Should I write a column about both Roboski massacre, which happened eleven years ago on the day I am writing this (28th December), and the murder of three Kurds last week in Paris? Should the intentional massacre by the Turkish state of 34 Kurdish civilians, mostly underaged, be in any way compared to a triple murder that raises many questions but about which we don’t know if Turkey is in any way involved in? Eventually I decided: yes, I can write about both because Roboski and Paris are telling about the position of Kurds in Turkey and in Europe.
The connection between Roboski and me will never be broken. The massacre has defined much of my life in the last decade, both personally and professionaly. I didn’t know much about the Kurdish issue in Turkey before I came to the village for the first time in one of the first days of 2012, less than a week after the massacre took place. Leaving again the same evening, after having written a piece for a news agency and a youth magazine, I had more questions than answers. What on earth had happened here?
I dedicated the months after that to finding answers to that question. It turned out that if you thoroughly explained the Roboski massacre, you explained the Kurdish issue in Turkey from a historical, social and political perspective. What I, in retrospect investigated, was the answer the villagers gave me when I asked them during that first visit why this massacre had happened: “Kürt olduğumuz için”: “Because we are Kurds”. After all my investigations, both in the village and in historical research and interviews with all kinds of experts, I concluded the same: it happened because they were Kurds.
Is it the same with the triple murders in Paris last week? It is an entirely different case. An elderly white Frenchman shot dead Evîn Goyî, Mîr Perwer and Abdurrahman Kızıl and as far as we know now, he did not do it explicitely because of their Kurdish identity. He is a racist, self-proclaimed even, and last year he severly wounded two Sudanese men in a migrants camp with a sword. It could have been any other ethnic group this time. But then again, it wasn’t any other ethnic group, the victims were Kurds. A coincidence? Or again a case of “Kürt olduğumuz için”?
On Saturday, I went to Paris to get some answers. I spent hours at the Place de la Republique and talked to many people about what happened. Not only to Kurds who were at the square, but also to a few young Kurds in the streets surrounding it. In those streets, halfway the afternoon the troubles started: young Kurds were prying asphalt to use the chunks to throw at police vehicles, they set some cars on fire and destroyed bus shelters. What I learned from those conversations: people feel increasingly unsafe and unprotected in Europe, and they demand that the consequences of the politics behind this, like murders, stop.
Which politics? The politics of appeasing Erdoğan. Sweden has extradited a Kurd to Turkey who was immediately incarcerated, while he was convicted in an unfair, political trial. In (most explicitely) Germany and the UK, Kurdish activism is increasingly being criminalized, with publishing houses being raided and books confiscated and with people being prosecuted for something ordinary like waving a flag. Erdoğan’s roaring ‘terrorism’ rhetoric lands in fertile European soil: Europe is scared shitless of refugees and of Erdoğan’s threat that he will open the border to let Syrians move to Europe, and Sweden (and Finland) are desperate to please Turkey to secure NATO-membership.
What does this have to do with last week’s murders? European intelligence services cooperate with Turkey’s MIT, and are keeping a close watch on the Kurdish community in Europe. As one woman told me: “We can’t even drink a glass of water and the intelligence services know it, but they couldn’t see this murderous attack coming? Nobody here belives that.” A young Kurd from Brussels said something similar: “If we don’t react fiercely, we don’t send a strong enough message to France that they should stop letting this happen.”
This resonates even more in Paris. It is in that city of course that on 9th January 2013 another triple murder against Kurds took place. Leyla Şaylemez, Fidan Doğan and (the legendary co-founder of PKK) Sakine Cansız, were murdered by a German Turk hired by MIT. The murderer died in prison because of a brain tumor, and Turkey was never held accountable because it refuses to cooperate with requests for legal assistance and France just lets it be. How can Kurds have any faith whatsoever that the murders against them and their fears and anger will be taken seriously?
So yes, regardless of whether the murderer targeted Kurds because of their Kurdish etnicity or not, the whole dynamic says a lot about the position of Kurds in Europe. Just like Roboski massacre clearly explains the position of Kurds in Turkey.
May our hearts shrivel if we forget.
Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her acclaimed weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan .