It is called a “slip of the tongue”, the way in which retired general İsmail Hakkı Pekin, former head of a Turkish military intelligence unit, confessed (“signalled”, as Ahval carefully phrased it) that it was the state that murdered Sakine Cansız, Leyla Şaylemez and Fidan Doğan in Paris in January 2013. In the very same slip, he threatened Kurdish leaders in Europe with the same fate. This loose lipped talk is a manifestation of the Turkish state’s impunity at home and abroad. And if Europe doesn’t wake up, more blood will flow on its streets.
Of course, it was not news that the state is responsible for the triple murder in Paris. The Kurdish movement instantly knew who was behind the massacre. I remember the funeral gathering for the three women in Diyarbakır (Amed), which I attended as a journalist and which was one of the biggest gatherings ever in the city. Afterwards, I joined Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) co-founder Sakine Cansız’ family (at least, those who had come from the Netherlands, where part of the family lives and whom I met there) to Dersim, Sakine’s home town, for the ceremony in which she was laid to rest. I will never forget the raw pain I saw, not only among her family members but also among her revolutionary friends.
The first state official to confess to the triple murder was Tayyip Erdoğan himself, in January 2014, a year after it happened. The power struggle between Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Gülen movement had just come to a climax a month earlier and Erdoğan put the murders in Paris in the movement’s hands. The French prosecutor concluded that the Turkish intelligence agency (MIT) commissioned the murders. Strengthening the case was difficult though, because there was no cooperation from Turkey in any way. Eventually, the case was closed because the man who was accused of pulling the trigger died of a brain tumour in a prison in France.
Of course, the state and all kinds of pundits have suggested that the murders were an internal PKK affair, a scenario for which no evidence existed. Turkey always wants to make Europe believe that the Kurdish political movement and the PKK in particular impose a huge risk on Europe’s safety. Some countries, Germany among them, go along with this and clamp down heavily on the Kurdish movement, even by raiding and banning publishing houses and banning flags. This erodes fundamental freedoms.
Are European countries fully aware of the danger that the Turkish state imposes on their safety? But we need to ask an even more poignant question: does Europe realise that it is jointly responsible for the shameless manner in which Turkey violates human rights at home and abroad by letting it get away with literally everything it does? By not speaking out against Turkey’s occupation of parts of northwest and northeast Syria and the crimes against humanity that Turkey and its mercenaries commit there, by not speaking out against the crackdown of the unarmed political movement in Turkey, by even making a dirty deal about refugees with this rogue state, it is normalising the state’s lust for blood.
It is precisely this silence, this impunity, that is at the root of this “slip of the tongue”. Turkey experiences again and again that it can take its crimes further and further without facing any consequences. Of course it stretches its limits to see how far it can go. The latest crime against life happened earlier this month in the Garê mountains in Kurdistan in Iraq, where the state sacrificed its own soldiers and MIT-agents to advance its occupational goals in both Iraq and Syria. Europe doesn’t even blink an eye at such brutality because in the war against “terrorism” everything is permissable.
Its own soil
But the impunity will ricochet right back in Europe’s face. Turkey’s so-called war against terrorism is bound to bring blood to its own soil again, like in Paris in 2013. Europe should not only start speaking out against Turkey’s crimes, but also change its treatment of the Kurdish movement: stop treating it as terroristic, start treating it as a civil society movement that has every right to demonstrate, publish, raise funds, broadcast, meet and organise. Enabling the movement is the practical way of speaking out and holding Turkey to account.
It will enrage Turkey, for sure, but it may be the only way to stop yet more “slips of the tongue”.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.