Crowds at PKK funeral as bosses join peace chorus

DIYARBAKIR – Hürriyet Daily News – 18.1.2013 – The southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakır sees tens of thousands come to pay a tearful farewell to murdered Kurdish women as major business leaders join in locals’ pleas for peace. Tens of thousands of people participated in a grand funeral ceremony held yesterday in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır for three Kurish women killed in Paris last week.

Despite worries of possible provocations and sabotage that would turn the ceremony into a violent protest, such fears did not materialize during the peaceful gathering, during which the women’s coffins were covered with the flags of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Speaking at the ceremony, Kurdish politicians, including Ahmet Türk – an independent deputy and head of the Kurdish umbrella organization Democratic Society Congress (DTK) – as well as Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, denounced military operations against Kandil mountain in northern Iraq, where PKK militants are based, once again stressing that Kurdish people demand peace, not war.

“Making peace is not possible while making war at the same time,” Demirtaş said.

Sakine Cansız, one of the founding members of the PKK; Fidan Doğan, the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress’ (KNK) Paris representative; and KNK Youth Union member Leyla Söylemez were murdered in the office of the Kurdistan Information Center in central Paris on Jan. 9. Their slaying came at a time when the government made public dialogue measures between intelligence officials and Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, in an effort to stop the decades-old conflict.

The women’s bodies arrived in Diyarbakır late Jan. 16 and their transfer from Diyarbakır airport to the morgue of a private hospital turned into a mass demonstration as thousands of people poured into the streets to accompany the hearses carrying the bodies. A flag of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the urban wing of the PKK, was raised on a flagpole in the hospital’s garden after the bodies were brought to the hospital. Wrapped in PKK flags, the coffins were brought to Diyarbakır’s Batıkent Square, where the ceremony was held, escorted by thousands of people carrying posters of the murdered PKK members. Banners read “We are all Sakine,Leyla and Fidan,” and slogans such as “The PKK is the people, the people are here,” and “martyrs never die,” were chanted. After the coffins arrived at Batıkent Square, white pigeons symbolizing peace were released.

[HH] People demand peace

In speeches expressing their sorrow, Kurdish politicians stressed that peace is their initial demand despite their grief.“Everybody is expecting sensitivity from us. But here, our people have shown that they are ready for peace although we have lost three of our comrades. But peace can be possible with mutual respect,” Türk said. The senior politician also said it was impossible to speak of peace when Kandil mountain is being bombarded by Turkish jets. “I’m appealing to those who call on us to be sensitive for peace. Mr. Prime Minister, how can you talk about peace while Kandil is being bombarded? What kind of peace is being sought with this?” Türk said.

Demirtaş said people in the square were demanding an “honorable peace.”

“As mothers bid farewell to their children, they did not promise revenge. They demand peace. When will the world understand this stance? And when will the government understand this?” Demirtaş said.

He joined Türk in lamenting the air strikes on Kandil. “As we were talking about peace, seven Kurdish youngsters died on Kandil. It’s not possible to make peace while making war at the same time. If you seek peace, you have to be brave,” Demirtaş said. Demirtaş, however, reiterated his party’s support of recent talks officials held with Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK. “We support the resolution proposal that Mr. Öcalan has introduced or will introduce.”

“I’m appealing to those who seek to resolve this problem by negotiating with us; Kurdish people are backing us. Kurdish people back talks with Öcalan. Kurdish people demand peace even during funeral ceremonies. We see our people as the assurance of peace. And the government should take a concrete step to show that they back peace,” Demirtaş said.

BDP deputy Sebahat Tuncel said those who murdered the three Kurdish women aimed to disrupt efforts to resolve the Kurdish issue. “We promise that we will bring peace to this country,” she added. Following the ceremony in Diyarbakır, Cansız was to be buried in the eastern province of Tunceli; Doğan was to be sent to Elbistan in the southern province of Kahramanmaraş, while Söylemez was to be interred in the southern province of Mersin.