Attack on Kurdish center in Paris is alarming – analysis

The attack raises questions about how the man obtained a gun and why he was not stopped by the security services.

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN

Published: DECEMBER 24, 2022 10:44, Updated: DECEMBER 24, 2022 19:58

Article Source: Jerusalem Post

French police secure a street after gunshots were fired killing and injuring several people in a central district of Paris, France, December 23, 2022.

(photo credit: REUTERS/SARAH MEYSSONNIER)

A gunman murdered three people in Paris on Friday in an attack on a Kurdish community center and a hair salon that has raised alarm in France.

The attack raises questions about how the man obtained a gun and why he was not stopped by the security services. France24 noted that “the gunman, named as William M. in the French media, had already been linked to two previous attempted murders in 2016 and 2021.”

Reports say he was implicated in an attack on migrants in the past. Reports also say he was recently released from detention. The full details are not clear, but it will be important to explain the motives behind the attack. French media have characterized it as a suspected racist attack, but authorities have also said they don’t know the full motive yet.

Kurdistan Region of Iraq Prime Minister Masrour Barzani on Friday said he was “troubled by today’s heinous attack on the Kurdish community in Paris.” French President Emanuel Macron condemned the attack. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted “my deepest sympathies go out to the victims of the attack at the Kurdish cultural center in Paris. My thoughts are with the members of the Kurdish community and people of France on this sad day.”

It is important that the condemnations show solidarity with the Kurdish community and also seek answers about how this happened. It is not the first time Kurds have been targeted in attacks in Europe. Ten years ago three Kurdish women were killed in another attack in Paris. In that case, it appeared that the attack was politically motivated and targeting a far-left Kurdish group.  

Turkish pro-government media have downplayed the attack and accused “terror supporters” of attacking police after the murders. There were clashes with police after the attack. Only Ankara’s media accused the protesters of being “terrorists” while Turkish media said the motive for the attack was unknown.

Not the first time Kurds have been targeted

It is not the first time Kurds have been targeted in attacks in Europe. Ten years ago three Kurdish women were killed in another attack in Paris. In that case, it appeared that the attack was politically motivated and targeting a far-left Kurdish group.

Turkish pro-government media have downplayed the attack and accused “terror supporters” of attacking police after the murders. There were clashes with police after the attack.

Only Ankara’s media accused the protesters of being “terrorists” while Turkish media said the motive for the attack was unknown. The decision by Ankara-based media to condemn the protesters and downplay the attack is interesting. It appears to not want to mention that the victims were members of the Kurdish minority.

Ankara’s far-right ruling party has also targeted Kurds in attacks in Syria and Iraq and has often targeted Kurdish politicians for arrest in Turkey.

In the past Ankara has sought to inflame tensions with Paris. When French teacher Samuel Paty was murdered in October 2020 Turkey condemned France for “Islamophobia.” In that case, Ankara appeared to side with protesters after the incident. Ankara is also involved in another case trying to extradite a journalist from Sweden while blocking Sweden from joining NATO.

Kurdish migrants in Europe face hardships

The attack on Kurds in Paris conjures up other memories of attacks on Kurds in Europe and highlights the hardship that Kurdish migrants have had in Europe. Many Kurds have moved to Europe in the last decade. The overall number of Kurds in Europe is unclear but the Kurdish diaspora is very significant in many European countries, including France, Germany, Sweden and the UK.

Earlier this year, Rudaw media reported the death of a Kurdish man in Germany. “The Giesen city camp administration and local authorities have alleged that on July 13, Mihvan Mohammed, 32, from the town of Zakho, set himself alight.”

In another incident, it was reported that “a 25-year-old man who managed to cross Belarus and Poland died late last month just after reaching Germany. Baxtyar Anwar’s body was returned home.” The cause of death was unclear, however, Anwar had been trying to reach Europe via a difficult route from Belarus. In another case, a gunman targeted immigrants in Hanau, Germany, and attacked an area where Kurds live.

Kurds have faced other struggles recently. Many Kurds have been targeted by the Iranian regime during protests in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who died in police custody after the morality police accused her of improperly covering her hair. In addition, poverty has caused many to flee Syria and also Iraq, seeking to get to Europe via Belarus and other routes.

The murder of Sarah Halimi

The attack on the Kurdish minority in France also recalls the murder of Sarah Halimi, a Jewish woman. Her killer could not be prosecuted because the court ruled regular use of cannabis had supposedly driven him insane. The killer remains in a secure hospital.

Attacks on Kurds, Jews and other minorities by extremists are a rising concern. Failure to prosecute or impose long prison terms for perpetrators of targeted violence raises questions about how seriously authorities take the attacks or whether prosecutors have the tools with which to prosecute these terrorists.

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