KURDISH PKK CO-FOUNDER SAKINE CANSIZ SHOT DEAD IN PARIS
10 January 2013 Last updated at 15:48 GMT
The BBC’s Christian Fraser: “Apparently the doors of the institute
had been locked – when police forced their way in at 2am they found
Three Kurdish women activists – including a co-founder of the militant
nationalist PKK – have been found dead with gunshot wounds in a
Kurdish information centre in Paris.
The bodies of Sakine Cansiz and two others were found on Thursday.
France and Turkey both condemned the killings.
The motive for the shootings is unclear. Some 40,000 people have died
in the 25-year conflict between the Turkish state and the PKK.
However, Turkey has recently begun talks with the jailed PKK leader
Abdullah Ocalan, with the aim of persuading the group to disarm.
Guney Yildiz BBC Turkish It is the first time that such a senior
member of the PKK has been killed in Europe. There has been a tacit
agreement between the PKK and the Turkish government that no such
high-profile attacks would be carried out against either senior PKK
members or senior members of the government.
During the 1980s, there were some attacks believed to be from within
the Turkish state against members of the militant Armenian group Asala,
but there have been no political assassinations targeting the PKK.
The Paris killings come against the backdrop of fresh peace talks
between jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and the Turkish government.
Those talks have not been easy and have opponents on both sides.
The Turkish government says the previous round of peace talks was
derailed because of a clash between Turkish soldiers and the PKK in
Thursday’s killings will make the current negotiations even more
difficult, no matter who might be behind the attack.
French President Francois Hollande described the killings as
“horrible”, while Interior Minister Manuel Valls said they were
“surely an execution”.
“Rest assured that French authorities are determined to get to the
bottom of these intolerable acts,” he said.
“I condemn this violence,” Turkish government spokesman Bulent Arinc
told reporters. “This is utterly wrong. I express my condolences.”
The BBC’s James Reynolds in Turkey says two rival theories have
emerged about the killings.
The deputy chairman of the ruling party, Husein Celik, said that the
killings appeared to be the result of an internal Kurdish feud.
The theory was later picked up by other officials and commentators
in the Turkish media, who suggested that PKK factions opposed to the
talks were to blame.
But Kurdish activists said the killings were carried out by forces
in the Turkish state itself who wanted to derail the talks.
Our correspondent says that in Turkey many believe that there is a
so-called “deep state” – a powerful nationalistic establishment which
seeks to undermine the work of democratic governments and activists.
Locked doors The three women were last seen inside the information
centre on Wednesday afternoon. Later, a member of the Kurdish community
tried to visit the centre but found the doors were locked.
Hundreds demonstrated outside the scene of the killings Their bodies
– all three bearing gunshot wounds – were found in the early hours
One of them was Sakine Cansiz, who was detained and tortured in Turkey
in the 1980s, and was close to Ocalan.
A second woman has been named as Fidan Dogan, 32, who worked in the
information centre. She was also the Paris representative of the
Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress.
The third, named as Leyla Soylemez, was a young activist.
Who were the victims?
Sakine Cansiz: Founding member of the PKK, and first senior female
member of the organisation; while jailed, led Kurdish protest movement
out of Diyarbakir prison in Turkey in 1980s; after being released,
worked with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in Syria; was a commander
of the women’s guerrilla movement in Kurdish areas of northern
Iraq; later took a lower profile and became responsible for the PKK
women’s movement in Europe Fidan Dogan: Paris representative of the
Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress (KNC) political group;
responsible for lobbying the EU and diplomats on behalf of the PKK
via the KNC Leyla Soylemez: Junior activist working on diplomatic
relations and as a women’s representative on behalf of the PKK
Hundreds of members of the Kurdish community demonstrated outside
the information centre as Mr Valls arrived.
Mr Valls said the French authorities were determined to “shed light
on this act”.
“In this neighbourhood, in this Kurdish information centre, in the
10th arrondissement [district] where many Kurds live, I also came
to express my sympathy to the relatives and close friends of these
three women,” he said.
A representative of the Federation of Kurdish Assocations in France
(Feyka), Leon Edart, told the French BFM news channel that there were
no CCTV cameras in the office.
The PKK took up arms in 1984, and demands greater autonomy for Turkey’s
Kurds, who are thought to comprise up to 20% of the population.
It is regarded by Turkey, the US and European Union as a terrorist
organisation, because of its attacks on Turkish security forces
In 2012 it stepped up its attacks, leading to the fiercest fighting
in decades, but violence has subsided during the winter.