Kurdish spring festivals in Turkey turn violent

22/03/2008 - 17:00

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - More than 100 Kurdish demonstrators and 10 policemen were injured and more than 160 Kurds detained across southeastern Turkey on Saturday when police broke up spring festival celebrations, security sources said.

Turkish police firing water cannons, teargas and wieldingbatons clashed with demonstrators in the streets in thesoutheastern cities of Van and Siirt.

More than 60 Kurdish demonstrators and two policemen wereinjured in fighting in Van after security forces tried todisperse a crowd of nearly 10,000 Kurds celebrating Newroz andshouting slogans supporting the banned separatist KurdistanWorkers Party (PKK).

Tensions are high in Turkey's mostly-Kurdish southeast asmilitary operations against the PKK have continued after themilitary launched an eight-day operation into northern Iraq towipe out PKK camps there.

The clashes on Saturday began when police tried to break upNewroz celebrations they said were unauthorised.

In Siirt 32 demonstrators and eight police were injured inmore violence after police tried to disperse a group of 3,000people with teargas and water cannons.

More than 100 Kurdish demonstrators were detained in theprovince of Sanliurfa, near Turkey's border with Syria, forparticipating in another unauthorised Newroz celebration.

Clashes also erupted between about 2,000 revellers andpolice in Hakkari near the city government building.

Newroz, Nevruz in Turkish, is celebrated in Iran, northernIraq and central Asia as the beginning of spring. In Turkey ithas been associated with Turkey's large Kurdish population inthe 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 Seyhmus Cakan; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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