PARIS: Members of the Kurdish community in France and Against racism Activists united in grief and anger in Paris on Saturday after three people were killed at a Kurdish cultural center in an attack that prosecutors say was racially motivated.
the filming in a busy central Paris district also injured three people and raised concerns about hate crimes against minority groups at a time when far-right voices have risen to prominence in France and across Europe these last years.
The alleged attacker was injured and placed in police custody, and transferred to psychiatric care on Saturday, said the Paris prosecutor’s office. The 69-year-old Parisian had been accused of attacking a migrant camp last year and released from prison earlier this month. For Friday’s shooting, he faces potential charges of murder and attempted murder with a racist motive, the prosecutor’s office said.
Thousands of people gathered in 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 rally was largely peaceful, although some youths threw projectiles and set a few cars and trash cans on fire, and police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd. Some demonstrators shouted slogans against the Turkish government. Berivan Firat of the Kurdish Democratic Council in France told BFM TV the violence started after some people drove by waving a Turkish flag.
Most protesters were ethnic Kurds from different generations who gathered to mourn the three Kurdish compatriots who were killed, including a leading feminist activist and a Kurdish singer who came to France as a refugee.
“We are devastated, really. We are destroyed because we have lost a very important member of our community and we are angry. How is this possible?” Asks protester Yekbun Ogur, a biology professor at the college in Paris. “Is it normal for an armed man to sneak into a cultural place to come and murder people?
Protester Yunus Cicek wiped away tears as he spoke of the victims and his fears. “We are not protected here. Even though I have political refugee status, I don’t 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.
The French Interior Ministry reported a 13% increase in race-related crimes or other violations in 2021 compared to 2019, following an 11% increase from 2018 to 2019. The ministry did not include 2020 in its stats due to successive pandemic lockdowns that year. He said a disproportionate number of these crimes targeted people of African descent and also cited hundreds of religion-based attacks.
Friday’s attack took place at the cultural center and at a nearby Kurdish restaurant and hair salon. The barbershop’s surveillance video shared online suggests those in the salon subdued the assailant before police arrived on the scene. The prosecution did not specify the circumstances of his arrest.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the suspect clearly targeted foreigners, acted alone and was not officially affiliated with any far-right or radical movement. The suspect had previous convictions for illegal possession of weapons and armed violence.
Kurdish activists said they had recently been warned by police of threats against Kurdish targets.
In 2013, three Kurdish activists, including Sakine Cansiz, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, were found shot dead in a Kurdish center in Paris.
The Turkish military has a long history of fighting Kurdish militants affiliated with the banned PKK in southeastern Turkey as well as in northern Iraq. The Turkish military also recently launched a series of air and artillery strikes against Syrian Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria. (AP)
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