Update: Read this article by Murat Yetkin for a breakdown of the various possible killers and motives. It has the makings of a real political thriller.
Three women belonging to the PKK were shot and killed in the Kurdistan Information Office in Paris yesterday: Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez. The murderer locked the door, so the bodies were only found early this morning. The women were shot in the head and neck, execution style. Cansız was one of the founders of the PKK and close to its jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan. She acted as the PKK representative to Germany.
The AKP government recently revealed that for weeks Turkish intelligence has been in discussion with Öcalan, who was captured in 1999 but retains leadership of all but small factions of the PKK, to get the group to disarm and end the twenty-five-year conflict. It is speculated that the assassinations were an attempt to derail that process either by factions within the PKK or by elements of the Turkish state and security services (what the Turks call the ‘deep state’) that do not approve of ‘giving in’ to the Kurds.
Journalist Avni Özgürel points to a recent dispute between Cansız and a faction in the PKK leadership in Germany that was reported in the news. It is possible, he said, that different intelligence services were also at work, but is certain that the ultimate aim was Öcalan.
Writer Fehim Işık had reported on Cansız and said she was extremely well-known in the PKK resistance where her position was on a par with Murat Karayılan and Cemil Bayık. He disagrees that this was the result of PKK factional infighting, pointing to intelligence services that have been active in France in the past. It is a professional job by those “whose interests it serves”. He believes that the French will find the killers.
Guney Yildiz of the BBC wrote that there was a tacit agreement between the PKK and the Turkish government that no high-profile attacks would be carried out against senior PKK members in Europe or senior members of the Turkish government. That agreement appears to have been broken.
Hurriyet Daily News gives the following information about Cansız:
After graduating from high school she was arrested in 1979 and sent to Diyarbakır Prison, where she was reportedly subjected to heavy torture. After being released she began working for the PKK with the code name “Sara.”
She was removed from active missions following her disapproval of the execution of PKK member Mehmet Şener, and was subsequently sent to Europe.
Known for her opposition to the alleged head of the PKK’s armed-wing, Syrian citizen Ferman Hussein, Cansız was also known to be in disagreement with the PKK’s alleged financial head, Zübeyir Yılmaz. According to claims that have been reported in the Turkish media, Yılmaz had committed sexual harrasment against Sakine Cansız.
It was also reported that Cansız, who was born in Tunceli, married, taking the last name Polat, but divorced after beginning her work as PKK organizer in Tunceli and Bingöl. She was arrested and remained in prison for twenty years, released in 1991 [note: some of the information in the press conflicts] when she began working for the PKK again in camps and then in Europe.
According to press reports, Fidan Doğan, 32, was the French representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress; Leyla Söylemez was a young activist who worked in the center. (see here, in Turkish)