Kurds in Paris fear another attack

After the murder of three Kurdish people in their cultural centre, the Kurdish community is shocked and angry. They don´t feel safe anymore.

Story by Luisa Funk

When you turn into the street Rue d´Enghien, you hardly suspect that an assassination has taken place there just a few weeks ago. But this changes about 50 metres before the crime scene, where you spot a police car and two patrolmen standing in the street. They are wearing bulletproof vests, watching the surroundings closely. Due to the attack on 23 December, where a 69-year-old French man killed three people at the Centre Culturel Kurde Ahmet Kaya, their job now is to guard the entrance to maintain the security for the Kurdish community. The stairs to the door are covered with flowers and, in between, there are pictures of the victims.

A Kurdish woman living next to the community centre, who wants to remain anonymous, tells how she found out about the attack. “I was in the city centre when a friend called me and told me about the assassination. I couldn’t believe it because normally I would have been in this street at that time. I was shocked. We are all still shocked today and can’t really comprehend it”, she states. Seeing the policemen in front of the Kurdish centre reminds her of her anger every day, but it doesn´t make her feel safe.

Nazand Begikhani from the Kurdish Institute in Paris concurs with these impressions. “The Kurds are very sad but also angry. We feel that the Kurdish community has been specifically targeted for political reasons.” She alludes to rumours from the Kurdish community that the Turkish political system could be behind the attack. The Kurdish community was preparing the 10th death anniversary of the murder of the three Kurdish activists who were killed in 2013. “The fact that the two attacks happened around the same period of the year makes us believe that this cannot be seen as an act in isolation”, Begikhani says.

The Kurdish Institute in Paris takes action in maintaining the knowledge, language, and cultural heritage of Kurdistan. Photo: Luisa Funk

The Police of Paris stated that the suspected perpetrator was racist and had anger against immigrants. According to his testimony, he chose the Kurdish community because they “took prisoners instead of killing them in their fight against the terrorist militia Islamic State”. Nazand Begikhani has a different view. “In this area, you have a diverse group of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. That the Kurds have been particularly targeted raises some concerns for us but also in our community.”

Second only to Germany, the most Kurds in West Europe live in France. They arrived there in the 1960´s as guest workers.

The Kurdish resident living next to the community centre no longer feels safe in Paris. “The moment I step out of the door I don’t feel safe in any place in this city”. She explains: “Such an attack could happen again at any time and could affect every Kurd, your family, and friends.” She reports that even children from the community are worried about their parents. The woman says that she was looking after two children on Saturday while their parents were at the demonstration to mark the killing of Kurds. She is emotional and crying why she states: “The boy is six years old and started to cry. He feared that his parents are likely to die because of the gas at the demonstration.”

After the attack, it was hard for her to go back to this community centre. All Kurds in the community were traumatised by the incident, she says. Nevertheless, they try to remain hopeful. “We are taking the strength from each other, from our community”, the Kurdish woman explains. But the Kurds have also received a lot of solidarity from the neighbourhood. The resident tells they have received messages on social media with good wishes. In fact, one special encounter has remained in the woman’s memory: “A foreign Irish woman messaged my family and came to us as she was in Paris, just to hug us. It is so important to get support, I was so thankful for this moment.”

Nazand Begikhani raises criticism towards French authorities when it comes to the security of Kurds. “When the Kurds are targeted by such attacks, the police and the politics should commit themselves to establish justice through transparency. This means telling the public what exactly happened and who is behind these attacks. Because justice and truth mean security and peace.”

Begikhani fears that there will be more attacks if such cases are not fully investigated. For her, the only way to avoid the repetition of such attacks is to hold the perpetrators accountable, to investigate who was behind them and to establish justice for the victims. Nevertheless, she expresses her confidence in the French authorities. The politics have been very sympathetic towards the Kurdish community and support their efforts, according to Begikhani.

However, the Kurdish resident living next to the community centre wants clarification about the attack. “The police have to explain all open questions. Who was this guy and why did he choose exactly these victims? Were there persons behind the killer? That would make us feel a little bit safer, but it doesn’t bring back our people.”