The murder of Kurdish activists on the streets of Paris is part of a much wider struggle for freedom

Our Diplomatic Correspondent, who has spent years following the Kurdish diaspora, examines the context of the grim, brutal killings in the French capital this week

Related Topics

The assassinations of three Kurdish activists in Paris have all the necessary ingredients for a murderous political whodunnit. The victims were women, one of them a founding member of the PKK; they were shot in a room with no sign of forced entry; the clear implication being that the killer was someone they trusted, someone who was also confident enough to carry out such an attack in a Western European city.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, claimed this morning that the deaths were almost certainly the result of an internal feud over talks being held by his government with the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan. But the Kurdish organisation’s internal leader, Zubeyir Aydar, had little doubt it was the work of the ‘Deep State’, the shadowy network of military and officials in Turkey who are adamantly opposed to any concessions made to separatists. Other activists blamed Ankara’s intelligence service, MIT, for directly carrying out the hits.


But, far away from the bodybags brought out at the 10th Arrondissement, there are significant, convoluted and violent developments taking place in Kurdish affairs involving other countries as well as Turkey. One of the victims, Sakine Cansiz, who played a part in setting up the PKK in 1978, was close to Ocalan. She also opposed Ferman Hussein, a commander of the group’s armed wing, who has been particularly active in directing activities in Syria, which also has a Kurdish population.

As the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s regime continues in its vicious and chaotic way for the 22nd month, the PKK has become increasingly active. I and other journalists have come across their fighters more and more in rebel held areas in Aleppo and Idlib. They have not been involved in fighting, but are facilitating passage of arms from Iraqi Sunnis to the overwhelmingly Sunni Syrian opposition. The name of Ferman Hussein, a Syrian national, crops up more and more.

At the same time, however, there are signs of PKK collusion with the Assad regime. Kurdish fighters have moved into bases near the Turkish border from where the Syrian military has obligingly moved out.

Mr Erdogan has threatened to take “whatever action” is takes to counter this. “We will not let the terrorist groups set up camps in northern Syria and pose a threat to us”, he declared. Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu has raised the issue during his several visits to the Kurdish region in northern Iraq where the Democratic Union Party (PYD), is affiliated to the PKK.


The situation in Iraq is yet another factor in the changing Kurdish dynamic. While the Turks, the most vociferous of the regional critics of the Syrian regime, court the Kurds, the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki has been accused of allowing Iran, the main regional supporter of Assad, to send weapons to Damascus. At the same time Iraqi forces have moved into areas disputed with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) rich in oil deposits in the most overt flexing of muscle since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

The investigation being carried out by the French anti-terrorist police may, or may not, find conclusive proof about who actually carried out the Paris murders. But the chances are that the strife accompanying the Kurdish reconfiguration in the Middle-East is highly likely to revisit Europe, with its’ large politicised Kurdish population, in the future.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
Joyce Carol Oates is among 150 writers to protest that the award decision was ‘neither clear nor inarguable’  

Charlie Hebdo's PEN Freedom of Expression Courage Award is well deserved

Joan Smith
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk