Mme Christiane Taubira
Ministère de la Justice
13, Place Vendôme
75042 Paris – Cedex 01

25 April 2013


Open Letter to Christiane Taubira, French Justice Minister

Women call for Justice for Sakine, Fidan and Leyla


Dear Mme Christiane Taubira,

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.

We, in the UK, who have been intensely engaged in the Kurdish issues in Turkey, knew these brave and wonderful women extremely well. We remain in a state of intense grief, as are all members of the Kurdish community.  But we also fear for the potential impact that this brutal act could have on the recently announced peace talks between the Turkish government and the Kurds.  Peace through dialogue and not through violence was what these women had been working for unstintingly, and we must not allow their work to be destroyed by these murders. We owe it to them that their murderers are identified and brought to justice and also that the peace process continues.

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; as a founding member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Sakine Cansiz in particular was a leading and inspirational figure for Kurdish women. Having been subjected to torture in a Turkish prison in 1980, the resistance and courage she showed led her to become a symbol of the Kurdish women’s struggle. Hundreds of thousands of people attended her funeral in Amed (Diyarbakir) in southeast 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. Both ideologically and in practice, the Kurdish movement recognises that the democratisation of society is dependent on the liberation of women.  Kurdish women across Kurdistan and the diaspora have established civil society organisations based on challenging patriarchy, encouraging the involvement of women at all levels and in all areas of the resistance movement, as well as fighting for the acceptance of Kurdish identity, language and culture, for an end to military and state violence, and for the democratisation of Turkish society.
Abdullah Ocalan, the Kurdish leader, has always insisted that true democracy must be founded on the basis of gender equality and women’s rights. He has dedicated considerable attention to the importance of issues concerning women, the family, and gender liberation in his writings. His analysis is not necessarily unique: a 2003 report by the World Organisation against Torture recognised that discrimination against women and against Kurdish people in Turkey contributes to a heightened risk of violence against Kurdish women by the state. Having been on the receiving end of this dual violence for decades, what is perhaps unique is the response of the Kurdish women’s movement to these entrenched patriarchal social norms, which is guided by the principles of democracy, self-governance and self-reliance.

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 assassination of Sakine, Fidan and Leyla, wherever it is proved to exist, be brought to light and 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 the peace process, but particularly, to support a 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.

Thank you very much.

With our best wishes,

Margaret Owen OBE, Director Widows for Peace and Democracy (WPD) and Patron of Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

Mary Davis, Professor of Labour History, formerly Deputy-Director Working Lives Research Institute, UK, and Patron

