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Crowds gather in Turkey to honor 3 Kurds killed in Paris
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2013-01-18 02:23 PM
Tens of thousands of people gathered Thursday in the southern city of Diyarbakir to mourn the deaths of three Kurdish activists murdered in Paris last week, an outpouring that some said amounted to the largest political gathering that the Turkish authorities had ever allowed the Kurds to stage.

With fragile peace talks to end three decades of armed insurgency just beginning, top Turkish and Kurdish officials called for calm, and none of the national television networks carried the event live. But a few Web portals provided real-time coverage as crowds accompanying three funeral trucks for the women poured into Batikent Square in Diyarbakir, the hub of Kurdish political and cultural life. The most prominent of the slain women, Sakine Cansiz, was a founding member of the insurgent group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K. Experts said she had been raising funds for the group in Europe.

The private IMC TV portal showed that many in the crowd wore white scarves for peace and black clothing for mourning, as suggested by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, the organizer of the ceremony.

The reason for the killings remains unclear, but they were widely perceived as an effort to derail the talks, which for the first time involve Abdullah Ocalan, the founder and spiritual leader of the P.K.K., who has been held in an isolated island prison since his capture in 1999.

Ms. Cansiz, 55, was his close ally. The two women found dead with her — Fidan Dogan, who would have turned 31 on Thursday, and Leyla Soylemez, 24 — were Kurdish activists. All three were found dead at the unmarked Kurdistan Information Office in Paris last Thursday, apparently shot by one or more gunmen with silenced pistols. The office had been locked from the outside, and three shell casings were found on the floor. Two women were shot in the head, one in the stomach.

Turkish government officials speculated that the killings might have emerged from internal conflict in the P.K.K. The P.K.K. is known for meting out strict operational discipline, including punishments as extreme as executions for wayward members. Some Kurdish political activists countered by accusing the Turkish “deep state,” a nationalist underground network that was behind hundreds of extrajudicial assaults against Kurds in the 1990s and considers any ethnicity a threat against Turkey’s national unity.

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