Activists Killed in Paris – Murders Jeopardize Turkish-Kurdish Peace Talks

A portait of PKK activist Sakine Cansiz outside the Kurdish cultural center in Paris where she and two other Kurdish women were found dead on Thursday.

By Jürgen Gottschlich

In recent weeks, a solution to Turkey’s long-running conflict with Kurdish separatists seemed near. But after three Kurdish activists were found murdered in Paris on Thursday, peace talks could now be in jeopardy.

Journalist Saruhan Oluç sounds resigned. “That’s how it is here,” he says. “A positive step has barely been made before another setback takes place.”

For years, Oluç has been working for a peaceful solution to Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish separatists. Now he is following the shocking news from Paris. Like many Turkish media commentators, he believes that the murder of three Kurdish activists in the French capital, discovered on Thursday, was an attack on the fresh dialogue that had just begun between the Turkish government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the main Kurdish rebel group classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey and most Western states.

French police don’t have any strong leads, but circumstances indicate that professional killers may have been at work at the Kurdish Information Center on Rue La Fayette in the 10th Arrondissement, where the killings took place. The three women there were shot in the head and the killer is believed to have used a silencer on the gun used. Even French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the slayings were “without doubt an execution.”

Kurds in France are calling the murders a “contract execution,” as one demonstrator gathered outside the scene of the crime put it. The protestors are visibly shocked. Two women dressed in black weep silently. But they are also outraged and disappointed with the French government, which under the leadership of Socialist President François Hollande has failed to change how the country deals with the conflict, or the fact that it continues to view the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Who Is Responsible?

The question of who was behind the killings remains unanswered. “Anything is possible,” says journalist Oluc. “Both opponents of the peace process within the PKK, or Turkish right-wing extremists linked to the security apparatus who oppose an agreement with the Kurds, are potential perpetrators.” Regardless, the bloody crime is likely to unnerve those working towards a peace deal.

Avni Özgürel, a journalist for the left-wing newspaper Radikal, believes that the real target is imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. One of the three victims on Thursday was Sakine Cansiz, a close companion of Öcalan’s. She was present when the PKK was founded in the late 1970s and spent years in the Diyarbakir Prison, notorious for the systematic torture that took place there, and later went on to become an important PKK representative in Europe.


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