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The Assassination of Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez
On a day this week, January 9th, 2013, Sakine Cansiz (Sara), Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) Paris Representative Fidan Doğan (Rojbin), and Leyla Şaylemez were shot dead in their Paris office
"France can’t cover up this massacre. When there is so much evidence, when the perpetrators are known, a cover up is not acceptable in any way. Kurds, allies of Kurds, forces of democracy and revolutionary movements will continue to fight for this." KCK Executive Council Co-chair Besê Hozat
"The demonstrators repeatedly chanted 'Erdoğan, assassin'..."
On a day this week, January 9th, 2013, Sakine Cansiz (Sara), Kurdistan National Congress (KNK) Paris Representative Fidan Doğan (Rojbin), and Leyla Şaylemez were shot dead in their Paris office at 147 Rue La Fayette.
Tuesday the 9th, marked the anniversary of the political murder of the three Kurdish activists in Paris, France in 2013; they were found at 01:15am, in the Kurdistan Information Centre, "...on the busy street of Rue La Fayette so close to the Train Station Gare du Nord in central Paris." (Casagrande) "Two of the women were shot in the neck while the third had wounds to her forehead and stomach, the Kurdish federation said." (Hürriyet Daily News) Sakine Cansiz, was, at 54, one of the original founders of Turkey's revolutionary Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and suspected to be the main target of the assassin.
The Turkish national intelligence agency MIT officially denied any role in the killings, but French investigators at the time concluded Turkish "spies" were "implicated" in the case; later voice recordings between assassin Ömer Güney and MIT agents were leaked on the internet providing evidence of the connection and since then stronger evidence has continued to appear pointing to the murders being a covert Turkish State 'dirty tricks' operation in the European capital.
France‘s Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls came to the Kurdish Information Centre at that time and described the case as a political murder and promised results. The one suspect, Ömer Güney, an ultra-nationalist Turk, died in prison this time last year without being convicted. Güney, who was confirmed as working for the Turkish Intelligence Service (MIT), was to be brought to trial, first on December 5, but in June 2016 the date was changed and the first hearing was then scheduled to start on 23 January 2017. Güney had denied the charges despite incriminating evidence, which included video surveillance of him entering the Kurdistan Information Centre building shortly before the crimes. DNA of one of the victims was found on Güney’s parka and his bag contained traces of gunpowder.
The activists' families had released a statement asking why the investigation into the killings had taken almost 3 years and expressing their suspicions that the court hearing had been postponed because it was known that Güney would die, thus absolving the Turkish state of involvement and French authorities of responsibility.
Now 5 years later, with no progress in bringing those responsible to justice, thousands of people marched in Paris on Saturday 5th January demanding "truth and justice". Representatives from France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and other European countries gathered in Paris. The march was organised by the Kurdish Women's Movement Europe (TJK-E) and the Democratic Kurdish Council France (CDK-F), as well as being attended by thousands of women, numerous Kurdish and French politicians, including Jean Luc Melenchon, leader of the French Left Party, and Pierre Laurent, chairman of the French Communist Party also made an appearance.
While protesters were planning their march: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was in France talking with French President Emmanuel Macron and as per his usual stance responded to questions he did not like with the slightly paranoid response that some newspaper “columnists and opinion leaders are the gardeners of terrorism.” He also lashed out at a French reporter who asked him about claims that Ankara had sent arms to Syria. Erdoğan told the journalist he was talking like a member of an outlawed group that he blames for last year's failed coup in Turkey.
The French Communist Party and several left-wing parties have criticised this visit of Erdoğan to France, particularly as it came the day before the fifth anniversary of the slayings in Paris of the three Kurdish women activists. Also “the French judicial system had pointed out Turkish secret services’ involvement in this crime,” the Communist Party said in a statement.
While Erdoğan was on his way to Paris, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was scheduled to meet with German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel on Saturday. Doubtful if the murder of three Kurdish women in Paris (or Diyarbakir, or Cizre) was on the agenda there either?
