Sakine Cansiz, a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), was found shot dead along with two other Kurdish women activists in an execution style murder inside the Information Centre of Kurdistan, Paris in the early hours of Thursday. Sakine Cansiz, a senior female member and former commander of the PKK, was a close ally of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan who is in jail in Turkey. The killers have targeted Ms Cansiz at a time when negotiations were taking place between Turkey and PKK. Sources close to PKK leadership have ruled out allegations of internal dispute and said the execution style killings and the use of silenced weapons indicated that the killers were professional assassins. A similar assassination had been carried out on a key Eezham Tamil activist in Paris in November last year and the matter is yet to be resolved.
Paris becoming a location for such political assassinations of activists working for national liberation struggles raises concern in human rights circles.
The other two Kurdish women who have been slain were identified as Fidan Dogan, Paris Representative of the Kurdish National Congress, and Leyla Soylemez, political activist working as women’s representative on behalf of the PKK.
The murders elicited immediate protests from Kurds in Paris, who gathered at the spot of the crime. Further mass demonstrations have been planned in London on Friday and Sunday and in Paris on Saturday.
While some in the French and Turkish governments have condemned the killings, others have tried to use the tragic event to pick fault with the PKK. These include Huseyin Celik spokesperson of Turkey’s ruling party the AKP, who claimed that "it seems like an internal settling of scores within the PKK" and Hugh Pope, senior Turkey analyst for the International Crisis Group who said that the PKK "has a long history of killing its own people, too. So there’s no way anybody can jump to conclusions," from CNN reports.
CNN reports also cited the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) which demanded the French authorities to conduct a proper probe of the executions, as well as Roj Welat, a spokesperson for the PKK in northern Iraq, who had said that the PKK had not seen any claims of responsibility and was waiting for the results of the French investigation into the murders, as well as its own probe.
"It is an assassination, it is terror, it is ideological and political assassination, (a) terror attack against the Kurdish people," CNN reports quoted Roj Welat, who added that "Sakine Cansiz has been actively involved in the peace and democracy struggle, freedom struggle, of the Kurdish people for a long time. She was one of the women who participated in the formation of the PKK."
In a release following the assassinations, the Kurdish Federation in Britain called for an immediate “International Solidarity” for Kurdistan’s people. We appeal to the “International Communities” with our hearts and pain and urge them to take actions and put pressure on Turkey and French Government in order to solve those ruthless murders and bring peaceful solutions to the Kurdish question by dialogue and implementing democracy for Kurds not only in Turkey but in the Middle East too.”
Likewise, a release of the EU Turkey Civic Commission said “The reason of the killings and the forces behind are still to be unveiled – and they will be. These people should know that such killings or whatever provocation they might conduct in the future will not stop the ongoing peace process,” further appealing to France to stop the criminalization of Kurdish activists working for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question.