Diyarbakır marks Nevruz amid tension in Istanbul
DİYARBAKIR / ISTANBUL
Tens of thousands of citizens in Diyarbakır gathered in the early hours to celebrate Nevruz at the area announced previously by the municipality. DHA photoTens of thousands of people led by Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) politicians gathered today in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır to celebrate Nevruz, ignoring a ban on the festivities.
Police removed barriers surrounding the area where the celebrations were held as masses flocked to celebrate the holiday.
A similar ban was imposed in Istanbul, where police fired tear gas and used water cannon to disperse thousands who gathered in Zeytinburnu’s Kazlıçeşme neighborhood. More than 100 were detained.
BDP deputy Sebahat Tuncel told the Hürriyet Daily News that one party member died due to injuries he sustained during the clashes.
In Diyarbakır, BDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş; BDP deputies Sebahat Tuncel, Ayla Akat Ata and Hasip Kapalan and BDP Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir led crowds trying to breach the police barricade to enter the city’s main square. Thousands managed to enter the area following minor clashes with police.
“This is the biggest civil disobedience action in history,” Akat Ata wrote on her Twitter account.
“The administrators cannot decide when people will celebrate a holiday.”
Istanbul had rejected the BDP’s demands to mark Nevruz earlier on the date of March 18 instead of March 21.
However, Demirtaş called on supporters on March 17 to take to the streets while asking the police not to “leave your stations.”
Thousands of protesters also gathered in Kazlıçeşme but tension rose when police intervened in an effort to disperse the protesters with tear gas.
BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak, as well as BDP lawmakers Sırrı Sakık and Sırrı Süreyya Önder, also arrived in Kazlıçeşme and spoke to police officials in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to convince them to allow people into the square.
Hundreds of people were affected by gas bombs while groups threw stones at police who had set up barricades to prevent people from gathering at Kazlıçeşme, Anatolia agency reported. Some bus stops and businesses were also damaged by stones while metrobus services were also briefly interrupted in the melee.
One demonstrator was severely beaten by shop owners whose businesses were attacked, Doğan new agency reported. The protestor, who was rescued by the police, was hospitalized, the report said.
“We will not let those who want to turn the celebrations into something that would bear hatred,” Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters today.
“We made our announcement about this issue earlier this week. We mentioned the day on which the official celebrations will be made. Despite this, some groups want to turn this celebration into a provocation. We took our measures and continue to do so until the official celebration day,” he said.
According to police reports, seven people, including police officers, were injured in the clashes in two cities, while 106 people were taken into custody.