Kurdish spring rites in Turkey turn violent

22/03/2008 - 14:47

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Thirteen Kurdish demonstrators and a Turkish policeman were injured and 20 Kurds were detained when police broke up celebrations of the ancient spring festival Newroz, security sources said on Saturday.

Turkish police fired water cannons, tear gas and warningshots in the air to disperse around 3,000 Kurds in thesoutheastern city of Van celebrating Newroz by shouting sloganssupporting the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Police said ten demonstrators were injured and 20 detainedafter what they said were unauthorised celebrations.

Clashes also erupted between approximately 2,000celebrators and police in Hakkari near the city governmentbuilding.

In Siirt three demonstrators and one police officer wereinjured after police used tear gas to try to break up morecelebrations they said had gone ahead without permission.

Newroz, which is Nevruz in Turkish, is celebrated in Iran,northern Iraq and central Asia as the beginning of spring, butin Turkey has been associated with Turkey's large Kurdishpopulation in the southeastern part of the country.

It is often a flashpoint for clashes between Turkishsecurity forces and supporters of the PKK, which took up armsin 1984 to carve out a Kurdish ethnic homeland in southeasternTurkey.

Some 40,000 people have died in violence between the PKKand Turkey's military since then.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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