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An Article written by

Mascha Wendler

Astrid Juckenack

Konstantin Flemig is a German filmmaker, journalist and lecturer. His work often covers stories from war-ridden areas. In his award-winning documentary “Picturing War” (2015) Konstantin follows the young war reporter Benjamin Hiller to Syria, Iraq and Ruanda and elucidates the challenges of journalists how to portray a war.

Yazidis are a religious minority in Iraq and Syria as well as Armenia, Georgia and Turkey. Because of growing intimidation and discrimination in these areas, they increasingly migrated to Germany and other European states since the 1990s. In 2014 the Salafist jihadist terrorist organization Islamic State committed a genocide against the Yazidis in Iraq, which lead to enslavement, murder and displacement of several thousands of people. 

Timo Leimeister, Astrid Juckenack and Mascha Wendler interviewed Konstantin for MVAI about his view on the current situation in Afrin, northeastern Syria, where the Yazidis are in fear to experience another outbreak of mass violence against them. 

MVAI: What kind of situation do Yazidis face in Afrin right now? 

Konstaintin Flemig: A very serious one, that is for sure. All the civilians in Afrin face the risk of being killed by airstrikes, even those living far away from the frontlines. Medical authorities in Afrin have counted more than 100 dead civilians. If the operation continues, these numbers will climb. And because there is a shortage of medical equipment and medicine, the suffering of those who have been injured will continue as well. For the Yazidis, there is also the threat of falling into the hands of jihadist rebel groups, who fight alongside the Turkish Army. There is a great fear among the Yazidis in Afrin, that there will be new massacres. 

MVAI: What is your personal prediction in regard to the current offensive in that area? 

Konstantin: I really do not see what Turkey wants to achieve in the long run. The fights are getting bloodier every day, and so far the territorial gains haven’t been really worth mentioning. Though most of the dying is done by the rebel allies of Turkey, there are more and more Turkish soldiers dying in the fights. And for what? Even if they would conquer the whole of Afrin, what is the master plan? Turkish forces and Islamist rebels occupying an area mainly populated by ethnic Kurds, with thousands of trained and armed guerilla fighters around. The Russians had this kind of situation in Afghanistan, and the Americans got to experience the consequences of being an occupant that is viewed as the enemy by the local population when they invaded Iraq. If this war continues, more dead will follow. Military as well as civilian. 

https://www.konstantinflemig.com/, Konstantin Flemig

MVAI: In what way does this relate to the genocide perpetrated by the Islamic State in August 2014? 

Konstantin: So far there has not been any massacre against Yazidis in Afrin that we know of. But keep in mind: The Turkish Army and its allies do not have control over that much territory. But that might change. Some of the rebels fighting for Turkey are hardcore Sunni islamists. I cannot say if they have genocidal plans like ISIS did, but if you look at the ethnic and inter-religious violence that happened in the rest of Syria in the past few years, I am sure the Yazidis in Afrin are not afraid for no reason. 

MVAI: What are your thoughts about the current news coverage about Yazidis in Afrin? What should people be informed about? 

Konstantin: It is very hard to get independent information from Afrin. As a journalist who has done some work in so called “crisis zones”, I would like the European media to cover human rights abuses and war crimes far more extensive, but my general impression at this moment is, that the media is doing its job and informing the public about what happens there. In my opinion, there should be more coverage all year round about Western weapon exports. Because in times of war we look at the pictures from the battlefield and say “Well, my! Isn’t that one of the tanks we sold to the Middle East getting blown up by one of the missiles we sold to the Middle East as well?” And when the war ends, we seem to forget about it – and the weapons trade continues. That has to stop. 

MVAI: Do you have contact to journalists in the area, and do you know about the obstacles they have to face? 

Konstantin: No, unfortunately not. Getting into Afrin might have been possible via the areas held by the Syrian regime. But since Mr. Assad continues gassing and bombing civilians in northern Syria as well, I do not know if he is to keen about having independent journalists working in the region. 

MVAI: Considering the German-Turkish relationship: what kind of responsibility does the German government have in your opinion? 

Konstantin: They have been selling heavy weapons to Turkey. Weapons that are used at this very moment. The responsibility of the German government is to do everything in its power, to stop the killing and bring both sides to the negotiation table. 

MVAI: Thank you for the interview, Konstantin, and good luck with all your future projects!

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