Three Kurdish women were murdered in Paris last night, execution style.
The French Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, described it as an assassination.
All were activists for the PKK, the militant group that’s long fought for Kurdish rights in Turkey.
One was a PKK co-founder, a woman called Sakine Cansiz.
The US and Turkey call the PKK a terrorist group.
The killings come at a sensitive time, says Newsweek’s Paris Bureau Chief, Christopher Dickey.
“Only yesterday it was announced,” says Dickey, that the main leader of the PKK, “had reached an agreement (with Turkey) for a roadmap to end the 30-year-old insurgency.”
Paris has “a long, grim tradition of murder linked to the Middle East,” Dickey adds.
Read the Transcript
The text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to firstname.lastname@example.org. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI’s THE WORLD is the program audio.
Marco Werman: Paris is also a hub for activists and dissidents from all over the world. Three of those activists were murdered last night. All three were Kurdish women and activists for the PKK, that’s the militant group that’s been fighting for Kurdish rights in Turkey for decades. The US and Turkey called the PKK a terrorist group. Christopher Dickey is the Paris Bureau Chief for Newsweek. Christopher, tell us about these women and now they died.
Christopher Dickey: Well, I think the most interesting of the women is a founder of the PKK, who has been very close to the most famous founder and head of the organization, Abdullah Ocalan, for many years. What’s interesting about her and about this whole situation is that only yesterday it was announced at Ocalan, who’s in prison in Turkey on an island off the coast of Turkey, had reached an agreement for the roadmap to end the 30-year old insurgency there. So there’s all kinds of questions about whether this murder was in some way linked to that deal, and if so, who had the motives to carry it out? And who had the skills to carry it out because it looks like it was a pretty professional hit.
Werman: Right, and with silencers used on a pistol allegedly, it sounded very cloak and dagger. Who are the likely suspects?
Dickey: If you talk to Kurdish activists, they’re trying to point the finger if not at the government in Ankara, maybe at some factions of the government in Ankara or in the military in Ankara who want to undermine this peace initiative. It’s also possible that there were dissident groups within the PKK who thought it might be useful to get rid of these women, and maybe even that people who were in favor of the peace settlement thought that the main one of these women would be a more problem for them. It’s that kind of complicated Middle Eastern conspiracy theory that just abounds after an event like this, but I think there’s no question that it was an assassination and in fact, it’s already been called that by the French interior minister.
Werman: Chris, is it me or is there a lot of this international intrigue and occasional violence in Paris, or have I just seen too many Jason Bourne movies?
Dickey: Well, I think one reason that those Jason Bourne movies take place in Paris is because it’s a very beautiful place that does have a very great deal of intrigue. I mean over the years there have been a number of people assassinated in Paris by various factions settling scores. Back in the very early 1980s the Iranian government, the Revolutionary government was carrying out a systematic campaign of murder in the streets of Europe, and a lot of those murders took place in Paris. Even before that you had the Israelis killing people that they thought were in some way connected with the Munich Olympics massacre of 1972 here in Paris. So there is a sort of long grim tradition of murder linked to the Middle East here in Paris.
Werman: Why is that historically? Is there a reason for Paris being the center of such stuff?
Dickey: Well, I think because it is a, it is a city that has taken lots of exiles and lots of, lots of people who are not conspiring against the French government, but maybe conspiring against other governments or other factions around the world. And it’s certainly not a place where it’s easy to get a gun. It’s certainly not a place that doesn’t have good police work, but these people are here. They’re important and at some point dictators, tyrants or other factions just decide it’s time to try and get rid of them and this is where they are.
Werman: Christopher Dickey, head of Newsweek’s Paris office. Thank you very much.
Dickey: Thank you.
Copyright ©2012 PRI’s THE WORLD. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to PRI’s THE WORLD. This transcript may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission. For further information, please email The World’s Permissions Coordinator at email@example.com.