Turkey: re-escalation in Kurdish conflict

From DPA, April 3:

ANKARA – Three people were killed and one badly injured when suspected Kurdish assailants threw Molotov cocktails at a bus in Istanbul Sunday night, the NTV television station reported.

NTV reported that the suspected Kurdish assailants first forced the municipality bus in the Istanbul suburb of Bagcilar to stop before throwing Molotov cocktails at the vehicle. In attempting to avoid the attack, the bus driver apparently hit three pedestrians in the street.

The attack in Istanbul is believed to be linked to riots by Kurds in south-east Turkey which have claimed the lives of eight people over the past week.

NTV reported that a group of people gathered after the attack shouting pro-Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) slogans.

Kurds in southeast Turkey have been rioting since Tuesday after the funerals of four PKK guerillas killed by Turkish security forces a week ago.

Five people, including two children, were killed by police attempting to suppress the protests in Diyarbakir, another three-year-old was killed by police in Batman and on Saturday a man was killed during protests in the town of Kiziltepe.

The rioting has been described as the worst to hit the region in recent years.

Earlier on Sunday in the centre of Istanbul, a 200-strong group of nationalist Turks protesting against the Kurdish riots in the south-east was broken up by police using tear gas.

Relative calm returned to the streets of Diyarbakir on Friday and Saturday with most businesses in the city re-opening after staying closed for three days.

Kurdish politicians have blamed the central government in Ankara for not doing enough to meet the demands of the Kurdish minority.

The government meanwhile has pointed the finger at the PKK itself, a group that Turkey, the United States and the European Union regard as a terrorist organization, and at Roj TV, a Denmark-based satellite television station that Turkey has demanded be closed down and which the government says has been inciting the rioters.

According to official figures, more than 32,000 people have been killed, mainly Kurdish civilians, since the PKK launched its fight for independence or autonomy.

From the New York Times, April 1:

A bomb hidden in a trash can in a residential neighborhood of Istanbul killed one person and injured 11 others. A Kurdish separatist group claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in response to the killings of Kurds in the country’s southeast. Seven people have died in that region this week in clashes between Kurds and the police.

An April 2 report on KurdishMedia suggests a faction struggle within the PKK between the imprisoned Osman Ocalan and his rival Murat Karayilan, with the hardline faction around Karayilan gaining the upper hand.

An April 3 report from Night Watch Infromation Service, citing IRNA, notes: “In an interview over Turkey’s state television TRT1 Turkey’s Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul announced that both Damascus and Tehran have pledged to cooperate with Ankara in confronting their respective rebellious Kurdish populations.” Notes Night Watch:

There is no greater international nightmare than a powerful, united Kurdistan, which would carve up Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and what is left of the independent states in the Caucasus. If Kurdistan became independent other non-Kurdish people between the Black Sea and the Caspian could identify with them and attach their own independent struggle with the Kurdish success story, a story they may already be seeing in northern Iraq. Other nationalistic people and organizations could get drawn into a Kurdish sphere of revolt, a geo-political chain reaction. The implications of an independent Kurdistan would dwarf any of the other “color revolutions”- orange in the Ukraine or the rose in Georgia. Every economic projection by multi-national energy corporations would have to be re-arranged.

See our last reports on Turkey and the Kurdish struggle.