Death in Paris

January 12, 2013

On January 9 Sakine Cansız, one of the founding members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Fidan Dogan, a representative of the Brussels-based Kurdistan National Congress, and Kurdish activist Leyla Soylemez were murdered in an execution-style assassination.

The three were found dead in the office of the Kurdistan Information Center on Rue Lafayette in Paris next to the Gare de Nord after friends became concerned because cellphone calls had gone unanswered and none of them had returned home. The office was locked from the outside, three bullet casings were found on the floor.

According to French police there are not any strong leads, but circumstances indicate that a professional killer was at work. The three women were shot in the head and the killer is believed to have used a gun silencer.

1 Kurdish activist murder 3

France has a large Kurdish community concentrated in the Paris region and French police have occasionally arrested Kurds suspected of illegally financing the PKK.

Rusen Werdi, a lawyer at the Paris Kurdish Institute told, that Sakine Cansiz had been under constant surveillance by the French police because of her activism. Ms. Werdi also said that Sakine Cansiz had been keeping a low profile in recent months, and that it was rare for her to be at the information center.

The legendary Sakine Cansiz

Sakine Cansiz was present at the founding meeting of the PKK in 1978 in Fis, a town in Turkeys predominantly Kurdish south-east.

After the military coup of 1980 she was imprisoned along with many other members of the PKK and spent several years in Diyarbakir prison, where between 1981 and 1989 34 inmates died of torture, and hundreds more suffered lasting injury. According to PKK members and former inmates, the treatment of political prisoners in Diyarbakir prison was the main reason for the PKK’s militarization and the start of the armed struggle against the Turkish authorities in 1984.

Sakine Cansiz led the Kurdish protest movement from inside prison and by the time she was released she had become already a legend amongst PKK members. She entered the PKK training camp in the Bekaa Valley, then under Syrian control, and joined the armed struggle in northern Iraq under the command of Osman Ocalan, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s younger brother.

2 PKK women fighters

It was there that Cansiz started to organize the women’s movement inside the PKK and it is largely because of her work that by 1993 one-third of the PKK’s armed forces were women.

Cansiz was known to be very close to Abdullah Ocalan. When Ocalan left Syria under massive Turkish pressure in the late 1990s, unsuccessfully seeking asylum in Europe, Cansiz was always by his side until his arrest in Kenya. When Ocalan was interrogated after his imprisonment, he said about her: “I started the women’s movement to free women from the feudalism of men and to create a strong type of woman. I wanted lively discussions.”

The long shadows of empire

French and Turkish commentators were quick to point out, that this assassination was probably a feud between rival Kurdish fractions, on commentator wrote: “When the authorities allow terrorists to move freely inside Europe, they should not wonder, when the result is mayhem.”

It is a telling elucidation of the Turkish mindset, that the three slain unarmed women are called terrorists, while the violent psychopaths of the Free Syrian Army who wreak havoc in Syria are celebrated as freedom fighters. 

3 ottoman empire code of arms2

One has to bear in mind, that the Ottoman Empire was one of the greatest and longest lasting colonial powers, controlling much of southeast Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa from the 15th century till the beginning of the 20th century. It was an empire as cruel and inhuman as any of the Western colonial powers.

In 1915, when the Russian Caucasus Army advanced in eastern Anatolia, aided by the native Armenian population, the Ottoman government started mass killings of Armenian men in massacres and labor camps, followed by the deportation of Armenian women, children, and elderly on death marches to the Syrian Desert. In addition to that there were also many well documented cases of mass burnings (alive) and mass drownings. It was the first genocide of the 20th century and between 600,000 and 900,000 Armenians lost their lives.

This was by the way not the first mass extermination of Armenians by the Turks. From 1894 to 1897 between 100,000 and 300,000 Armenians were killed in the Hamidian massacres.

Turkey needs peace (with the Kurds)

In recent weeks, a solution to Turkey’s long-running conflict with Kurdish separatists seemed near. Prime Minister Erdogan’s chief adviser reported that officials had been discussing disarmament with the PKK and at the start of the year Kurdish lawmakers paid a visit to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in his island prison.

Though Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan ruled out a general amnesty for Kurdish militants, he said that intelligence agents would continue to talk to Abdullah Ocalan and try to reach an agreement.

The main reason for Erdogans outreach are the Kurds in northern Syria, which either support the secular Syrian government or are neutral after Bashar Al-Assad granted them far reaching autonomy and handed military control to the PYD, an affiliate of the PKK.

