News / Europe

Debate Roils in Turkey Over Responsibility for Paris Triple-Homicide

Funeral of three Kurdish activists shot in Paris, Diyarbakir, Turkey, Jan. 17, 2013.
Funeral of three Kurdish activists shot in Paris, Diyarbakir, Turkey, Jan. 17, 2013.
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Dorian Jones
— As the French investigation into the killing of the three Kurdish activists in Paris continues, debate is roiling in Turkey over who was responsible.
 
While some Kurds claim rogue elements of the Turkish state are behind the slayings, Turkish officials blame the slaying on a feud within ranks of the Kurdish rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), while other observers are speculate on the involvement of Iranian and Syrian elements.
 
"This massacre could have been stopped, but it wasn't," said Gultan Kisanak, co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party.
 
"Ankara bears a large share of the responsibility for the mysterious murder of three Kurdish women politicians," she said, blaming Turkish so-called "deep state" actors -- rogue elements of the state with strong nationalist tendencies that are often blamed for conspiracies against the present government and pro-Kurdish movement.
 
But accusations of state involvement have been strongly denied by Turkish officials, and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said late last week that the execution-style killings appear to be the result of an internal feud over recently announced talks between Ankara and Abdullah Ocalan, PKK's imprisoned PKK.
 
According to news reports, Ankara and PKK representatives have recently agreed on a framework for a peace plan, which would involve increasing Kurdish minority rights in exchange for disarmament of militants.
 
If internal feuding motivated the killings, says political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Bahcesehir University, it wouldn't be entirely unprecedented.
 
"My feeling is it looks like an internal affair of Kurdish circles in France, and it's not the first time," he said. "I hope the negotiators and politicians have drawn lessons from previous initiatives, which failed."
 
But some observers insist the deep state conspiracy isn't entirely off-point. Turkish-nationalist militants have a history of killing Kurdish activists seeking regional autonomy, even if such incidents were confined to Turkish soil.
 
Semih Idiz, diplomatic columnist for the Turkish daily Taraf, is looking to state actors in neighboring countries.
 
"It is known that Turkey has a problem with [Syria and Iran] at the moment," he says, pointing not only to the ongoing crisis in Syria, but Ankara's behind-the-scenes peace negotiations with PKK.
 
Prematurely announcing the existence of the behind-closed-doors talks, he says, has left Ankara vulnerable.
 
"By going open, all open, about meeting with the PKK, it provides an opportunity for outside forces and elements or countries to try intervene if it's in their interests," says Idiz.
 
In recent months, Ankara has accused both Tehran and Damascus of providing support for PKK in retaliation for Turkey's support of Syrian rebels. Both Iran and Syria have denied such allegations.
 
International relations expert Soli Ozel of Istanbul's Kadir Has University says throughout the three-decade conflict between the PKK and Turkish state, the country's neighbors periodically have used the PKK to apply pressure on Ankara.
 
"The regional context of the Kurdish problem is what complicates the politics of the Kurdish issue in Turkey," he says.
 
For now, both sides have committed themselves to continuing talks, but analysts warn that, with the political and diplomatic stakes so high, there may be further attempts to disrupt peace efforts.

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