Turkish Kurdish Peace Talks Should Not Be Derailed By Murder of Activists in Paris


The tensions between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists have usually been overshadowed by other news from the Middle East. But that changed with a report of the mysterious killing of three Kurds in Paris early Thursday. Once again international media attention has refocused on the decades-old conflict and the ongoing peace talks between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatists. But solving this crime shouldn't overshadow the fresh peace talks between the two sides aimed at reaching a lasting solution.

Three Kurdish women, Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez, were found shot dead inside the Kurdish Information Center in a working class neighborhood of central Paris. Two were found with bullets to the head and the third was shot in the stomach. As of now, there are more questions than answers. Who could have slipped into the offices to commit the crimes when there was no signs outside of the office doors and a code was needed to enter? Could this mean that the women knew their killer?

Cansiz was a founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish separatist group formed in 1984 with the aim of establishing an independent Kurdish state. The other two women were Kurdish activists who many believe happened to be in the "wrong place at the wrong time."

The puzzling crime is timed with Ankara's continuing peace talks with the PKK. This is a monumental step in the almost 30-year-long conflict, which has claimed over 40,000 lives. Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the armed PKK a terrorist organization. There are reports circulating that these talks will follow a four-step process to end the conflict. If the reports are true then the plan is as follows: "ceasefire; approval of a judicial reform package that will release thousands of imprisoned Kurdish activists/politicians and the withdrawal of PKK members beyond Turkey's borders; democratization talks; and finally disarmament."

No doubt the blame for the murders will bounce back and forth between Turks and Kurds, each claiming that the other's goal is to derail the new peace talks. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told Turkish media that an internal feud was probably behind the deaths. And many Kurdish activists believe it could have been the work of an underground ultra-nationalist Turkish group, known as "The Deep State," intent on thwarting their efforts for independence. Kurdish protests that gathered in Paris also lamented the French state for continuing to consider the PKK a terrorist organization.

As of now, the peace talks are primarily concerned with disarming the militants but do not address the root cause of the conflict. And someone is clearly not happy with these negotiations. But diplomacy between the two sides has been a long time in the making. Clearly, as this latest tragedy has shown us, the road towards peace will be laborious at the least. This could perhaps be the last chance for the leaders to end the violence. The ultimate goal of peace should keep talks on track. That same goal should also be the catalyst to bringing justice to the murder of the three Kurdish activists.