DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of Turkish Kurds turned an annual cultural festival into a rare mass political protest on Wednesday against the government’s two-month-old military campaign against a Kurdish militia in neighbouring Syria.
At a rally to mark the spring festival of Newroz in the southern city of Diyarbakir, demonstrators said Ankara risked provoking violence at home if it pressed on with its Syria offensive.
The event was the first major public demonstration against the campaign in Syria, in which the Turkish army has battled a Kurdish militia, the YPG, which Turkey says is an extension of the banned PKK, or Kurdistan Workers Party. It fell just days after Turkish forces stormed the Syrian city of Afrin.
In a city still scarred by fighting between the PKK and Turkish troops, young women and men linked hands and danced to traditional Kurdish music in the warm spring sunshine, chanting for Afrin and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
“Long live the Afrin resistance,” sang the crowd.
Political rallies are heavily restricted in Turkey’s state of emergency imposed in the wake of an attempted coup in 2016. Hundreds of people were arrested across Turkey in the runup to the Diyarbakir rally, accused of planning illegal protests.
Celebrating Newroz, the Persian New Year which falls on the Spring Equinox, has long been a mark of national pride for Kurds, who make up around a fifth of the population of Turkey, mainly in the southeast. Demonstrations for the holiday frequently led to violence during the PKK’s 40-year insurgency.
Categories: The Muslim Times