Turkey: police clash with Kurdish protesters

Police clashed with protesters in several Turkish cities as Kurds marched in defiance of a ban to mark the 10th anniversary of the capture of separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a life sentence. The biggest protests were in Diyarbakir, where police brought out armored vehicles, tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd of 2,500 that gathered outside the headquarters of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the only legal Kurdish political party. Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir and lawmaker Aysel Tugluk, both DTP members, were present at the protest, but police barred them from addressing the crowd. Protests were also held in towns across the southeast. In Sirnak, protesters threw fire bombs at police, and authorities in Semdinli near the Iraqi border set up roadblocks to prevent marches, witnesses said. There were also clashes in Istanbul. More than 85 were arrested, and several injured.

The DTP is facing a court ban from Turkey’s parliament for alleged ties to Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The DTP supports a negotiated settlement with the PKK and an amnesty for some of its leaders. The European Union, which Turkey seeks to join, has criticized the court case against the DTP, arguing Kurds should have political representation in parliament. As part of its bid to join the EU, Ankara has promised to increase rights for its estimated 15 million Kurds who make up 20% of the Turkish population. (EuroNews, Reuters, Feb. 15)

See our last post on Turkey and the Kurds.

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