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

Kim Sengupta
Friday 11 January 2013 16:48

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.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in