Turkey has already paid a heavy political and economic price for failing to dispose the Syrian government despite an intense 21 months long effort including every imaginable overt and covert steps and measures. Inviting masses of Syrian refugees with the hope that they may facilitate setting up a buffer zone did not work and Turkey is now carrying alone the financial burden of more than 140,000 refugees.

As the Syrian conflict goes on unabated without end in sight, Erdogan becomes more and more desperate to do something because the steadily raising costs could eventually jeopardize the rule of Turkeys neo-Islamist AKP government.

The blame game

Gestures of reconciliation and some token measures to appease Turkeys Kurds would for sure help to weaken the unity of Syrian Kurds, which means that derailing such efforts is helping the Syrian government. It seems though unlikely that Iranian or Syrian agents are involved in the killings, because the European Union has enacted a strict embargo against both countries and every citizen from Iran and Syria who still manages it to enter Europe can expect to be constantly surveilled.

It is common knowledge that Paris is crowded with MI6, CIA, and Mossad agents, alone for this fact it cannot be ruled out that for until now unknown reasons they were responsible for this quick and easy assassination. 

It also cannot be ruled out that a dissident faction of the PKK was responsible. Cansiz was not on good terms with PKK leader Ferman Hussein, a Syrian citizen, and Senior PKK commander Murat Karayilan considers the Turkish offer as not sufficient and has called for more concrete prove that the Turkish leadership wants peace, including an upgrade in prison conditions for Ocalan and a formal recognition of Kurdish identity in Turkey’s constitution.

According to leaked reports the Turkish negotiator have offered that PKK leaders in northern Iraq’s Qandil mountains would not be brought to trial but would instead be given the opportunity to seek exile elsewhere, while regular PKK fighters would be reintegrated into society. This is maybe not an outcome the PKK leaders would endorse.

4 Kurdish activist murder

Yet it is unlikely that anyone in the PKK, even the most unforgiving and hardline fighter, would kill Sakine Cansız, a longtime comrade of Abdullah Ocalan, who is a larger than life figure, admired and respected by every PKK member (though his moral integrity is now disputed by some commentators).

PKK commander Murat Karayilan is a known admirer of Cansız.

Considering all these facts the most likely explanation is still that a hardline faction of the Turkish intelligence agency MIT is responsible. The MIT is not a monolithic organization and has divided loyalties. It is a powerful and shadowy agency with practically no legal oversight. In the last years the agencies budget increased 32 percent to almost one billion Turkish Lira.

In 1997, former MIT Undersecretary Teoman Koman was called to give testimony to a parliamentary commission charged with investigating the existence of a “deep state” in the wake of the infamous Susurluk scandal. Koman did not even bother to show up when the commission called for his testimony.

In February 2012 there was a widely reported row about the agency which analysts interpreted as a warning from nationalists to Erdogan against seeking any negotiated settlement with the PKK, after being alarmed by what the PKK had been offered during initial talks in Norway’s capital Oslo.

What the media avoid to mention

What the news organizations purposefully avoided to discuss: Three helpless women were shot dead by a bestial, monstrous killer. Maybe it was a contract killer, maybe it was a secret agent, but whoever committed this crime was a deranged psychopathic animal which in any functioning society should be put away into a mental institution till the end of its life.

If Sakine Cansiz was indeed under police surveillance, how could this assassination happen? How could the murderer enter the Kurdish center without being noticed by the French police? Why was the DCRI (Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence) not able to foil the plot? Or did they keep quiet because they didn’t want to disturb a colleague doing his job?

Did they know and just turned a blind eye?

In Paris, the mood was angry and somber as hundreds of exiled Kurds filled the street outside the Kurdistan Information Center. Police erected barricades to try to contain the crowd. Flowers were laid in front of the building and some people waved Kurdish flags while others chanted, “We are all PKK.”

5 Kurdish activist murder 2


From a comment on Moon of Alabama:

This is an act ordered from outside PKK and the assassination was likely targeting the entire current PKK political leadership, since an internal feud between factions regarding policy would have either directly targeted the opposing ideological figure(s) or associated lower level operatives with the objective of eliminating them, sow terror, and deter the opposing faction. These women were the PR face of the PKK in France and the whole EU. They didn’t have any operation role in the field and their assassination doesn’t help either faction.

It is also likely that French intelligence was aware of the act before hand. This area of Paris has the second and third biggest train stations in the city right next to each other and is heavily guarded by security elements.

