Tens of thousands of Kurds gathered Thursday in Turkey's southeastern city of Diyarbakir for attending the funeral of three female Kurdish activists killed last week in Paris.
The huge crowd, which included women wearing white scarfs, chanted pro-militant slogans as the coffins draped in green cloth and decorated with red carnations passed by. Some of the participants waved flags of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as the coffins of three slain activists passed through the crowds.
Although the atmosphere was tense, there were no violent incidents. Notably, security for the event was tight, with the Turkish government deploying hundreds of security officers in the country's main Kurdish city.
The three women, namely Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez, were killed in execution-style shootings in the French capital last week. All of them were PKK members.
Sakine Cansiz was one of the founder members of the militant PKK group. While Dogan Fidan was a representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) who working at Kurdistan Information Center in Paris, Soylemez Leyla was a young Kurdish activist.
No one has claimed responsibility for their killings. French police are investigating the motive behind the murders. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls had earlier condemned the killings, saying that such incidents were "intolerable."
While most believe that the murders of the three activists were aimed at derailing a recently launched peace talks between the Turkish government and Kurdish militants, some Kurds are blaming elements of the state.
Notably, the three Kurdish activists were killed just weeks after Turkey's intelligence agency opened peace negotiations with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan for convincing him to disarm the rebel group.
It is widely believed that Ocalan continues to lead the PKK from his cell in a remote island off the Istanbul coast. But some doubt his influence over hardline PKK militants based in northern Iraq. Ocalan is said to be backing the Turkish government's ongoing efforts at improving the rights of the country's Kurdish minority for ending the 28-year armed conflict.
The talks were reportedly launched after the Turkish government realized that it is unlikely to defeat the rebel movement just by using military means. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that his government will continue with anti-PKK military operations until the rebel group lays down ends its decade-long insurgency.
The PKK began an armed struggle in 1984 for the establishment of an ethnic homeland in south-east Turkey. An estimated 40,000 people have died in the two-decade-long violence unleashed by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by most of the international community including the United States and the European Union.
Notably, Turkey, which has a Kurdish population of just under 20 percent, has already initiated efforts aimed at improving the rights of the country's Kurdish minority to end the armed separatist movement. An end to the Kurdish uprising is expected to help Turkey secure the much-coveted EU membership.
Nonetheless, the latest developments come amidst an escalation in cross-border attacks on Turkish military targets by PKK fighters based in northern Iraq. Ankara often responds to the rebel attacks by launching massive military operations along its borders and carrying out numerous air strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq.
by RTT Staff Writer
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