Germany: Kurdish-Lebanese criminal clans

Germany: Kurdish-Lebanese criminal clans

They despise everything which doesn't belong to their cultural sphere: in Berlin, Bremen and Essen, Kurdish-Lebanese clans dominate entire streets - and even threaten the police.

When Hussein E was shot to death on Jan. 30, 2009, it was a murder with a message.

A few weeks before his death, the Lebanese sought help: he felt massively threatened and afraid, a victim of an upcoming act of revenge.  And in fact, his murderer ambushed him in the Bremen suburb of Schwanewede. Hussein E. (43) died at the scene of bullet wounds, his wife was seriously injured.  The murder on the street was the first conclusion to a typical bloody confrontation between the Kurdish-Lebanese clans in Bremen.

The feud began on Good Friday 2006, when Hussein E. together with six other men stormed into a pub to settle a score with members of enemy clans.  An 18 year old was killed in the attack, three other people were seriously injured.

It was probably about stolen drugs, in 35 days of trial the Bremen court could not clear up the exact background.

The four main perpetrators were deported to Lebanon, where they were freed on bail.  Three other attackers were given prison sentences in 2007 - including Hussein E., who knew that once he was released, he would be the target of a blood vendetta.

This is because the clans administer their own justice.


Dieter Kopetzki says these crimes are not uncommon. He heads the department for organized crime in the Bremen Police.  For years he and his colleagues of the Landeskriminalamt (national criminal investigation unit) are occupied by a very specific clientele: Members of the Kurdish-Lebanese clans dominate the cocaine market and the red-light district.  They provide a 'focal point of crime', as Kopetzki puts it - not only in Bremen, but also in Essen and particularly in Berlin.  These three cities are the German headquarter of the clans.

The chronically understaffed police are often powerless.  Agents can't infiltrate into the hermetically closed community of blood-ties.  It is already difficult to resolve the identity of suspect, as many Lebanese refugees destroy their passports when entering Germany.  Kopetzki says about Bremen that the problem won't be solved by the police.  The structures are too entrenched.

His colleagues in Essen and Berlin have similar stories about the clans.  There are stories of violence, but particularity of failed integration into German society.

In Berlin alone there are twelve Kurdish-Lebanese clans, according to the police, each with several hundred members and branches throughout Europe and the Middle East.  Most fled the civil war in their homeland in the 80s, while others took advantage of the chaos after the fall of the Berlin wall and crossed the border in 1990.  Overall, more than 200,000 people are estimated to have immigrated from Lebanon to Germany.

Asylum laws favored almost complete isolation: parents couldn't work for years, children were freed of obligatory schooling.

This produced a generation of near-illiterates, says Ralph Ghadban, a social scientist in Berlin, who himself comes from Lebanon.  These failures are now taking their toll.

Although half of the refugees now have German citizenship, most never really 'arrived' in their new home.  On the contrary, they isolate themselves more and more.  Ghadban says that by now the second generation of Lebanese immigrants constitute a danger to social peace.  From their ranks come many of the multiple-offenders, young men who already in primary school took up a criminal career.

The disastrous consequences of this development for the urban society can be seen in Berlin: in 2008 the police registered 1,200 such 'multiple offenders', 71% of which were of immigrant background, and of those the Lebanese were disproportionally represented.

Proper ghettos have emerged in the Neukölln and Wedding districts.  Here the clans rule, state regulations and laws barely apply. Disputes are judged privately - or, as in Bremen, decided with weapons.


A worker for the Neukölln district says that the clans never charge others and there's no way to know what happens on the inside.

He wants to remain anonymous, just like the lawyer who for years defended clan members all across Germany, but is nevertheless horrified by their patriarchal structures and violence.  He says that at least his fees are being paid promptly.  A large portion of his clients live on welfare, at least officially. 

Similarly, a Lebanese native, who for years has been promoting intercultural understanding, also doesn't want his name mentioned: he's considering moving from Neukölln , as did the German and Turkish middle-class before him.  Whoever wants to remain alive, goes away.  He says his children shouldn't go to school and not meet Germans.

