translation by Ilona Addis