Tens of thousands attend Turkish funeral of murdered Kurdish activists

The three women, including a co-founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), were murdered in execution-style shootings in Paris.

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey // Thousands of people poured on to the streets of Diyarbakir, Turkey's main Kurdish city, yesterday for the funeral of three Kurdish activists who were killed in Paris last week, chanting pro-militant slogans as their coffins passed through the crowds.

The three women, including a co-founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), were murdered in execution-style shootings.

Many people saw the killings as an attempt to derail a nascent peace process between the Turkish state and the guerrillas.

The prospect of an end to three decades of war between the Turkish state and the PKK has gained momentum in recent weeks after the government acknowledged it was talking to Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader.

Thousands of cheering supporters were at Diyarbakir airport late on Wednesday as the bodies of PKK member Sakine Cansiz and the two other activists arrived amid tight security. More than 10,000 gathered early yesterday in Diyarbakir's Baglar district, a PKK stronghold, as the coffins, draped in green cloth and decorated with red carnations, were driven slowly through the crowds.

"The martyrs' path is our path", "PKK is our party" and "Long live leader Apo", they chanted, referring to Ocalan, who has been jailed on an island south of Istanbul since his capture in 1999.

Women and children applauded and waved, while others made a victory sign with their fingers at their windows. Two young men, their faces covered by scarves, held aloft the green, red and yellow flag of the PKK. Many shops in the city remained closed in mourning.

"Planes still take off and bomb the mountains and kill our youths. How can they talk about peace?" said Makbule, a 46-year-old housewife whose son joined the PKK three years ago.

"These women dedicated their lives to the Turkish people. We have no confidence in Turkey," said Gulistan, also a housewife.

The coffins arrived at a parade ground in the city where a funeral ceremony was to take place before the bodies were flown for burial in the women's hometowns.

The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has called for calm at the funeral proceedings and warned that the security forces would be "sensitive and vigilant" to any provocation or unrest.

There was no sign of any violence as the coffins were driven through the city of 1.5 million people.

Mr Erdogan, under pressure to bring an end to the violence, has said his government's renewed peace efforts are sincere but has also maintained Ankara's hardline approach to a conflict that has burnt at the heart of Turkey for almost 30 years.