Demonstrators of Kurdish origin gather to protest after the killing of three Kurdish women activists in Paris, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
PARIS — Thousands of Kurds from across Europe descended upon Paris on Saturday, demanding justice for three activists shot dead in the French capital. The Turkish leader, meanwhile, demanded how a wanted militant could have found a comfortable refuge in France.
Crowds of Kurds streamed to Paris from throughout Europe, marching through the neighborhood where Sakine Cansiz’s body was found inside a Kurdish information center along with two other activists. Cansiz was a founder of the Kurdish rebel group that has been battling the Turkish government for three decades.
Kurdish activists have accused Turkey in the deaths. Turkish officials suggested the killings may be part of an internal feud or an attempt to derail government peace talks with the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is known as the PKK and is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its U.S. and European allies.
“We are all PKK,” the crowd chanted, raising Kurdish flags and giant banners plastered with photos of the three women.
The deaths have put France in a difficult position as it tries to improve ties with Turkey. Turkey frequently accuses France and other European nations of not cooperating in its struggle against the rebel group, and notably of failing to extradite wanted militants.
Cansiz received asylum from France in 1998, according to Devris Cimen, head of the Frankfurt-based Kurdish Center for Public Information. At the same time, according to a WikiLeaks cable, she and another PKK member were considered key fundraisers for the rebel group in Europe.
French President Francois Hollande has said he and several other politicians knew one of the women professionally. He did not say which one.
“How can one regularly meet with a person or persons who are a member of an organization that has been declared a terror organization by the European Union and are wanted by a warrant?” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded on Saturday. “What kind of a policy is this?”
France must “immediately shed light (on the crime), immediately find the culprits and leave no question marks,” Erdogan said.
The Kurdish crowd in Paris had similar demands, calling for justice from France.
Aylin Erten, an 18-year-old high school student, said she came from her hometown of Strasbourg in eastern France to attend.
“I came to the protest today because I feel concerned,” she said. “First of all as a French citizen I feel concerned because it is a shock for us. As a Kurd I feel concerned because these three women were symbols of our community and this crime didn’t happen in Turkey or another country, it happened in France, in Paris.”
Nazmi Gur, a Kurdish legislator who accompanied Kurdish leaders to Paris from Turkey, said the bodies of the three women were expected in Turkey this week.