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Open letter to Christiane Taubira, French justice minister

Peace in Kurdistan Campaign and others

We are writing to you because we are sure, like us, you were deeply shocked when you heard of the assassinations in Paris of three Kurdish women human rights and peace activists on 9 January 2013; and furthermore because we are aware of your dedicated work for the rights of women, minorities and other marginalised peoples.

Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez were shot in the middle of the afternoon at the Kurdish Information Centre in Paris, in a building under 24-hour surveillance by the French authorities and in circumstances that would suggest the murders were well-planned and undertaken by a professional killer.

Each of the women was well known and well-loved as an active member of the movement for Kurdish liberation in Turkey.

Sakine, Fidan and Leyla were part of a long and important tradition of Kurdish women’s liberation, which has always been intimately tied to the struggle for Kurdish self-determination.

It is a cruel injustice that Sakine, Fidan and Leyla, members of a vanguard women’s movement that integrates Kurdish women’s liberation with the struggle for social democratisation, were killed just days after peace talks with the Turkish government were announced. That same week, Turkish military operations were expanded across the southeast of the country and in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, in flagrant violation of international law.

We ask that you please ensure that the authorities charged with investigating the murders carry out a complete and thorough investigation. We ask that you ensure that the co-responsibility of the French state in the assassinations, wherever it is proved to exist, be presented to the public.

We ask also that the systematic criminalisation of Kurds in France, which is the context in which these murders have taken place, be finally put to an end.

We would also hope that you will use your influence to encourage the other European governments to support a peace process that goes beyond simple demands for disarmament and instead recognises the needs and efforts of all Kurdish people who are involved in the movement for civil, political, economic and gender rights.

Finally, we would hope that you are able to show support for Kurdish women who are the leading actors in this long struggle for Kurdish liberation.

With our best wishes,

Margaret Owen, director Widows for Peace and Democracy (WPD) and patron of Peace in Kurdistan Campaign; Mary Davis, professor of Labour History, and patron; baroness Helena Kennedy QC; Gillian Slovo, novelist; Jean Lambert MEP; Jill Evans MEP; Caroline Lucas MP; Annette Lawson, chair, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations; Gareth Peirce, human rights lawyer; Martha Jean Baker, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; and 100 other women.