The murder of three members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the Kurdistan Information Center in Paris on Jan. 9 dominated Turkish politics with concerns about the attack being a sabotage of the ongoing process initiated by the government to find a peaceful solution to Turkey’s long-lasting Kurdish problem.
So far there is no solid evidence of whether the murder of three female members of the organization was a result of a PKK inner dispute or a “provocation” against the talks, as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has put it. Yet it has all the factors and more of a political conspiracy thriller.
There are two other states in the region’s Kurdish game that would not enjoy Turkey getting rid of the Kurdish problem, improving inner peace and running faster in the economyMurat Yetkin
One of the women killed, Sakine Cansız, is a founding member of the PKK. In the past, there was a period when she took part in a factional inner fight (the Vejin affair) that resulted in the 1991 killing of her fiance, Mehmet Şener, by the victorious Öcalan faction, reportedly with the help of Syrian intelligence, who was hosting the PKK at the time. Giving her “self-criticism port,” according to the Stalinist rituals of the organization, Cansız was promoted to German branch chief and recently her responsibilities were reportedly extended to cover France as well. Some reports say she was among the few to control PKK money in Europe (an estimated 4-5 billion euros a year), with alleged links to drug trafficking and extortion from workers of Kurdish origin there, according to the U.S. Treasury and Turkish intelligence reports.
The other woman killed, Fidan Doğan, was the only one among the three who did not have any police record and we understand from the statement of French President François Hollande that she had been talking to Hollande and other political figures in France (another NATO member) as the French branch spokeswoman for the PKK’s self-declared Kurdistan National Congress.
It is estimated that a 7.65 mm (small and ordinary) pistol or pistols were used to kill the three women and ten rounds were shot, all in the bodies of the victims, probably using silencers – or shots were somehow silenced – as nobody heard them.
The attacker or attackers simply closed the door behind themselves and walked away with no evidence showing a forced entry.
The first scenario concerns how the murders were carried out. The police cameras will reveal the truth, whether there were intruders, but it may well be that the attackers were sitting in the Information Center near Gare du Nord and summoned Cansız and Fidan (via Leyla Söylemez, the third victim, according to one security analyst in Ankara) to inform them of the ongoing talks between the Turkish government and Öcalan, perhaps saying that there was a letter from “the leadership.” The gunman then killed the women and walked away. The fact that they had left the cartridges behind shows that they were not professionals or they were extremely professional, if they wanted to leave a ballistic trace to lead investigators to other attacks committed with the same gun, or guns.
This scenario does not necessarily mean that it was an inner PKK fight, but it means that the killer – or killers – and victims knew each other.
The second scenario or bunch of scenarios concerns who might have killed a group of influential PKK members amid talks to end bloodshed in Turkey.
It may well be another inner fight, but if it is so, this time the split could be over the talks with the government and it may result in a new and more radical organization from within the PKK. There is a tendency in the PKK and in the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) to accuse Turkish security forces, judging from the past experiences of the 1990s. But this time, Erdoğan is more or less in control of his government apparatus and Turkish intelligence (MİT) has already started its own investigation in cooperation with its French counterpart (DGSE). Another alternative is a secret service operation, probably using its sleepers within the PKK, so that it would both look like an inner fight and potentially damage the talks.
It would be a shockingly bad surprise if the secret service of a NATO country, especially the U.S. or Western Europe, is involved. Neither France nor any of its allies would like to import an armed struggle of the Middle East to Western European streets.
Russia would have been a better candidate in the recent past, but as Gazprom and other Russian giants started to invest in Iraq, they also would like to see stability in the region; it would also be a surprise if it were involved.
Israel is always a star of conspiracy theories in the region, especially when Turkey and Israel are not on good terms and Israel might strategically favor a non-Arab state between Iran and itself, also empowering two big states like Turkey and Iraq. But it could be difficult – if not impossible – for MOSSAD to implant long-term agents in the PKK.
But there are two other states in the region’s Kurdish game that would not enjoy Turkey getting rid of the Kurdish problem, improving inner peace and running faster in the economy. And it may not be that difficult for Iran, and especially Syrian intelligence, to employ Kurdish agents within the PKK, since there are Kurds of Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian origin in the PKK. There is also the legitimate question of whether Iran would like to invite more problems in addition to the ones it already has with the U.S. and Israel?
Actually, the most hard-line faction in the PKK, which openly opposes talks, is led by a Syrian Kurd, Fehman Hussein, and Bahoz Erdal. PKK sympathizers in Syria are fighting in support of Bashar al-Assad forces and one has to keep in mind that Damascus is very angry with both Ankara and Paris, since they are giving a great deal of help to the opposition in Syria.
But these are all speculative scenarios and it is the French police who will tell us the end of the story, if there is one.
*This article was published in the Hurriyet Daily News on Jan. 12, 2013. Link: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/scenarios-on-the-paris-killings.aspx?pageID=449&nID=38896&NewsCatID=409
(Murat Yetkin is the current editor-in-chief of Hurriyet Daily News and a columnist for Radikal, a Turkish publication. He is a political commentator on Turkish and Middle Eastern affairs and has previously worked for BBC World Service and AFP. He can be found on Twitter: @MuratYetkin2.)