Kurdish, anti-racism groups gather after deadly shooting in Paris | Popgen Tech


Members of France’s Kurdish community and anti-racism activists joined together in mourning and anger in Paris on Saturday after three people were killed at a Kurdish cultural center in an attack that prosecutors said was racially motivated.

The shooting in a bustling central Paris neighborhood also wounded three people and raised concerns about hate crimes against minority groups at a time when far-right voices have gained prominence in France and across Europe in recent years.

The alleged attacker was wounded and detained, and transferred to psychiatric care on Saturday, the Paris prosecutor’s office said. The 69-year-old Parisian was charged with the attack on a migrant camp last year and was released from prison earlier this month. For Friday’s shooting, he faces possible charges of murder and attempted murder with a racial motive, the prosecutor’s office said.

Thousands gathered at the Place de la Republique in eastern Paris on Saturday, waving a colorful array of flags representing Kurdish rights groups, left-wing political movements and other causes.

The gathering was largely peaceful, although some youths threw projectiles and set a few cars and garbage cans on fire, and police 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 started after some people drove by waving a Turkish flag.

Most of the protesters were ethnic Kurds of different generations who had come together to mourn the three fellow Kurds killed, who included a prominent feminist activist and a Kurdish singer who came to France as a refugee.

“We are really devastated. We are devastated to have lost a very important member of our community and we are angry. How is this possible?” said protester Yekbun Ogur, a middle school biology teacher in Paris. “Is it normal for a man with a gun to sneak into a cultural place to come and kill people?”

Demonstrator Yunus Cicek wiped away his tears as he spoke of the victims, and his fears. “We are not protected here. Even though I have political refugee status, I do not feel safe. … Maybe next time it will be me.”

The shooting rocked the Kurdish community and put French police on extra alert for the Christmas weekend. The Paris police chief met with members of the Kurdish community on Saturday to try to allay their fears.

France’s interior ministry reported a 13% rise in race-related crimes or other offenses in 2021, following an 11% rise from 2018 to 2019. The ministry did not include 2020 in its statistics due to consecutive pandemic lockdowns that year. A disproportionate number of such crimes are said to target people of African descent, and hundreds of attacks based on religion have also been cited.

Friday’s attack took place at the cultural center and a nearby Kurdish restaurant and Kurdish hair salon. Surveillance video from the hair salon shared online indicates that people inside the salon subdued the attacker before police reached the scene. The prosecutor’s office did not want to elaborate on the circumstances of his arrest.

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

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

In 2013, three women Kurdish activists, including Sakine Cansiz, a founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were found shot to death at a Kurdish center in Paris.

Turkey’s military has long been fighting Kurdish militants linked to the outlawed PKK in southeastern Turkey as well as in northern Iraq. Turkey’s military has also recently launched a series of air and artillery strikes against Syrian Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria.


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