Turkey's spy network in Germany 'thicker than Stasi's'

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Emma Anderson - [email protected]
Turkey's spy network in Germany 'thicker than Stasi's'
Photo: DPA.

Turkey has around 6,000 informants working in Germany, which experts say means they're each monitoring more people than the Stasi did in West Germany during the Cold War.


A security politician told Die Welt that Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency has some 6,000 informants in Germany.

For Germany’s population of about 3 million people with Turkish roots, that means that each informant could be responsible for monitoring 500 people, which is a greater proportion than the Stasi had in West Germany, intelligence expert and author Erich Schmidt-Eenboom told The Local.

In comparison, Schmidt-Eenboom explained, the Stasi had around 10,000 agents in West Germany to monitor a population of roughly 60 million - meaning 6,000 people per agent.

The Ministry for State Security, also known as the Stasi, was communist East Germany's secret police force, which secretly monitored millions until the end of the Cold War and German reunification.

But the Stasi engaged primarily in gathering military, political or economic intelligence in West Germany, rather than targeting former citizens, as MIT seems to be doing in Germany, Schmidt-Eenboom said.  

“This is no longer about intelligence reconnaissance, but rather this is increasingly being used for intelligence repression,” Schmidt-Eenboom said.

Since a failed coup attempt in Turkey last month, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been enacting mass detentions in his own country of suspected opponents, including academics, journalists and military members.

Erdogan has blamed US-based writer and preacher Muhammad Fethullah Gülen for inciting the attempted coup.

"Turkey's internal conflicts between Gülen and Erdogan, and between Kurds and Turks have been brought into Germany, and are impacting the internal peace," Schmidt-Eenboom told The Local.

The informants in Germany are often unpaid supporters of Erdogan, and most are working “out of a sense of patriotism,” Schmidt-Eenboom explained.

‘Turning a blind eye’

These informants are putting pressure on Kurds, Gülen supporters and others perceived as being opponents, for example by calling for boycotts on their businesses, writing negatively about them in Turkish publications, or threatening their family members.

"They can go to the regular German police to complain about it, but this is difficult to do in this kind of parallel society," Schmidt-Eenboom said.

"The government feels that Turkey is an important partner in the refugee crisis, so they may turn a blind eye."

Germany’s Turkish population is the largest ethnic minority in the country. Many came through a guest worker programme in the 1960s.

Tensions between the government and the Kurdish population in Turkey have also risen over the past year since a ceasefire agreement broke down with the Kurdish PKK militant group. A report recently showed that the number of Kurdish Turks seeking asylum in Germany has ballooned in the first half of this year.

Green party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele on Monday called for the German parliament (Bundestag) to discuss Germany’s cooperation with the MIT once the parliament comes back from a summer break, demanding in a statement an to end “Turkey’s subversive intelligence activities in Germany”.

Specifically Ströbele plans to place the topic on the agenda of the parliamentary committee on Turkey.

The committee chair, Clemens Binninger, agreed that the role of the MIT in Germany should be addressed as soon as possible.

Binninger, from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, told Die Welt that “the recent events in Turkey have not only had an impact on the security situation, but also potentially on the collaboration of the intelligence agencies.”

Schmidt-Eenboom said it was time that German intelligence re-think its relationship with Turkey.

“Germany must reconsider working with such an intelligence agency,” he said. “People should know that this is an issue for internal security.”



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