Clashes erupt over banned meeting in SE Turkey
DİYARBAKIR - Hürriyet Daily News
DHA PhotoPolice have used pepper spray and water cannons to break up Kurdish demonstrations across the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, with the leg of a leading Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) figure being broken amid a scuffle between the police and party seniors.
The BDP planned the rally, to be called the “Democratic Resistance for Freedom Rally,” in order to protest the large-scale detentions in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) probe, as well as the “isolation policy” for Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
However, the Diyarbakır Governor's office declared on Monday that the rally was banned on the grounds that they had gathered intelligence that illegal groups were seeking to provoke the rally. Moreover, the Governor's office on Friday announced that police had found 6 guns, a Kalashnikov rifle, as well as hundreds of bullets and chargers, in an abandoned house near the Bağlar district of Diyarbakır.
Nevertheless, the BDP officials voiced their determination to hold the rally, and a large turnout was expected.
Starting last night, several BDP members from different parts of Southern Anatolia had gathered in Diyarbakır and had spent the night in public gardens. In the morning the streets of the city were calm, although nearly all shops were closed except for the Ofis district in the center of the city.
Police took extreme safety measures all around Diyarbakır, with around 10,000 policemen as well as several police panzers being dispatched for the rally. Policemen from Istanbul, İzmir, Ankara, Erzurum, Hatay, Elazığ, Muş, Bingöl, Şanlıurfa, Batman and several other cities were brought to Diyarbakır for the rally.
Around 2 p.m. police closed all roads crossing the city’s İstasyon Square and warned all minor groups to disperse. Even people sitting in public gardens were forced to leave on the grounds that the Governor's office had banned sitting in parks for security reasons. Afterwards, even minor groups were exposed to pepper spray and water cannons, and several demonstrators were injured because of the pepper spray. Police reported that two policemen had been injured by stones thrown by demonstrators.
BDP deputies and the party’s administration gathered in the party's provincial office in the morning in order to discuss their strategy for the rally. Around 2.30 p.m., BDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş, Gültan Kışanak and several deputies attempted to move from the party building to the İstasyon Square by party bus, but were prevented by police vehicles that were blocking the party bus. The BDP seniors then got off and attempted to reach the square on foot. However, after 100 meters the police blocked them off with their shields. Squabbles and scuffles erupted as BDP deputies, including Demirtaş and Kışanak, were prevented from progressing on the grounds that their activity was “illegal.” Kışanak shouted at the police, saying: “You are committing a crime, holding a rally is our right. We are struggling also for you. If you stop us by force as you are doing at the moment, all violence will be legitimate.” After half an hour of waiting, the BDP deputies and Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir got in their cars and attempted to reach İstasyon Square that way.
When they attempted to enter the square, police again blocked them. Amid the scuffle, BDP deputy parliamentary group chair Pervin Buldan's leg was broken. Diyarbakır Mayor Baydemir was also wounded by a police baton. BDP deputies Ayla Akat Ata and Mülkiye Birtane were injured during scuffles in the other parts of the city.
Police also fired pepper spray into the garden of the Sümer Mosque, affecting several people. People were not allowed to exit the garden. Minor clashes in several other parts around the city continued until the evening. Dozens of demonstrators were taken into custody by the police, and two journalists from the Dicle News Agency were also detained.