In Syria, Kurdish fighters are not only holding Raqqa, which was a predominantly Arab city before the war, they have also captured oil fields in Deir al-Zour province in the southeast of the country, far from Kurdish areas in the north. New conflicts with the Arab population there are inevitable. Whoever conquers IS will not necessarily contribute to the stability of the nation.

And from the PKK perspective? In almost 15 years of ruthless interventionist policies in the Middle East, the U.S. military power has become the focus of a great deal of hatred. Those who join forces with America and reap territorial gains in the process, risk antagonising many groups and governments in the region.

So what happens when the day of reckoning comes? Will the United States then rush to help the PKK? And what about the political credibility of the cadre organisation? It is noticeable that the PKK isn't falling over itself to be particularly open about its alliance with American imperialism. When facing revolutionary-minded sympathisers, functionaries even appear rather embarrassed about it.

When Sinem Mohammed, the senior representative of the Syrian branch of the PKK in Europe, appeared in Hamburg, she spoke at length and in detail about female emancipation and the collective economy in "Rojava", the name given by the PKK to the territory it controls in northern Syria, but did not mention the role played by the U.S. in the successful campaign to oust IS. When questioned by Panorama, the political functionary conceded that her organisation is cooperating "militarily" with the U.S.. Which presumably means: there's no co-operation on any other level. But in a war, the military aspect is of course key.

Revolutionary nimbus reborn

"It's a dilemma, but it's an historic necessity," says Martin Dolzer, a representative of Germany′s Die Linke party to an audience in Hamburg. He recently took part in a protest against the prison conditions of PKK leader Ocalan. Demonstrators also celebrated the military successes in Rojava.

As always at such rallies, the Kurds were joined by Germans from the left wing. Some were carrying red flags, one with the hammer and sickle. "Up with international solidarity," chants the crowd. "I'm an anti-imperialist," asserts a young demonstrator with blonde hair. "But shouldn't you be grateful to imperialism right now? It's been helping the Kurdistan Workers' Party!" we point out. "At the moment it's right to work with the U.S.," says the young man. "But it does leave a bitter aftertaste. Of course, it's a contradiction."

For left-wingers in Germany and other European nations Rojava, liberated northern Syria, is like a new Cuba, almost like a reincarnation of the Vietcong. Sort of. If there wasn't this one distinction. Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh held their ground against U.S. imperialism. Rojava owes its existence to Washington.

The German PKK sympathiser with the hammer and sickle flag recognises the necessity of this co-operation with the Americans, but is under no illusions about the future: "When they no longer need you, they'll throw you away."

Stefan Buchen & Karaman Yavuz

© 2017

Translated from the German by Nina Coon

This article was originally broadcast on 26 October 2017 as a feature on Germany′s ARD Panorama programme

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Comments for this article: Strange bedfellows

"SDF" is in truth a code name for the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK" - is nonsense. SDF is a Syrian umbrella organisation of many militias. PKK is a political party in Turkey. However, both advocate for Democratic Confederalism. Also, PKK is not a "terrorist organisation". The terrorist is the Turkish AKP/

Pete03.11.2017 | 14:24 Uhr