Kurds from around Europe demonstrate over killings in Paris

PARIS (AP) — Thousands of Kurds from around France and Europe marched through Paris on Saturday to show their anger over the unresolved killing of three Kurdish female activists in the French capital 10 years ago.

The marchers are also mourning three people killed outside a Kurdish cultural center in Paris two weeks ago in what prosecutors called a racist attack.

Kurdish activists from Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium arrived in buses, escorted by police, and joined fellow Kurds from France in a peaceful march through northeast Paris. The demonstration was timed to mark the 10th anniversary of the killings of Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez on Jan. 9, 2013.

Cansiz was a founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist group.

Kurdish activists suspect the Turkish intelligence service was involved in the killing. The suspected attacker, a Turkish citizen, died in French custody before the case reached trial. Turkish officials suggested at the time that the killings may have been part of an internal feud among Kurdish activists or an attempt to derail peace talks.

Marchers carried banners bearing the victims’ portraits, as well as flags for the PKK, which is banned in Turkey.

Berfin Celebm, a 26-year-old who came from Amsterdam for the march, accused Turkey of involvement in both the 2013 and 2022 attacks.

“I want to support my struggle and I want to support Kurdish women,” she told The Associated Press.

While most marchers were Kurdish, the crowd also included left-wing French activists and some ethnic Turks.

“Today we are here to support our Kurdish friends because I am Turkish myself, and it is very important, because what is happening with the Kurdish people can happen to us as well tomorrow,” said Ibrahim Halac, a Turkish man living in Paris.

Organizers sought to keep the crowd contained. Paris police were on alert Saturday after skirmishes at Kurdish gatherings in the past, notably in response to last month’s shooting.

After the Dec. 23 attack, the suspected assailant told investigators he had a “pathological” hatred of non-European foreigners, according to prosecutors. He was handed preliminary charges of racially motivated murder, though Kurdish activists suspect the attack was politically driven.

Turkey summoned France’s ambassador last week over what it called propaganda by Kurdish activists in France after the shooting.

The PKK has waged a separatist insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. Turkey’s army has battled Kurdish militants affiliated with the PKK in southeast Turkey as well as in northern Iraq, and recently launched a series of strikes against Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria.

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Angela Charlton contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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