PARIS–Kurds in Paris are protesting that they are being harassed by police as authorities push to track down members of a Kurdish separatist terrorist organisation.
Protesters gathered on Saturday, Oct. 24 in Paris following events a week earlier, which saw members of the Kurdish community detained after a visit by the Turkish president.
Police seized members of Kurdish associations, searched their homes and detained them in a Kurdish cultural center while they searched the premises, confiscating documents and computer hard drives. Kurds gathered outside and clashed with police who used tear gas against them.
Ulker Mehmet and Aydar Leon from the Kurdish Federation (Feyka) and Celil Akdogan and Denis Yildirim from the Ahmet Kaya Kurdish Cultural Center were taken into custody and questioned. They were later released without charges. This came following the visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gül who launched the “Season of Turkey in France.”
“At 6 a.m. on Tuesday, I heard someone knock on my door. I opened and they said they were antiterrorist police come to search my house,” said Ulker Mehmet, President of Feyka. “They asked me what the role of my federation was and whether I was close to the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party].”
The PKK is engaged in an armed struggle with Turkey to create an independent Kurdistan. It is considered a terrorist organization by many countries and bodies, including France, the U.N. and the EU.
Mehmet denied being a member of the PKK or their representative. “We work for the Kurdish culture and language to integrate the Kurdish community in France. I want to inform the French public on what is happening in Kurdistan, what the Kurdish problem is, and what Kurds are asking for.”
Mrs. Celebi, a Kurdish law student in Paris, witnessed the search of the Ahmet Kaya Center.
“We saw they had broken down the front door [to the center]. We saw a woman in a headscarf [with the police]. They say she is a traitor who gave false information to the police. We came to protest and asked them to release our friends. The police were inside and stopped us from coming inside the association,” she said.
Mehmet says the detention was political, a favor done for Turkey. “Two or three days before my arrest, the Turkish president visited France. Two or three days later, Kurdish associations are attacked.”
PKK commander Murat Karayilan told the think tank Jamestown, “France is giving Turkey a message: ‘Don’t be scared, I’m attacking the PKK in my own country and you can have your war against the PKK. We will be at your back and supporting you.’”
However, France is opposing Turkey’s entry into the EU. A major point of contention over its membership is the human rights situation of Kurdish and Armenian minorities.
These events come after a group of eight PKK rebels gave themselves up on Monday, Oct. 21 in response to a Turkish peace initiative. They were released the following day after questioning pending trial. A crowd of around 100,000 people then gathered to great them in Diyarbakir, the largest city of the Kurdish-majority southeast.