COMMENTARY BY MURAT YETKIN
Execution was the word used by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls following his visit to the crime scene in the Gare du Nord district of central Paris where three female members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were killed on (the supposedly late hours of ) Jan. 9 in the PKK-operated Kurdistan Information Center. There are reports about a gun or guns with silencers used to kill three women.
One of them, Sakine Cansız, was a veteran member, one of the founders, of the PKK back in 1978. There were media reports claiming that after being in charge of the organization’s Germany branch for years (which is vital for the PKK for money and for recruitment if hundreds of thousands of Kurdish-Turkish people living in Germany are considered), Cansız was asked to take care of the PKK’s organization in France, too. One of the other women killed, Fidan Doğan, was the French branch chief of the PKK’s self-declared Kurdistan National Congress. Less is known about the third victim, Leyla Sönmez.
One of the first things coming into minds is a possible relation of murders with the ongoing round of talks between the Turkish National Intelligence Service (MİT) and the founding leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, to end the violence and find a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem, which has claimed more than 40,000 lives in the last three decades. Öcalan has been kept in the İmralı island-prison near Istanbul since his arrest in 1999 in a joint MİT-CIA operation in Kenya, and his current stance to carry out talks with Turkish government agents is not approved by all the factions within the PKK. Cansız was known to be loyal to Murat Karayılan, the de facto head of the PKK based in the military headquarters in the Kandil Mountains of Iraq, within the Masoud Barzani-led Kurdistan Regional Governor (KRG) territory bordering Iran and Turkey. Karayılan was known to have had problems for some time with one of his guerilla commanders, a certain Bahoz Erdal of Syrian-Kurdish origin, one of the most radical and ruthless names of the PKK.
As soon as the news of the murders hit media in the early hours of Jan. 10, the first reactions came from Zübeyir Aydar. Based in Brussels, Aydar (blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury in relation with narco-trafficking) is one of the top names of the PKK in Europe and a member of the delegation who talked to MİT during the failed first round of talks, the “Oslo talks” between 2009 and 2011. Aydar immediately accused the Turkish “deep state” of carrying out the attack in order to undermine the talks.
The reply came quickly from Ankara. Hüseyin Çelik, the spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) denounced the attack as being an “inner fight” within the PKK, which has not been very uncommon. Then, a very interesting detail came from Tahsin Burcuoğlu, Turkey’s ambassador to Paris, who said that the “killer or killers” might have entered the office without any sign of force and when the police arrived they had to crush the door open, because it was locked, which could be a sign than the murdered women might have known the attackers in person.
The curtain was down yesterday for a statement by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, who was paying a visit to Senegal. He said that it was either an inner-PKK affair or a provocation to undermine the talks. If it is an inner fight, it might well be a sign that the Öcalan dialogue has caused a deep rift within the PKK. If it is not, then it can be someone from within the PKK, from within the Turkish system or from some other country or group that is not pleased with Turkey getting rid of the Kurdish problem. It is not only a murder investigation for French police, it is an international political mystery as well.