PKK killings

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Fidan Dogan, Leyla Soylemez and Sakine Cansiz were assassinated in Paris on 9 January. Tens of thousands of people took to the Parisian streets to salute the three women’s coffins, draped in the flag of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party). Many thousands more followed them in Diyarbakir, in south east Turkey. Cansiz was a founding member of the PKK and is likely to have been central to discussions that were underway between the PKK and the Turkish state, seeking an end to the armed conflict between them that has been waged since 1984. Over 40,000 people have been killed in this conflict, some 500 in 2012. The PKK suspects that the assassination is the work of a faction within the Turkish state that wants to sabotage the discussions. Omer Guney was charged with the murders by the French police on 21 January; the PKK say he was not a member of their organisation.

News of secret talks between the two parties in Norway surfaced in 2011. In November 2012 imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan called on hundreds of Kurdish prisoners to end a hunger strike, which they did. Ocalan has been imprisoned by Turkey since 1999. Since the ending of the hunger strike Ocalan was visited by Turkish government officials. The Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria are now effectively self-governing; the dominant political force among the Kurdish people in Syria is allied to the PKK. The Kurdish region in Iraq now transports oil to Turkey; it has abundant reserves. To strengthen its relations with the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds and hence its regional position, the Turkish government might seek a resolution of the conflict with the PKK, offering less than Kurdish autonomy but more than nationalist elements in the Turkish state would accept

The Kurds form over a fifth of Turkey’s and Iraq’s populations, and a tenth of Syria’s and Iran’s. They and the Palestinians were major losers when Britain and France carved up the former Ottoman Empire after World War One. Any weakening of the states that govern the Kurds provides them with an opportunity to assert their right to self-determination.

Trevor Rayne 

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