The protesters also denounced the "silence" of the French authorities on the slayings of the three women. Thousands of protesters gathered in front of the Gar du Nord and chanted: “Jin Jiyan Azadi” ("Women, Life, Freedom") and “Murderer Erdoğan”, "Erdoğan, assassin", while the women gathered in front of the Kurdistan Information Bureau to light candles. Another Banner at the march read:
“Five years of silence, five years of denial of justice, five years of impunity,”
Despite repeated calls for an adequate investigation into who ordered the murders the official investigation has apparently hit a dead end, leaving more weight behind the assertions that the Turkish Intelligence Agency MIT was involved in its planning and just recently the finger has started to point directly at President Recip Tayyip Erdoğan himself:
Erhan Pekcetin (one of the captured MIT officials):
"These kind of assassinations are critical. It requires a decision from high ranking officials and only a few cadres know about it...The note of action should go to the desk of the director of the agency. I don’t think that he will decide himself, he will refer it to the president. Because these actions can create international problems. It was a time when the peace negotiations were taking place..."
New Information Emerging
Recently the Kurdistan Communities Union (Kurdish: Koma Civakên Kurdistan - KCK) released the identities of Turkish officials who, they allege, are responsible for the 'Paris Massacre' in 2013. Captured Turkish agents, Gunel and Pekcetin, spoke about how those who took part in the Paris killings were promoted within the MIT. Also, according to Firat News sources in Southern Kurdistan, the KCK will release the videos of the MIT officers Aydin Gunel and Erhan Pekcetin’s confessions over the killing of three Kurdish woman revolutionaries in Paris.
Firat News also reported on information coming from the HPG (the military wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party) following the capture, by the organisation, of the two Turkish intelligence agents:
"KCK Executive Council Co-chair Cemil Bayik spoke about the Martyr Sakine Cansiz Revolutionary Revenge Operation to the Rojeva Welat program on Stêrk TV. Bayik stated that the Paris massacre had been ordered by Erdoğan and the organization for it had been done by Hakan Fidan and added: “With the Martyr Sakine Cansiz Revolutionary Revenge Operation HPG carried out against the MİT, many things have come to light.
There was an operation against the MİT, and there is a reason why it was called the Martyr Sakine Cansiz Revolutionary Revenge Operation. Because Martyr Sakine Cansiz and other comrades were martyred on Erdoğan’s order. The massacre was done on Erdoğan’s command. Erdoğan gave the order to Hakan Fidan and Hakan Fidan organized for the order, and the massacre was carried out completely by the MİT. This massacre was carried out as meetings with Leader Apo continued.”
Cemil Bayik said the Turkish state planned to strike a blow against the PKK through an attack on PKK personnel but instead became a victim to a counter-operation, and he gave the following information on the captured MİT agents:
“The Turkish state has always carried out large-scale operations against our Movement, but we always aimed to void these operations and carry our people’s hope for freedom forward. We approached this operation this way too. Now there are instances of state intelligence services fighting against each other, killing and abducting people in the history of states, but successful operations are not an often seen situation in the history of revolutionary movements. The Turkish state planned abductions and murder with an operation against our Movement, thus hoping to deal a blow to our Movement and achieve results, but they themselves received a heavy blow. There are no examples of this in the world, there are no operations that achieve such results, our Movement was a first”.
“The Paris massacre was ordered by Erdoğan personally, and Hakan Fidan carried out this order with the MİT. Sakine Cansiz was among the founders of the PKK. She has a historic place in the Amed dungeon resistance. She was there during the first congress. They thought if Sakine Cansiz was killed in this process, they could break Leader Apo’s will, impose their policies and thus achieve their goals. They both committed the massacre and attempted to pin it on the PKK to create conflict. With the massacre they wanted to threaten the European states and gave them a message to stay away from the solution to the Kurdish issue...”