Back in the neighborhood welfare recipients, Arab families, often with 8-10 children, are living in cramped apartments.  The list of integration projects in Neukölln alone is now thicker than a book, but the trend towards poverty can't be stopped by language courses and youth clubs.  If this trend continues, Berlin sociologist Hartmut Häußermann warned last year, then within a decade three quarters of Neukölln resident would live in 'precarious conditions'.

Kirsten Heisig knows what this means.  As a youth court judge in the Tiergarten court she is also responsible for Neukölln.  She says that in some streets in the districts conditions are abysmal, and that it's ghetto-like.

Heisig brought trouble upon herself with such declarations, since she expressed them publicly in an interview three years ago.

Her opponents in the Berlin justice department accused her of profiling, but Heisig doesn't want to stay silent.  As youth judge she deals with children of Arab family almost every day.  The boys are left to themselves, skip school, rob gambling halls, drugstores and sex-shops.

They despise everything which doesn't belong to their cultural sphere - German above all, but also Turkish: The parents reject the legal system and this carries over to the children, says Heisig.  Help is unwanted.  Social workers report to the court that on visiting families they are threatened and spat on.


Work has become risky for the police too.  Agents repeatedly face angry crowds, even when they just want to give parking tickets.

A recent example: when a special response unit arrested two con-men in Neukölln on May 6th, a riot started on the street: About 50 people of immigrant background threatened the agents, according to the police report.  The situation calmed down only when reinforcements were requested.

Eberhard Schönberg says that it's not a big thing in Berlin anymore since it happens almost every day.  The chairman of the GdP Police Union knows of cases in which colleagues had to barricade themselves inside shops.  He says that the state's authority is often completely lost here.

Berlin police reports rarely mention the origin of the offender for typical crimes in the community - out of fear of feeding racist resentments.  when in April four men committed a brutal attack on a supermarket, only the internal protocol stated that the perpetrators came from Lebanon and that all had been previously convicted for similar crimes.


According to Nader Khalil the taboo causes the exact opposite result: He says it must be clearly discussed. He says that people shouldn't give the political right the opportunity to exploit it.

Khalil immigrated to Germany from Lebanon 29 years ago.  As a Muslim he sits in the Neukölln council for the CDU (Christian Democratic Union).  He says that in addition social work, significant punishments are also needed: We have to enforce liberal order.

He is supported by German-Turkish journalist and author Güner Balci.  She says that organized crime in Kurdish-Lebanese clans functions partially on the basis of archaic tribal structures.  The causes for this must be taken into account for an honest analysis.

Güner Balci knows what she's talking about: she grew up in Neukölln and was a social worker there.  But in her experience many social workers see the police as the enemy and in this way promote criminal careers instead of preventing them.  It is the most important job  of the youth service, besides offering children attractive leisure activities and setting boundaries.

But in Berlin all that is far away: according to youth judge Heisig, 20% of elementary school children don't show up for class.  Others come weeks later after visiting relatives in Lebanon.  There are rarely consequences - though the school could fine the parents.  Heisig says that this conduct calls out for setting limits.  De-escalation is seen as retreat.

Apparently national norms are enforced in the clan world only by coercion.  Berlin authorities shy away from the confrontation, particularly when it comes to children of Arab families and when resistance is expected.


In Essen, the third metropolis of the clans, the police tried to deliberately display their presence, when several years ago agents were told at a checkpoint to 'fuck off, this is our street'.

Bremen investigator Kopetzki thinks it will have little effect: court rulings which allow for deportation of the perpetrators are more important.

The bottom line is that German social workers, police and justice officials make little impression on the clans.  On Jan. 25, 2009, several millions euro worth of jewelry were stolen from the Berlin KaDeWe department store.  The suspects included two Lebanese from Rotenburg in Lower Saxony, also members of a notorious clan who are responsible for many crimes.  The two 27 year old brothers Hassan and Abbas O. were freed soon after their arrest.  Because they are identical twins, the DNA traces found at the crime scene could not be clearly classified.  After their release in March they said they are proud of the German constitutional state and thank it.

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung (German), h/t Politically Incorrect

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