Do democrats in Europe share responsibility?
On 23 December, 69-year-old William Mallet killed three Kurds and injured three others. He struck in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, outside a Kurdish cultural centre. I think we should ask this very question. In five months, there will be presidential elections in Turkey.
In addition, we must ask another question that might be even more unpleasant: Are parts of the French state leadership protecting some of those who organise terrorism against left-wing Kurds in Europe?
As I raise these questions, I would also like to emphasise that both organisations and political leaders in France quickly showed solidarity with the terror victims. CDK-F (Conseil Democratiqe Kurde en France) says that the City Hall in the 10th arrondissement of Paris lowered the French tricolor to half-mast and flew a Kurdish flag next to it to pay tribute to the victims. On Twitter, President Emmanuel Macron wrote that Mallet’s triple murder was a targeted attack on the Kurdish community in France: “The Kurds of France have been the target of a heinous attack in the middle of Paris.”
Such symbolic actions and statements are important. And they oblige. What is President Macron doing in the coming weeks? Will he allow the police investigation to be a repeat of the cover-up that happened after the previous triple murder in Paris, on 9 January 2013?
“France’s passivity and Europe’s silence”
Beth Hartmann challenged Macron in an appeal outside the French embassy in Oslo. She is one of the leaders in Norwegian SolKurd (Solidarity with Kurdistan). She put it like this:
“Terror is repeating itself. I stand here in sorrow. This time it was the women’s activist Evîn Goyî, the artist Mîr Perwer and the Kurdish activist Abdullah Kızıl who lost their lives.
They used their lives to fight for Kurdish rights and freedom in different ways.
It is France’s passivity, Europe’s silence about the abuses the Kurds are subjected to in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria that enable the Kurds’ suffering to continue. In Iran, the population is imprisoned and killed if they do not follow the dress code set by the clergy. In Iraq, women are killed because the patriarchy decides what women should and shouldn’t do. In Turkey, politicians are killed because they are in opposition to the president. In Syria and Iraq, Kurds are being killed by Turkey because Turkey is afraid of losing its power and because the Kurds have chosen to follow and live by Öcalan’s ideology.
Only unity and solidarity from the Kurds’ allies can change this. We demand that France get to the bottom of the terrorist attack on Christmas Eve.”
The EU-Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC)
In a statement, the EUTCC is also clear: “The EU Turkey Civic Commission condemns the attack in the strongest terms and demands a complete clarification which is also necessary for the Paris attack in 2013. Generating the narrative of a mentally ill, racist lone perpetrator is dangerous. The European Union, and France in particular, must take a clear stance against all acts of terrorism by Turkey on European soil.”
William Mallet – a lone wolf or one of the Grey Wolves?
Several have tried to portray 69-year-old Mallet as a racist, but a lone wolf. But shortly after the murders, Al Mayadeen, an independent Arab satellite channel based in Beirut, reported: “The prosecutor said the man had planned to shoot himself in the head with the last bullet after he had completed the attack.”
And what did Mallet plan to use all the other bullets for, before taking his own life?
How concrete were the plans?
A driver drove Mallet to the crime scene. Have the police arrested the driver? With all the surveillance cameras in the streets of Paris, it couldn’t have been difficult to identify the car, could it?
Mallet carried a lot of ammunition. He turned up outside the Kurdish cultural centre just as 60 Kurdish women were to meet there. The women were to plan a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the liquidation of three Kurdish women’s activists, Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez. Was it Mallet alone who determined the place and time of the crime? Traffic problems caused the 60 women to be an hour late. This is what saved their lives.
Mallet had plenty of ammunition. Employees of a nearby Kurdish hair salon saw that Mallet had killed three people before he had emptied the first magazine. They overpowered the terrorist while he was busy putting a new magazine in the rifle. They held him until the police arrived.
This has not been proven, but there are strong indications that Mallet was not alone in this attack, which was aimed specifically at activists in the Kurdish women’s movement. If the French investigation does not include a full investigation into whether this is the case, and who was behind Mallet, President Macron’s twitter statement will be reduced to empty words. Perhaps the truth is that the racist Mallet was just a useful “tool” for those who planned the terrorist attack?
The Grey Wolves
The Grey Wolves became known in Europe when, in the mid-1990s, they collaborated with Turkey’s National Intelligence Service (MİT) and activists from the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) in the murders of politically active Kurds. They were called extrajudicial executions.
But the Grey Wolves have a much longer history. The late Colonel Alparslan Türkeş (1917-1997) became a politician and in the late 1960s founded both the terrorist organisation the Grey Wolves and the MHP. Türkeş later became Deputy Prime Minister. The Grey Wolves have collaborated with MİT both in Turkey and in Europe. Their strongest overseas department is in Germany. They have carried out actions against leftists, against Armenians and against Kurds.
Turkish threat of retaliation
In November 2020, three years before Mallet’s triple murder, the French branch of the Grey Wolves was banned. The Turkish foreign minister criticised the French decision. According to Wikipedia, he announced the intent to retaliate: “We will reciprocate to this decision in the strongest way.”
Turkey’s Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu spoke just as clearly on 24 December 2022, the day after Mallet’s triple murder in Paris: “Tayyip Erdoğan will not only purge the terrorists in Turkey, but also the terrorists in the world.”
Wouldn’t it be more natural for a head of state to send a condolence message to the victims, as President Macron did?
Do Europeans have a responsibility?
We are dealing with terror directed or inspired from Turkey. It does not only affect Kurds. In Turkey, it can affect anyone who is part of the democratic opposition and fights for freedom and democratic rights. The terror strikes, regardless of whether the Grey Wolves, MİT or IS (Islamic State) are behind it.
This terror is not just a matter for Kurds and for those of us Europeans who support the Kurds’ fight for freedom and democratic rights. The terror against democratic forces can also strike blindly in Europe, regardless of whether Turkey or IS is behind it.
In autumn 2015, I met Nezrîn Abdullah. We were in the Kurdish part of Syria. Abdullah is the commander-in-chief of the Women’s Defence Forces (YPJ), which today is part of the cross-cultural SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces). She put it like this:
“The fight we are waging against Da’esh (Arabic name for IS) is a fight for the whole world. Not just for Syria”.
The SDF continued this fight. Some 12,000 Kurds, Arabs and soldiers of other nationalities sacrificed their lives in the fight against IS until 2019. They saw this as a fight “for the whole world.”
How have European heads of state shown their gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives to stop the terrorist organisation IS? The answer is simple: the heads of state have all given tacit or active support to the ongoing war Turkey is waging to destroy the SDF. If Turkey succeeds, they will destroy the strongest counterforce against IS. Already now we see that Turkey’s war against the SDF has contributed to the terrorist organisation IS being on the offensive again.
Should Europeans care?
Many Europeans, who are sincere democrats themselves, are in practice indifferent both to Turkish-led terror in Europe and to Turkey’s war to destroy the SDF in Syria. Some of them might benefit from reading a poem by the German priest Martin Niemøller. For many years he too was indifferent to persecution and terror, as long as he himself was not caught up in it. From the day the Nazi regime took him in 1937 and until Hitler’s defeat in 1945, Niemöller was in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps.
by Martin Niemøller.
First, they took the communists
but I didn’t care
because I was not a communist.
Then they took the trade unionists
but I didn’t care
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they took the Jews
but I didn’t care
because I was not a Jew.
Finally, they caught me.
But then there was no one left to care.
Erling Folkvord is a journalist and author, a member of the Norwegian Red Party, a former member of the Norwegian parliament, the leader of Solidarity with Kurdistan and a member of Oslo City Council.