Also on Tuesday, January 9th: KCK Executive Council Co-chair Besê Hozat answered questions about the Paris assassinations and the captured MİT agents in the program Ülkeden (“From the Country”) on Medya News TV. Besê Hozat stated that the MİT operatives captured by the HPG made confessions about the Paris assassinations and said:
“On the 5th anniversary of the Paris Massacre, I condemn the perpetrators of this massacre with hate. We will absolutely hold the perpetrators of this massacre, this vile murder to account. The blood of our friends won’t be left unavenged. The outcomes that have come to light five years later prove this. The forces that developed the massacre are known. The massacre was ordered by Erdoğan. The MİT planned this massacre and carried it out. Ömer Güney was the man the MİT used. This much is clear. France can’t cover up this massacre. When there is so much evidence, when the perpetrators are known, a cover up is not acceptable in any way. Kurds, allies of Kurds, forces of democracy and revolutionary movements will continue to fight for this. This fight is an expression of that. The colonial system has carried out vile massacres in the region. For decades the PKK has held them to account for these. It will do so for this too. Nobody can avoid being held to account. With the MİT operation, very important outcomes emerged. There are the murders committed by dictator fascist Erdoğan, and outcomes that have emerged more openly.”
Besê Hozat also said:
“Even though the perpetrators of the Paris Massacre were known, it was always denied to this day. Now the evidence has clarified that Erdoğan planned the massacre and Hakan Fidan implemented it... It has come to light that this was true. It was Erdoğan who ordered this, and Hakan Fidan. There is a unit working with Sebahattin Asal. Oğuz Yüret, he is the current MİT Van bureau chair. Department chair Uğur Kaan Ayik who has dealt with foreign activity is among the perpetrators of this massacre along with Hakan Fidan. Hakan Fidan is directly tied to this. Sebahattin Asal is in the MİT Undersecretary and is involved. This man Sebahattin Asal is Hakan Fidan’s aide. Along with Muhammed Dervişoğlu, he participated in the Imrali meetings, and determined the committees. Sebahattin Asal decided that. He has that initiative. This man is the planner and perpetrator of the Paris Massacre.”
One wonders, despite these new developments, whether the families and the Kurdish liberation movement will ever see justice done...
Maxime Azadi in a 2017 article for the Yeni Özgür Politika daily and Kurdish Question raised a number of serious questions "The Paris case served as a test for the governments of European states, which the Turkish state has been using as an operational zone since the 1980's, France being one of the primary places. Western countries' criminalisation policies against the Kurds and their self-interest-oriented relations with the Turkish state makes them severely responsible with regard to the crimes committed by the Turkish state in Turkey and Kurdistan, and also in Europe. The French and European governments have not managed to shed light on one single political murder so far, and preferred complicity in this last case."
Der Spiegel also asked the question: "Is it possible that a country that wants to become a member of the EU allowed a contract killing to be conducted on EU territory?"
The Families Speak Out
Ali Dogan, brother of Fidan, demonstrated with other family members and said they "no longer have hope" of justice.
"I watched on television the press conference between Erdoğan and Mr. Macron yesterday. It's sad that the president did not mention the murder of my sister... it seems that we are hiding things and France doesn't want to divulge information to preserve its interests with Turkey," he told AFP.
On Saturday, the Armenian community in France also expressed anger over Erdoğan's visit to Paris, saying it revealed him a "dictator.”
"Recep Tayyip Erdoğan showed the French his true face, a dictator who expresses himself as if he were in his palace, in defiance of the European standards which he claims to adhere to," said the Coordinating Council of the Armenian Organizations of France (CCAF).
Metin Cansiz, brother of Sakine Cansiz, referring to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Paris:
"We never looked for the murderer, but for those behind him. The man who gave the order for this attack was in Paris yesterday..."
