AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Friday 18 January 2013
Last update 18 January 2013 12:12 am
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Thousands of Kurds gathered yesterday in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir for the funeral of three female Kurdish activists shot dead in Paris last week.
The growing crowd of participants, including women adorned in white scarves, a symbol of peace, marched in a funeral procession many fear could turn into a violent protest.
A massive convoy followed on foot the hearses carrying the coffins, which were then hoisted onto platforms in a square on the outskirts of the city.
Tens of thousands more were expected to pour into the city during the day to pay homage to the victims.
The three women, one of them Sakine Cansiz, a co-founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were found shot execution-style at a Kurdish centre in Paris last week. French police are investigating the mysterious killings.
“Sakine was a historic figure of the movement (PKK),” said Ali Gokot, from the regional ranks of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which organised the funeral.
“Her death is very painful,” he lamented, as women, standing at the front of the huge crowd, chanted: “Fighting makes you free!”
Many could also be heard shouting “revenge.”
The portraits of the three women were placed in front of the coffins, draped in the red, yellow and green Kurdish flag and red carnations.
The bodies were brought back home late Wednesday, as thousands escorted them from Diyarbakir airport to a hospital morgue chanting “Martyrs will live forever.”
Security forces have been placed on high alert with politicians appealing for calm and urging people not to let the killings derail nascent peace talks.
The talks between the Turkish government and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan are aimed and ending the group’s armed campaign that has claimed 45,000 lives in nearly three decades.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speculated the killings could be the result of an “internal feud” within the PKK aimed at crippling the talks.
He urged 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.
A police helicopter flew over the funeral procession yesterday and riot police were also deployed.
Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir dismissed concerns of violence erupting.
“The attitude of Diyarbakir will be one that... contributes to the evolution of peace talks to permanent negotiations and peace,” he told AFP on Wednesday.
The bodies will be sent for burial in nearby hometowns today.