Signed by

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, House of Lords; Baroness Margaret Prosser, House of Lords; Baroness Sally Greengross, House of Lords; Baroness Joyce Gould, House of Lords; Baroness Glenys Kinnock, House of Lords; Baroness Joan Bakewell, writer and broadcaster, House of Lords; Gillian Slovo, novelist; Jean Lambert MEP; Jill Evans MEP; Caroline Lucas MP; Lady Fiona Hodgson, Chair of GAPS UK; Annette Lawson, Ph.D. OBE Chair, NAWO, National Alliance of Women’s Organisations; Gareth Pierce, human rights lawyer; Martha Jean Baker, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Barbara Switzer, National Assembly of Women; Liz Davies, barrister and Chair Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, UK; Frances Webber, human rights lawyer, vice-president Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers; Victoria Brittain, journalist and writer; Gillian Higgins, barrister, 9 Bedford Row; Haifa Zangana, author and activist; Jenny Jones AM, Leader of the Green Group, London Assembly; Jennifer Langer, Director, Exiled-Writers Ink; Miriam E David, PhD, AcSS, FRSA,
Professor Emerita of Education, Institute of Education; Amrit Wilson, writer and activist; Chairperson of Imkaan; Alex Pillen, Lecturer in Anthropology, University College London; Lindsey German, Convenor Stop the War Coalition; Liz Payne, retired public sector manager, trade unionist and activist; Johanna Alberti, retired historian, and chair of the Keswick Peace and Human Rights Group; Joy Hall, retired music administrator, Cumbria; Maggie Bowden, General Secretary, Liberation; Cynthia Cockburn, Visiting Professor, the City University London and Honorary Professor, Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, University of Warwick; Penny Dimond, actress and writer; Melanie Gingell, barrister, Tooks Chambers; Elizabeth Forrester, lawyer; Dr Vicki Sentas, School of Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney; Kariane Westrheim, PhD, University of Bergen & Chair of EUTCC; Iratxe Urizar, lawyer, Basque Observatory of Human Rights; Irune Aguirre Martinez, Basque activist in human rights; Liz Elkind, retired academic; Nathalie Schmidhauser, Political Assistant, Swiss Embassy Abu Dhabi; Anne Gray, retired academic; Ms Jandan Candan, lawyer; Houzan Mahmoud, Kurdish political activist; Jan Jananayagam, Director, Tamils Against Genocide, Europe; Ozlem J Murray, law student and Kurdish peace activist; Aisha Maniar, human rights activist; Fatma Kayhan, women’s rights activist; Miranda James, Activist/No War/No Cuts/Fair Votes/Animal & Human Rights; Isabel Käser, Assistant to Editor in Chief/Monocle Magazine/Winkreative; Dianne Setch, women’s rights activist, Wales Assembly of Women; Yasin Mahmoud Aziz, freelance interpreter & translator; Eva Käser, Student / Universität Zürich; Myriam Gaitsch , fellow researcher at the faculty of political science / University of Vienna; Corinna Drossel, Design Director / Winkreative; Anne Hasselmann , Student / University of Zurich; Veronica Buffon, PhD Candidate in Kurdish Studies /University of Exeter; Selvi May Akyildiz, Arts & Cultural Administration / Self employed; Siham Jabali Mamand, Assistant Head & Chief of Staff / Department of Foreign Relations, Kurdistan Regional Government-Iraq; Alexa Firmenich, Journalist / Monocle Magazine; Shiler Amini, PhD candidate / University of Exeter; Jillian Gordon, Justice of the Peace, Barrister; Ann Dawson, Chair – The Haven Wolverhampton; Kirsty Davies, Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales; Bernie Bowen Thomson, WEN Wales; Paula Hardy, Chief Executive of Welsh Women’s Aid and WEN Wales; Eleanor Davies, WEN Wales; Women’s Networking Hub, UK; Ruth Moore Williams, historical interpreter of women’s history, freelance; Christine Moore Williams, Retired Teacher; Patricia Ziad, Podiatrist; Lynda Davies, Chief Executive Office, Social Entrepreneur; Ms Ann Seyfang, Retired FE Teacher; Diana Nammi, Director, Iranian & Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO); Cathy Davies, Chief Executive, Hafan Cymru; Audrey Jones, Secretary, Wales Assembly of Women; Judith Kerby, Retired; Dr Aisha Gill, Reader in Criminology, University of Roehampton; Lorna Barron, Public Law Caseworker, Duncan Lewis Solicitors; Mandy Wilmot, Divisional Manager Victim Support; Claudette Hulsman, Law Student / Birkbeck; Jacqueline Ann Tillyer, teacher, Roj Womens Association UK; Selda Akta, journalist; Dr. Umut Erel, sociologist; Dr. Eva Sirinathsingh, PhD, writer and researcher; Nim Ralph, social justice activist; Virginia Kalvo Lopez Women Rights Activist; Roj Women’s Association;  Saleyha Ahsan, human rights activist; Mahnaz Baloch, Baloch peace activist; Hagir Ahmed, human rights activist; Sheila Mosley, social worker, also Co-Chair: International Support Kurds in Syria Association – SKS; Raife Babahan, Kurdish Human Rights Activist; Necla Turan, Kurdish Women Rights Activist; Nazmiye Civakli Kurdish Women Rights Activist; Hulya Dag Kurdish Women Rights Activist; Fikriye Can Kurdish Women Rights Activist; Serap Toufektsi  Women Rights Activist; Saliha Zengin Kurdish Women Rights Activist; Gunseli Erdogan Kurdish Women Rights Activist; Cigdem Karaalioglu Kurdish Federation UK; Zekiye Kartal, Development Worker Kurdish & Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation; Sawsan Salim, Director Kurdish & Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation; Elif Zarali,  Kurdish Women Rights Activist; Nora El Massioui, human rights activist; Voirrey Manson, NHS Centre for Equality and Human Rights; Julia Bard, writer and editor; Jane Miller, Professor Emeritus, Institute of Education, University of London; Eylem Polat, student, Kurdish rights activist; Sehriban Wan, women’s right activist; Andree Duguy, retired teacher, Women in Black; Charlotte Watson, writer; Anne Dawson, Chair of The Haven Wolverhampton – a Charity for women and child victims of domestic violence and/or homelessness.; Rachel Gundry / Teacher and artist / Mind; Carol Mann Ph.D, director of femAid; Celia Hensman, health and environment consultant; Melanie Sirinathsingh, Peace in Kurdistan; Estella Schmid, Peace in Kurdistan and CAMPACC


Copies of this letter have also been sent to Rt Hon Theresa May MP; Baroness Warsi; Yvette Cooper MP; Harriet Harman MP, and Emily Thornberry MP.


Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie  Sirinathsingh – Tel: 020 7272 7890
Fax: 020 7263 0596

Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Conor Murphy MP, John Austin, Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Mark Thomas