Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of the Turkish city of Diyarbakır today for the funerals of three female Kurdish activists shot dead in Paris last week.
“The martyrs’ path is our path,” the crowds chanted as the three coffins were paraded to the main public square.
Fidan Dogan, Leyla Söylemez and Sakine Cansız, one of the founders of the separatist Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), were gunned down in an execution-style shooting last week, which many believe may have been an attempt to derail the early stages of peace talks between Ankara and the militant group after three decades of conflict. No group has claimed responsibility for the killings, and French police have yet to make any arrests. The event was surrounded by heavy security amid fears that tensions could lead to violence. Many women wore white headscarves as a sign of peace, and the march remained sombre. Many shops were closed in mourning.
The three coffins, draped in red, green and yellow flags of the PKK, were placed on platforms at Batikent Square. The bodies will now be sent to their respective hometowns in the provinces of Tunceli, Kahramanmaraş and Mersin.
Selahattin Demirtas, chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party, the main legal pro-Kurdish party, said the killings of the three activists would not discourage Kurds from seeking peace. “We say now is the time for peace. We shout this out in front of the bodies of our dead. Don’t let our children die any more. We can stop this bloodshed by talking. Through discussions we can solve our problems,” Mr Demirtas said. “If the process is to advance, these murders must be a turning point.”
Kurds are the biggest minority in Turkey, where they make up about 20 per cent of the 75 million-strong population. Since 1984, the Turkish government and the PKK have been involved in a bitter armed conflict that has cost more than 40,000 lives.
Diyarbakır, known as Amed in the Kurdish language, is considered by Kurds to be the informal capital of the Turkish Kurdistan. It was in this city that Ms Cansız led the Kurdish protest movement.