Paris shooting viewed as 'continuation of repression' against Kurds

PKK supporters out in force to protest on streets of French capital after the attack

A man carries a flag showing the face of Abdullah Ocalan, the founder and leader of the PKK, at a protest in Paris on Saturday. EPA
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Members of France’s Kurdish community gathered in the Place de la Republique in eastern Paris on Saturday evening, where anger and discontent were palpable.

They were joined by anti-racism activists in a show of support for those mourning the deaths of three people gunned down at a Kurdish cultural centre in an assault that prosecutors say was racially motivated.

The Kurdish Democratic Council in France (CDK-F), an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), said two men and one woman were killed and three others injured in the upmarket 10th district of the French capital before noon on Friday.

The suspect, who is in police custody, told investigators he carried out the attack because he is a racist.

But French media reported that some Kurds outraged by the attack, which wounded three others, refused to believe racism was the only factor involved.

“The Kurdish community has never before been targeted by far-right ‘racism', the motivation put forward by the suspect in police custody,” French daily Le Monde reported. “The demonstrators, on the other hand, see it as the continuation of the repression that hits Kurds in their countries of origin and in their exile.”

Kurds, a large ethnic group in the Middle East, do not have a state of their own and claim to be persecuted by the governments of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Many demonstrators carried posters of Abdullah Ocalan, the founder and leader of the PKK, who is imprisoned in Turkey.

A man holds a PKK flag at a protest in Paris on Saturday. Reuters

The PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by the EU, US, UK, Canada and Australia. Nato also refers to the PKK as a terrorist entity.

The party, which is at war with the Turkish state, “had wanted to make the demonstration a moment of recollection as much as a demonstration of strength in the heart of France and the EU”, French media reported.

Supporters of the PKK were blamed for violent riots on the streets of Paris after the shooting.

Rioters overturned and set fire to cars, smashed shop windows and bus shelters, and violently clashed with police in the aftermath of the attack.

Footage posted on social media showed projectiles being hurled at riot police officers.

Emine Kara, a feminist activist, and Mir Perwer, a singer, were two of those killed by the gunman. The third victim, Abdulrahman Kizil, was a regular visitor to the Kurdish centre.

The suspect, named in French media as William M, 69, was last year accused of attacking migrants at a camp and using a sword to slash their tents. That incident took place at Bercy on December 8, 2021, and led to him being charged with racist violence. It remains unclear why he was recently released from prison.

For Friday’s shooting, he is facing potential charges of murder and attempted murder with a racist motive, the prosecutor’s office said.

He was found with a case loaded with a box of at least 25 cartridges and “two or three loaded magazines”, police said.

The weapon was a “much-used” US Army Colt 1911 pistol.

The gathering of solidarity with the Kurds in Paris on Christmas Eve was largely peaceful, with some scenes of violence. Youths hurled projectiles at police and set cars and rubbish bins on fire. Officers fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Some protesters shouted slogans against the Turkish government.

Berivan Firat of the Kurdish Democratic Council in France told BFM TV that the violence began after some people drove by waving a Turkish flag.

Yekbun Ogur, a middle school biology teacher in Paris, was among those at the demonstration.

“We are devastated, really,” he said. “We are destroyed because we lost a very important member of our community and we are angry. How is this possible?

“Is it normal for a man with a gun to sneak into a cultural place to come and murder people?”

Another mourner, Yunus Cicek, wiped his tears away as he admitted he fears for his safety.

“We are not protected here,” he said. “Even though I have political refugee status, I don’t feel safe. Maybe next time it will be me.”

Three dead in Paris shooting — in pictures

French President Emmanuel Macron said: “The Kurds in France have been the target of an odious attack in the heart of Paris.”

The Paris police chief, acting on orders from the President, met with members of the Kurdish community on Saturday to try to allay their fears.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the suspect was clearly targeting foreigners, had acted alone and was not officially affiliated with any extreme right or other radical movements. The suspect had past convictions for illegal arms possession and armed violence.

Kurdish activists said they had recently been warned by police of threats to Kurdish targets.

The UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation said it “strongly condemned” the shooting.

Updated: December 25, 2022, 1:05 PM