Kurds killed in Turkey protests


Al Jazeera
March 24, 2008

Hundreds of Kurdish protesters have thrown stones at police and soldiers in southeastern Turkey, in the fourth day of clashes that have killed at least two people and injured dozens of others.

Authorities banned gatherings in several cities after celebrations to mark the Kurdish New Year, or Newroz, turned violent.

One person died from a bullet wound in the town of Yuksekova, in southern Hakkari province, where riot police clashed with hundreds of protesters who took to the streets in defiance of the ban on Sunday, hospital sources said.

Witnesses told the AFP news agency that demonstrators shouted slogans in favour of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Abdullah Ocalan, its jailed leader.

Warning shots

Security forces fired warning shots in the air and used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Television footage showed riot police chasing young men in the streets as armoured vehicles sprayed pressurised water.

The demonstrators, mostly members of the Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), were angered by the death of a Kurd earlier on Sunday after being shot during clashes with police in the city of Van on Saturday, local authorities said.

Around 50 people, among them policemen, were wounded and about 130 others were detained after the clashes in Van, according to the police.

Police blamed the unrest on members from the DTP who organised gatherings despite the decision by local authorities to allow the celebrations only on Friday.

DTP officials were among those detained in Van.

In the western city of Izmir, home to a large Kurdish migrant community from the southeast, demonstrators attacked the police with chunks of concrete and broke the windows of buildings and cars, the Anatolia news agency reported.

At least 20 people including DTP provincial chairman were detained.

Istanbul celebrations

Thousands of Kurds also gathered for Newroz celebrations in Istanbul on Sunday, dancing, singing and waving flags of green, yellow and red, the traditional Kurdish colours.

Thousands of Kurds gathered in Istanbul
to celebrate Newroz [Reuters]
Some carried portraits of Ocalan and chanted pro-PKK slogans, but no incidents of violence were reported.

Freshta Raper, an activist with the Kurdish National Congress, told Al Jazeera from London that the 40 million Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria should be allowed to celebrate their cultural identity without restriction.

“Every culture, every nation in the world, not matter how minority or majority you are, you should the right to celebrate your day,” she said.

Newroz is traditionally celebrated on March 21 and is often a flashpoint for clashes between Turkish forces and supporters of the PKK, the Kurdish independence movement that took up arms against Ankara in 1984.

In 1992, about 50 people were killed by the security forces in clashes across the southeast.

This year’s Newroz came in the wake of intensified Turkish military action against the PKK, including a week-long cross-border offensive last month against rebel bases in neighbouring northern Iraq.

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