Turkey: Thousands gather for Kurdish festival

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Thu Mar 22 16:29:46 UTC 2007


TENS of thousands of Kurds gathered across Turkey and in the Iraqi border
areas yesterday to celebrate their biggest festival as police stepped up
security measures for fear that radicals might use the flashpoint event to
stir unrest. The largest crowd was expected in Diyarbakir, the central
city of the mainly Kurdish southeast and in Akri in Iraq, where the Newroz
celebrations, marking the arrival of spring and the Kurdish New Year, have
been mired in bloodshed in the past.

Newroz Day has become a platform for the Kurdish minority to demand
greater freedoms or demonstrate support for the Kurdistan Workers' Party
(PKK), which has been fighting for self-rule in the southeast since 1984
and is listed as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international
community. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer called on Kurds to "act with
common sense, stay away from provocations ... and deny any opportunity to
those who aim at separatism".

In Diyarbakir, hundreds of police officers, some in armoured vehicles,
were deployed at the venue of the festivities and searched revellers
before allowing them in. The festivities were organised by Turkey's main
Kurdish political movement, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), whose
members have increasingly become the target of judicial action for backing
the PKK in recent weeks. In Ankara, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
issued an appeal for peace and unity at official Newroz ceremonies, which
the government has begun holding in recent years in a bid to prevent the
day from being monopolised by Kurdish militants.



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