Some accuse Ankara of pursuing a deliberate policy of thinning out its growing and restive Kurdish population.
Markus Soder, finance minister of the German state of Bavaria noted that last week’s controversial agreement stops Syrian refugees from arriving in the EU, but grants visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, including the country’s estimated 15 million Kurds.
“The visa-free travel could lead to many, many Kurds fleeing the Turkish government and coming to Germany. We would bring a domestic conflict of Turkey into our own homeland,” he told German broadcaster ZDF.
Kurdish activists in Germany fear that Ankara is using the influx of refugees into its territories to change the demographics of its Kurdish southeast and force many Kurds to leave Turkey.
“In the last six months alone Turkish military operations in northern Kurdistan caused half a million people to flee their homes. The Ankara government makes it easy for Arab refugees from Syria to become citizens in Turkey, and thereby change the demographics of the Kurdish regions, where they are being located to,” said Mehmet Tanriverdi, co-chair of the Kurdish Community in Germany (KGD).
With a very high Kurdish birthrate and a significantly lower Turkish birthrate, Turkey faces a massive demographic challenge in the next two to three decades. Some statistics say that Kurds could make up the country’s majority in the next 20 to 30 years.
“I think Erdogan intends to create a Kurdish exodus to counter the current demographics of the country,” said Sedat Cevdet, who fled his homeland 20 years ago.
He said that entry of the pro-Kurdish HDP party into parliament in last year’s legislative elections had been a wake-up call for the Ankara government.
“After the HDP’s entry into the parliament, the Ankara elite fears the Kurds, especially their rising numbers. In some Kurdish regions, you have five children per woman. In the Turkish areas you have mostly one or two per woman. That’s something Ankara is very anxious about.”
Last summer the Turkish government reignited a war with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for greater Kurdish rights for decades, shattering a fragile peace deal that was in the making.
With the pretext of cracking down on terrorism Ankara has been hitting the PKK with artillery and air raids, while ignoring global criticism of its policy toward jihadis of the Islamic State (ISIS) who have used Turkish territory to cross into Syria with impunity.
“An intended mass exodus could actually take place,” Tanriverdi warned.
Germany is already home to the largest Kurdish diaspora in the world, as well as the largest population of expatriate Turks. Tensions and clashes often flare between the two communities.