Three Kurdish Women Killed in Paris, Including Co-Founder of Kurdish Activist Party

A PKK flag in Brussels. It is considered to be a terrotist  organization by the US and the EU.Photo: Flickr.com/Eoghan OLionnain

Flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party, considered to be a terrorist organization by the US and the EU.
Photo: Flickr.com/Eoghan OLionnain

PARIS. – Wearing yellow flags, hundreds of Kurds gathered yesterday in Paris. They situated themselves in front of the offices of a Kurdish association, where the bodies of three women had been found Wednesday January 9. The crime presented itself as anything but random – according to a police source, two of the women had been shot in the head “execution-style” and the third suffered from several abdomen wounds.

The morning of January 10, Interior Minister Manuel Valls was present on the scene and called the killings “unacceptable.” He promised that France would “quickly shed the light” on the three deaths.

The victims – Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez – are Kurdish activists and members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. Cansiz, a prominent figure and co-founder of the movement, was jailed and tortured for her involvement in the fight against Turkish authorities during the 1980’s. The face of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was plastered on many flags, and Cansiz was particularly close to Ocalan. Responsible for the PKK representation in Europe, Cansiz is believed to have been living in Paris for the past four years.

The group’s violent actions encourage its classification as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, yet the PKK is regarded as a freedom fighting group by many Kurds. The news of the deaths sparked protests in Ankara. The conflict between Kurdish independents and Turkish authorities has been going on for almost thirty years and has claimed about 40,000 lives. Despite the Turkish president’s promise in 2009 for more open policies, little progress has been made thus far. The summer of 2012 saw the return of some extreme violence amid the Syrian conflict with the death of 110 Turkish soldiers and 450 Kurd fighters.

After the conclusion of four deadly months in the conflict, both sides seemed to be willing to achieve progress, and the Turkish secret services began negotiations with Ocalan. Hoping to get the group to disarm, Ocalan was jailed in Turkey. Although unconfirmed, they are believed to have come to an agreement.

Bulent Arinc, Turkey’s government spokesman, offered his condolences and has condemned the attack. Ruling party deputy chairman, Huseyin Celik, claimed the attacks were the result of “an internal feud ” within the PKK and that they were an attempt at derailing the recent negotiations.

This theory was not shared by many protesters at the scene this morning – many of them were Diaspora Kurds and shouted “Turkey, assassin!” Human Rights Watch has criticized the Turkish State for the summary execution of PKK activists, but all cases were confined to Turkey.

Kurds are estimated to make up about 20% of the population of Turkey and the treatment of minorities is a major condition in considering the country’s accession to the EU. If the French police find any State involvement in the killings, the repercussions could hurt an already fragile candidacy for Turkey’s EU membership. Worse, however, would be if the police were to not catch the culprit. The anger of the Kurds is fueled by speculations that could bury the whole cease-fire process with the PKK all-together.

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