Kurdish spring festivals in Turkey turn violent

22/03/2008 - 22:22

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 the citiesof 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 Newrozfestival and shouting slogans supporting the banned separatistKurdistan Workers 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 upfestivities, organised by the pro-Kurdish Democratic SocietyParty (DTP). Police said the celebrations were unauthorised.

Turkey's Kurds have long complained of discrimination, andDTP leaders want public schools in Turkey's southeast to offereducation in the Kurdish language, which is unrelated toTurkish.

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 cannon.

In Hakkari, near Turkey's border with Iraq, clashes alsoerupted between about 2,000 revellers and police near thecity's government building.

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

Saturday's Newroz clashes were punctuated by the separatearrests of 16 people in eastern Anatolia for belonging to thePKK.

Newroz, Nevruz in Turkish, is also celebrated in Iran,northern Iraq and central Asia as the beginning of spring.

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)

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