Emotions were running high as crowds poured into a prominent square in the Turkish city of Diyarbakir for the funeral of three women activists of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)— the event casting a shadow on the planned peace talks between Turkish authorities and PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Preparations for the funeral had commenced even before the three bodies were flown in from Paris — where the women were assassinated last Thursday — first to Istanbul and then by a Turkish airlines plane to Diyarbakir.
The three, including Sakine Cansiz — co-founder of the PKK — were killed, apparently at close range, with shots to the head and the neck, at a Kurdish information centre.
No one has claimed responsibility, triggering blame game among the parties.
In case the Turkish authorities, who have been battling the PKK since 1984, are perceived as the villains, this can quickly sink the prospects of a productive dialogue between the Turkish National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) with Mr. Ocalan.
As anticipated by the PKK-affiliated Peace and Democratic Party (BDP), massive crowds on Thursday surged into Diyarbakir’s Batikent Square, where coffins of Cansiz and two fellow workers, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez, were moved through sea of mourners before a memorial service was held. The funerals capped a string of angry demonstrations over the last week in London and Paris. In the French capital, large crowds, many with flags in hand, gathered outside the Kurdish centre.
They carried placards, one of which read, “Turkey Murders — Hollande is complicit”, referring to the French Prime Minister.
Hundreds demonstrated outside the Turkish embassy in London last Friday, and then walked nearly a km to assemble outside the French embassy.
Analysts point out that many Kurds in Turkey are of the view that the assassinations had been ordered by ‘The deep state’— a powerful group of entrenched nationalists that takes decisions bypassing the elected government of the day.
Anticipating that they could be in the line of fire, Turkish authorities have swiftly taken evasive action, pointing to a deep seated intra-Kurdish rivalry as the cause of the tragedy. In his initial response, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan drew attention to the possibility of the role of an insider in the killings.
He specifically pointed out that in accordance with early evidence, the women had opened the doors to their killers, and closed them from inside using a lock that required a code.
The state run Anatolian news agency quoted Mr. Erdogan as saying: “Those three people opened it [the door]. No doubt they wouldn’t open it to people they didn’t know.”
Mr. Erdogan had earlier also suggested that those opposed to the talks with Mr. Ocalan may have been responsible. The Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman quoted Kurdish politician and journalist Äbrahim Guclu as saying a powerful clique in the Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq is opposed to talks and the possibility of disarmament that could follow.
Amnesty International demanded that there “must be justice for these apparently political killings — no stone must be left unturned in the investigation by the French authorities”.
It added: “The Turkish authorities must cooperate fully in the investigation to bring those responsible to justice.”
The rights group said both sides “must ensure that the killings do not derail negotiations aimed at ending the decades-long conflict and on-going human rights abuses”.