Tens of thousands of people gathered in Batıkent Square in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Thursday for a memorial ceremony for three terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members killed in Paris whose bodies arrived in the city late on Wednesday.
The three women -- Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Söylemez -- were shot to death at the Kurdistan Information Bureau in Paris last week, in what many saw as an attempt to derail a nascent peace process between the Turkish state and the terrorist group.
The prospect of an end to three decades of war between the Turkish state and the PKK has gained momentum in recent weeks after the government acknowledged it was talking to jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan to broker a deal for the disarming of the terrorist group.
The bodies of the women were flown to İstanbul on Wednesday, then sent to Diyarbakır for the ceremony. Thousands of cheering PKK supporters met the bodies at Diyarbakır airport.
Many earlier expressed fear that the funerals could turn into a show of power for the PKK and hurt the ongoing peace talks and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged calm at the funeral proceedings and warned that security forces would be “sensitive and vigilant” to any provocation or unrest.
More than 10,000 people gathered early on Tuesday in Diyarbakır's Bağlar district on Thursday, as the coffins -- draped in the flags of the PKK and decorated with red carnations -- were driven slowly through the crowds. There was no sign of violence.
"The martyrs' path is our path. The PKK is our party! Long live leader Apo,” they chanted, referring to Öcalan, who has been jailed on an island south of İstanbul since his capture in 1999.
Headscarved women and children applauded and waved, while others made victory signs with their fingers from the windows of apartment blocks.
Many shops in the city were closed in mourning.
Several Kurdish politicians including Mardin deputy Ahmet Türk, Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, co-chairperson of pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Selahattin Demirtaş and Van deputy Aysel Tuğluk, who is also co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), delivered speeches at the ceremony.
"We as the DTK regard this [the Paris killings] as a bullet to not only Kurdish people and women but also to peace talks being conducted on İmralı [the island where Öcalan is jailed],” Tuğluk said in his address to the crowd.
“It takes courage to seek peace. This nation is courageous and ready for peace,” Demirtaş stated, also speaking at the ceremony.
Following the ceremony in Diyarbakır, the body of Sakine Cansız will be sent to Dersim (Tunceli), that of Fidan Doğan to Elbistan in Kahramanmaraş province and that of Leyla Söylemez to Mersin for burial.