From Wikileaks 2007

US targets Sakine Cansiz

“6. (S) Our immediate goal is to deny the PKK use of the European financial and air transport systems to move money from Europe into northern Iraq for their operations. We can accomplish this via enhanced intelligence sharing, more careful airport screening and strict enforcement of cash declaration requirements. We also should press the Europeans to take action against the two most notorious PKK/KGK financiers in Europe, Riza Altun and Sakine Cansiz. Riza Altun is known to be a top PKK financier. He fled judicial arrest in France in July and Austrian authorities allowed him to fly to Iraq on July 13, but he recently has been seen traveling again in Europe. Sakine Cansiz is a PKK/KGK financier and weapons and tactical strategist. She was arrested in Germany but released by a Hamburg court on April 27 after 40 days of detention and remains in Europe. Their re-arrest and prosecution would limit PKK/KGK activities and signal that Europe is not a free zone for PKK/KGK fundraising.”

http://syrianperspective.blogspot.com/ wrote:


Last night we received a telephone call from a old friend in the Lebanese Deauxieme Bureau who enjoys our blog.  He asked me not to publish his name because, although he is a retired officer living in Morocco, he still had friends in both the French DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure) and the newly named Lebanese General Security Directorate.  (Mudiriyyat Al-Amn Al-‘Aam).  I will call him Tawfiq.  Tawfiq told me that the evidence all points to the French government acting on a request from Director of the Turkish MIT (Milli Istihbarat Teshkilati),  Hakan Fidan.

Tawfiq confirmed what some newspapers have written, that the MIT does not have extensive international operations or agents capable of carrying out what Americans call “black ops” or “wet ops”.  For this, they would have to send a “legal” agent into the country with the knowledge of the Ministry of the Interior and the DGSE.  Tawfiq believes that the agent used to penetrate the institute, where the women were meeting, was a Kurdish-speaking Turk trained to perform assassinations, and a Kurdish operative known to the women. Tawfiq hinted that he knew of such a man in the Turkish army who was recruited by the MIT after military discharge.

The motive was obvious. Erdoghan’s regime was negotiating with Abdallah Ocalan, the imprisoned former head of the PKK (Partie Karkerani Kurdistan) through the offices of the MIT — specifically the head, Hakan Fidan.  Ocalan is doing a life term for terrorism-related charges but was spared the death penalty when Turkey, soaring high on hopes of EU membership, abolished the practice and gave him a life term.  Ocalan was known to be severely depressed by the prospect of living out his life in a Turkish prison on his own “Elba”, the island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara, just 32 miles south of Istanbul.

Notwithstanding Erdoghan’s fatuous advertisements about Imrali’s high security penitentiary with its “luxurious” appointments and “perquisites”, all reports received by SyrPer demonstrate that this Alcatraz is no better than the Turkish prison detailed in the movie Midnight Express complete with a successful native rodent population and sadistic staff. You cannot fly over it and no fishing is permitted off its shores. It is Devils Island with a Turkish twist.

It is believed Ocalan had reiterated his oft-quoted demand that he be set free in exchange for which he would call on the PKK to throw down its arms to negotiate. Just recently, he used his questionable moral clout to end a national hunger strike that was inspired by his living conditions on the “luxurious and Edenic” Imrali island.

Tawfiq says the women were told in advance that an operative was going to visit them to coordinate Cansiz’ trip to Cologne where it was believed she was going to denounce both Erdoghan and Ocalan. The French regime of Francois Hollande, which is deeply invested in the ouster of Dr. Bashar Al-Assad and his government in Syria, cooperated with Erdoghan’s regime and actually proposed the assassination of Cansiz on condition that no French citizen would be the trigger man. This was agreeable to Fidan Hakan, MIT’s director. This is why a Turk was sent to Paris. Tawfiq says that the best way to know who pulled the trigger was to check on recent arrivals to the Turkish Embassy in Paris under diplomatic cover. Tawfiq did remark that the killer’s identity would probably be concealed although he would carry diplomatic papers in case something went wrong and he was arrested.

What went wrong, as usual with French operations, was the presence of the two other women with Cansiz. Tawfiq says that it is virtually certain that only Cansiz would be the target and that any others had to be viewed as “collateral damage”. He used the Arabic expression: “Dahaayaa Thanawiyya” or “Secondary Victims”. The operation was very professional.

Access to the institute was as Erdoghan described it: A person who was trusted was allowed in. The outside door lock was only operable with a coded key. So, in his mind, one of the women, certainly Cansiz, recognized the voice of one of the assassination team and permitted entry. This is how Erdoghan was able to say with a straight face that the killing was an “internal matter” for the PKK. What he did not say was that the trigger man was a Turk working for the MIT and that the PKK was penetrated. He also failed to state that the French government, literally, set up the murders to promote a Turk-Kurd solution in order to make the campaign against Dr. Assad’s government more effective.




  2. […] This is a sequel to the blog post Death in Paris […]


  3. […] Death in Paris […]


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