Cumali Saylemez, the father of Leyla Şaylemez, also said that they will continue to fight for justice and called on the French state to fulfill its responsibilities.
Commenting on yesterday's meeting of French President Emmanuel Macron with Erdoğan, Pierre Laurent of the Communist Party said:
"We will not allow the Kurds once again to be sacrificed to economic and political interests."
In his speech, Jen-Christophe Sellin, a member of the Left Party, commented on the recent statements of MIT agents captured by the PKK:
"According to the statements, the order of these murders was given by Erdoğan. In view of this statement, Erdoğan should be tried in France. "
Reports of Turkish intelligence operations abroad, central to the deaths of the three Kurdish activists in Paris, and similar to operations carried out down the years by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency with its low threshold for international borders when it comes to assassinations, surfaced in the media at the end of 2017.
Turkish State Hit Squads in Europe?
Amberin Zaman, a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse wrote in late December:
"Shadowy Turkish operatives are plotting the murders of high-profile Turkish dissidents and religious minority leaders living in exile in a bid to sow further chaos and instability, a prominent Turkish lawmaker warned today.
Garo Paylan, a member of parliament for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said he had received confirmation from Western officials about Turkish individuals with alleged connections to the Turkish state who are planning to carry out sensational assassinations of several prominent journalists and other government critics. “There is a list of targets,” he told Al-Monitor in a telephone interview.
Paylan emphasized that there is no evidence that the operatives are acting under direct orders from the government. “Rather, in gray and turbulent times such as those we are experiencing today, rogue networks inside the state take matters into their own hands, as we saw with the murder of Hrant Dink,” he said, referring to the Armenian Turkish newspaper editor gunned down outside his Istanbul office on Jan. 19, 2007, by a young man thought to have been put up to the job by ultranationalist security officials.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly lashed out at Western governments that have offered refuge to a growing population of political exiles fleeing possible imprisonment in Turkey for alleged ties to Fethullah Gulen, the Sunni cleric and No. 1 suspect in last year’s failed coup. Others are accused of connections to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)."
"Celal Baslangic, a veteran Turkish journalist, has written extensively on Kurdish matters. He is living in exile in the German city of Koln, where he runs the independent online news portal Arti Gercek and its television arm. Baslangic, charged with belonging to a terrorist organization along with several other journalists — for editing the now shuttered pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem in an act of solidarity — shares Paylan’s worries.
“The Turkish state targeting its opponents is nothing new. But we have been informed that three new assassins have been dispatched from Turkey to Germany and may be in our midst.”"
Der Spiegel also published an interview with a Kurdish activist in who said that "he never spends more than three days in the same city for fear of being killed. Yuksel Koc, co-chair of the European Kurdish Democratic Societies Congress, claimed his name was on a hit list “assembled by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan” and that he was told so “by an agent of the Turkish secret service.” Der Spiegel reported that a certain Fatih S., facing trial in Hamburg over his alleged mission to “track down” Koc, “has testified in his interrogations about MIT plans to murder [Koc] and another Kurdish man.” (Al-Monitor)
Likewise, Switzerland and Austria, also home to significant Turkish communities, have launched probes into whether Turkey is conducting espionage on their soil.
Business As Usual
With Erdoğan's visit coming to an end, Friday 5th January, Macron acknowledged that Turkey’s EU accession talks remained stalled. He said the relationship between Europe and Turkey needed to be rethought with the goal of creating a partnership that would ensure Turkey’s “future will be built looking toward Europe and with Europe.”
Along with Britain's Theresa May who signed a £100m fighter jet deal that "Downing Street hailed as the first step to Britain becoming Turkey’s main defence partner" in January 2017, France and Turkey have now also signed defense, banking and commercial deals, including the planned sale of 25 Airbus A330s to Turkish Airlines.
A new day. A new dawn. Another year. Another anniversary. Another chapter in the almost-endless uphill march for justice and democracy. And for a world where murder has become an event in the long-distant past.