News / Europe

Kurds, Turks Trade Blame in Activists' Slayings

Flags, flowers and candles displayed by members of the Kurdish community are seen in front of the entrance of the Information Centre of Kurdistan where three Kurdish women were found shot dead, in Paris, January 11, 2013.
Flags, flowers and candles displayed by members of the Kurdish community are seen in front of the entrance of the Information Centre of Kurdistan where three Kurdish women were found shot dead, in Paris, January 11, 2013.
Lisa BryantDorian Jones
The Turkish government and Kurdish rebels traded accusations on Friday about who is behind the assassinations of three Kurdish activists in Paris. Each suggests hardliners on the other side may have had a hand in Thursday's murders.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the shooting was most likely the result of an internal feud among the Kurds, noting that the building required an access code to unlock the door.

"Those three people opened the door," he said. "No doubt they wouldn't open it to people they didn't know."

Turkish officials said the slayings also could be aimed at derailing peace talks between Ankara and the PKK's jailed leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK has been fighting for greater autonomy in Turkey for nearly three decades.

European Countries with Large Kurdish PopulationsEuropean Countries with Large Kurdish Populations
European Countries with Large Kurdish Populations
European Countries with Large Kurdish Populations
Kurds blame Turks

Kurdish politicians in Turkey disputed claims of an internal feud among Kurds. Aysel Tugluk, a pro-Kurdish member of parliament, pointed the finger at elements within the Turkish state

"Whenever we, Kurds and Turks, start to talk, similar provocations come forward and aim to prevent the process to go ahead," she said, "My personal belief is that there are still deep state forces in Turkey and this looks like an operation to sabotage the peace process."

Kurdish Shooting Victims in France

Sakine Cansiz
  • Founding member of Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK
  • Former PKK guerrilla
  • Jailed in Turkey from 1978-1991, reportedly subjected to torture
  • Helped lead PKK efforts to secure financial, political support from Europe's Kurdish exile community

Fidan Dogan
  • Head of the Information Center for Kurdistan in Paris
  • French representative of Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress
  • Raised in France

Leyla Soylemez
  • Young Kurdish activist working in Paris.
The “deep state” is a phrase often used in Turkey for rogue elements of the state with strong nationalist tendencies.

Songul Karabulut, executive committee member of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress, said such professional killings could only have been authored by an important organization - perhaps a shadowy militia group with ties to the Turkish state.

Karabulut called the deaths a provocation by those who don't want the Kurdish problem resolved. It comes at a time of turmoil in Kurdish regions of Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iran, she said.

Murder probe begins

Police in France say they have opened a murder investigation.

Those killed include Sakine Cansiz, a senior member of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. She reportedly was headed the PKK's women's movement in Europe. The two others apparently worked as lobbyists and liaisons for the Kurdish cause in Europe.

In downtown Paris, drivers slowed down to stare at a small crowd gathered on the sidewalk of Rue Lafayette. Police barricaded the entrance of number 147, where the three were slain inside an information center.

Mamon Arikan was among those paying their respects on a cold, grey morning.

"We start to come to Paris in order to give all the enemies of the Kurdish people the message that we will not stop fighting for our freedom and our independence," Arikan said. "And we are not afraid of anybody. If they are killing us, we will not [be victimized]."

At the Kurdistan Arts and Culture Academy, about a 15-minute walk away from the shootings, hundreds of people gathered to commiserate and watch the latest news on Turkish TV. The academy's president, Murat Polat, denounced the killings as an act of cowardice.

Polat said he hopes the French government not only will find the killers quickly, but also those who ordered the assassinations.

Kurds in Europe

Kurds are relative newcomers to Western Europe. Many came here as immigrant workers in the 1960s and '70s. Germany and France have two of the largest Kurdish communities.

This is not the first time a Kurdish opposition leader has been killed in Europe. The head of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan was murdered in Vienna more than two decades ago. Authorities have yet to find the assassins.

Polat said that each time the Kurdish community is attacked, it rises up even stronger. Kurds like himself, he said, gather courage because they believe their fight is just.

Labelled a terrorist group by the United States and European Union, the PKK has waged a three-decade fight against Turkey for greater autonomy that resulted in the deaths of 40,000 people. Its cause has gathered much support within the Kurdish community in Turkey and among the diaspora.

Kurds have been staging demonstrations across Europe to protest the Paris killings. Another is planned for Saturday in Paris.

  • The body of one of three Kurdish women is taken out of the building where they were killed, Paris, France, January 10, 2013.
  • Portraits of presumed victims are seen pinned on a member of the Kurdish community's coat as they gather next to the entrance of the Information Centre of Kurdistan in Paris, France, January 10, 2013.
  • Kurdish people react as three bodies of the killed Kurdish women are taken out of a building in Paris, France, January 10, 2013.
  • Kurdish people gather in front of the building where three Kurdish women were killed in Paris, France, January 10, 2013.
  • Kurdish activists gather outside a building where three Kurdish women were shot dead, in Paris, France, January 10, 2013.

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Comment Sorting
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
January 12, 2013 9:46 AM
Unquestionably a henious and cowardly act, by the entity that ordered/committed this criminal terrorist act, let us hope they catch/punish the criminals responsible. The Kurdish people are ancestral people, just like the Greeks, Celts, Basques, Catalan, Persian(Iranians), Israeli(Jewish), Hindu, Chinese, many American+/many African+ Asian+ many more aboringinal tribal people, etc. Each one of these ancestral peoples must have a full right to live in/over/on their ancestral homelands in security, safety, freedom, and also they must be able to live their lives in their cultures. It is unfortunate, that dastardly empires, and not just European ones, in many cases unsuccessfully tried to destroy these ancestral peoples. It is fortunate, that these ancestral people had strong cultures and managed to survive against terrible persecutions/odds. Some of these ancestral people have cultures, that go back 2500 to 8000 years, and even more in some cases. These ancestral people need full protection; their rigths should codified in international laws. Such ancestral peoples should not need to have to struggle, to maintan their cultures, because of oppressive states, that have in the past and may even continue in the present, to errode/destroy these ancestral cultures/peoples. Where these ancestral people are persecuted, their human rights are violated, including the right to fully live in their culture, an international convention for their democratic/peacefull sessesion should be allowed for. In my view dastardly failed empires, such as it was the Ottoman Empire, decendant states should not be allowed to continue to oppress such ancestral people. Much of the global struggles, that we see around the world, relate to ancestral cultures trying to restablish themselves and fully recover their original land from past dastardly imperial colonists, and the arbitrary borders these empires deliberately established to destroy ancient cultures. Such machinations, in many cases displaced the ancestral people almost fully. The rest of us, descendants of colonists are not ancestral people, in the lands we now live on, and we should respect and help ancestral people mantain their cultures. We are seeing significant changes in many European/North American countries, including the decendant states of the imperialist, that caused the problems, that are helping ancestral people and cultures recover; that is the moral high ground.

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