Paris: Different killings, different standards

[Green Left Weekly, #1037, January 21, 2015]

The day before the massive Paris demonstration against the killings at the Charlie Hebdo office, another demonstration marked another set of killings in the capital.

On January 10, tens of thousands of Kurds and their supporters marched to mark the assassination two years earlier of three Kurdish women activists of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) and to protest the French government's foot-dragging on clarifying the truth about the crime.

On January 9, 2013, Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez were killed at the office of the Kurdish Information Centre in Paris. The French interior minister said that they had been 'without doubt executed'.

Sakine Cansiz was a founder of the PKK in Turkey in 1978, was jailed and tortured in the notoriously brutal Dyarbakir prison in the 1980s, then participated in the PKK's armed struggle, and from the mid-1990s played a leading role in the group's work in Europe. She was known as a passionate and tireless fighter for women's equality within the organisation and society. She was most likely the main target of the killing; the other two younger activists being killed simply because they were there.

The French authorities fairly quickly arrested one Ömer Güney and charged him with the murders. The big question, however, is who Güney was working for. Evidence has emerged that points strongly to the crime being orchestrated by the Turkish intelligence agency MIT — or, at least, by elements of it. (See, for instance, Paris Investigation: Tensions Grow over Murder of Kurdish Activists.)

At the time of the crime, the head of the MIT was leading peace negotiations, on behalf of the Turkish government, with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Were the Paris killings an attempt by elements of the Turkish 'deep state' to derail these discussions? Or were they an attempt to 'render ineffective' — as it's put in a 2012 document purporting to be from the MIT and released on the internet — a very effective Kurdish leader in Europe? Or something else?

A big outcry about the Charlie Hebdo killings suits the purposes of the French state and its leaders. Shedding real light on the murders of Sakine Cansiz and her comrades will only create problems for the French authorities, hence the impasse in the case.

The message of the Paris demonstration is that real answers are urgently required. Two years have passed and the real organisers of the killings have not been made public. The French government has put its good political and economic relations with Turkey ahead of justice. As Left Party MEP Patrick Le Hyaric explained at the rally: 'We know this very well and will not accept any more excuses. France and the international community must reveal who was behind these murders.'