Thousands gather for slain Kurds’ funeral

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 6:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 January, 2013, 7:27pm

Several thousand Kurds gathered on Thursday in a square in Diyarbakir, the main city of Turkey’s Kurd-majority southeast, to pay a final tribute to three Kurdish women activists who were assassinated in Paris last week.

The growing crowd of participants, men and women adorned in white scarves, a symbol of peace, marched in a funeral many in Turkey feared would turn into a violent protest.

Tens of thousands more were expected to pour in to pray and pay homage at the coffins of the three victims, placed on small platforms at Batikent square on the outskirts of Diyarbakir.

The three women, one of them Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were found fatally shot, at least three times in their heads, at a Kurdish centre in Paris last week. French police were hunting the unknown assailants.

The bodies were brought back home late on Wednesday, as thousands escorted them from Diyarbakir airport to a hospital morgue, blowing their horns and chanting “Martyrs will live forever”.

Security forces remained on alert, as several police squads were deployed to the airport and many more watched the hospital where the bodies were kept overnight.

The killings came as the Turkish government revealed nascent peace talks between the intelligence agency and Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader who was for a long time a comrade of Cansiz.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speculated the killings could be an “internal feud” within the PKK aimed at crippling the talks, which Ankara hopes will provide an end to the Kurdish insurgency that has claimed 45,000 lives in nearly three decades.

Erdogan called on the supporters of the Kurdish cause to be wary of possible “provocateurs who may want to sabotage the process” by disturbing the peace during the funerals.

Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir, however, dismissed such concerns.

“The attitude of Diyarbakir will be one that... contributes to the evolution of peace talks to permanent negotiations and peace,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

The bodies will be sent for burial in nearby hometowns on Friday.