The Tragic death of three Kurdish female activists in Paris
Fazel Hawramy, 16 January 201, Slemani in Iraqi Kurdistan
Last week, three Kurdish female activists originally from the Kurdish region in southeast Turkey were gunned down in Paris. One of the women, Sakine Cansiz was a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), an insurgency group which originally aimed to establish an independent Kurdish state but later changed its aim to creating an autonomous region within Turkey. Cansiz was present at the first meeting in the village of Fis near Diyarbakir (known as Amed by Kurds) in 1978 where the PKK was formed by a group of poor but dedicated Kurdish students from the rural areas.
The French Interior Minister Manuel Valls visited the scene of the crime in Paris the same day the bodies were found (Thursday, Jan 10) and labelled the murders ‘political assassination”. He vowed to do everything possible to bring the perpetrators to justice. President Hollande called the murders “terrible” and claimed that he and other French politicians knew the women as they had gone to see the French politicians.
The murders sent shock waves through the Kurdish communities and Turkey, and as veteran Turkish journalist Cengiz Candar put it “the Kurds were profoundly upset, while Turks were strongly disturbed.” Notwithstanding this, the Turkish Prime Minister rushed to judgment by stating without providing any tangible evidence that the ‘internal feuds’ within the PKK may have been behind the murders. He, however, stays cautiously hopeful peace talks could end a conflict that has brought nothing but “pain, blood and tears” to Turkey.
The Kurds on the other hand point out that shadowy groups associated with the Turkish army and the Turkish “deep state” we’re responsible for the murder of hundreds of Kurdish activists, politicians, lawyers and journalists in the 1990s and they maybe behind these murders too. The Independent Newspaper stated in an editorial (Turkey and its Kurds must keep talking) that the element within the Turkish deep state maybe responsible. The Foreign Policy took a similar line by pointing to the ultra Turkish nationalist elements opposed to the recent and nascent peace process between the PKK and the government of Prime Minister Erdogan.
It has now transpired that the French, German and possibly other European police forces were aware of the high profile nature of the main victim Sakine Cansiz and may have some leads to pursue those behind what Amnesty International called ‘political killings“. The right group called on French authorities to conduct a “prompt and thorough” investigation and called on the Turkish authorities to “cooperate fully in the investigation to bring those responsible to justice.”
The New York Times revealed that Sakine Cansiz told her brother before her death that she believed she was “under frequent surveillance“. A 2007 State Department cable from its Ankara Embassy released by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks in 2010 warns about Cansiz as one of the “most notorious PKK/KGK financiers…weapons and tactical strategist” in Europe. The lawyer of one of the victims has stated recently that the French police have many leads as two of the women were under surveillance. Prime Minister Erdogan also stated last week that Turkey informed France in November 2012 about Cansiz’s presence in France.
What is possible to state with almost certainty is that Sakine Cansiz was the “real target” of the assassination as Kendal Nazan the head of Kurdish Institute in Paris who knew the woman stated on France 24 a few days ago. The other two women Fidan Dogan and Leyla Söylemez were activists in Europe but not prominent enough to be targeted in such a way in the capital of a European country.
Sakine Cansiz was a 55 year old Alevi Kurd from Dersim region in southeast Turkey where Turkish forces in 1938 put down a rebellion and in the process killed more than 40,000 Kurds mainly women and children. Sabiha Gokcen, the adopted daughter of Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey, who was the first female warplane pilot in the region dropped bombs over the Kurdish villages.
Sakine Cansiz was imprisoned in Diyarbakir’s notorious prison Number 5 known as “The Hell” by the Kurds and tortured throughout her incarceration. Cansiz reportedly defied her interrogators and in one incident spit in the face of the notorious prison director. Almost all the current leadership of the Kurdish movement in Turkey including prominent politicians such as Ahmet Turk and Gultan Kisanak were tortured in the same prison around the same time Cansiz was imprisoned there.
Cansiz was close to the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan who has been imprisoned in Imrali prison in the sea of Marmara since February 1999 when he was detained in an operation in Kenya allegedly involving the CIA, Mossad and the Turkish intelligence agents. His arrest sparked worldwide violent protest by the Kurds and in particular across Europe, the memory of which still troubles the police forces across Europe and Britain.
The Kurds have been protesting peacefully since the death of the three women was revealed and many are impatiently waiting for answers from the French police which maintained a close eye on Cansiz before her death.
Almost all the parties involved in the conflict which has cost the Turkish economy $300 billion dollars since 1984 have stated that the contact between the Kurdish leader Ocalan and the Turkish government continue. Aliza Marcus, a Turkey Kurd expert who reported for Reuters from Turkey in the 1990s and who was put on trial by the Turkish government in 1995 for reporting the atrocities of the Turkish army in the Dersim areas wrote in the New York Times that the Turkish government should talk to the pro Kurdish Peace and Democracy party (BDP) as the main interlocutor for peace rather than Ocalan’. She also called on the Turkish government to put everything on the negotiating table apart from the territorial integrity of the country and stated that disarming the PKK should be at the end of the process and not the beginning.
Hugh Pope of the International Crisis Group also writes about the peace process for Bloomberg and stated:
“To reach its goal of disarming and reintegrating the PKK insurgents, such a policy will have to include: removal of discrimination from the constitution and laws; releasing from custody the thousands of nonviolent Kurdish activists arrested since 2009; full mother-language education where there is sufficient demand; a lowering of the national election threshold from 10 percent to the European norm of 5 percent, to allow the legal Kurdish party to compete fairly; and real work on Turkey’s political decentralization.”
Kadri Gursel, a Turkish Journalist-political columnist, wrote in Al-monitor that the government of Justice and Development Party (AKP) approach to the peace process “negotiations with Ocalan, combat against the PKK.” Is unhelpful and “the sooner the Turkish officials realize that this can’t go on like this, the better will be the odds of salvaging future peace.”
As the bodies of the three activists are flown to Turkey for burial on Wednesday in the Kurdish region, Reuters reports that the French investigators have given no indication as to who might be responsible for the deaths.
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