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Violence in southeastern Turkey as Kurdish demonstrations supressed

Sarah Keeler | 04.04.2006 14:29 | Anti-militarism | Repression | World

Hundreds have been imprisoned and as many as 30 people killed, including several children, in clashes between the Turkish police forces and Kurdish demonstrators in the southeast of Turkey in recent days.

The Turkish army has instated a de facto lock down in many cities in the Kurdish southeast, after several days of widespread unrest sparked by the funerals of several Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas in the city of Diyarbakir (Amed) on 28th March. The PKK has been engaged in an armed struggle with the Turkish state to have Kurdish cultural rights and ethnic identity recognised, after it called an end to its ceasefire in 2002, feeling that the Turkish state had not responded to attempts at negotiation by the party. The PKK has a strong support base amongst the almost 20 million strong Kurdish ethnic minority in Turkey.

When mourners gathered at a cemetery to bury the bodies of those killed in recent clashes with the Turkish army, military forces and police intervened, and reports say shots were fired to disperse the crowds. In what followed, large scale unrest erupted in the streets of Diyarbakir, soon spreading to neighbouring cities including Nuseybin, Batman, and Siirt. This has been brutally suppressed by the Turkish army and police. To date, as many as 30 demonstrators have been killed, more than 500 injured, and nearly one thousand people, most engaged in democratic protest over the limits placed on their right to commemorate the deaths of members of their community, have been imprisoned.

Reports coming direct from the Kurdish region say that the Turkish response to these events has been a virtual lock down in several cities, and an increased suppression of the already limited freedom of movement for Kurds in the area. Two thousand Turkish riot police have been raiding homes, making unsubstantiated arrests, and generally using tactics of intimidation to limit public protest. Yesterday in Nuseybin, direct reports said that residents were prevented from leaving their homes to attend school or work.

The levels of violence are at their highest in decades, say commentators. This new development marks a fresh stage in the Turkish government’s treatment of its Kurdish issue. Despite its eagerness to begin the process of taking up European Union membership, a fundamental prerequisite of which is improved human rights for its minority populations, Turkey has in many respects continued to suppress Kurdish voices of dissent, and limited the representation of the Kurds in political process. The Kurdish language, though no longer criminalised, is still not recognised by the state.

Perhaps more shockingly, news of these dramatic events has been only summarily covered by mainstream media sources. Many in western Europe have no idea of the widespread human rights abuses that are currently being perpetrated by the state in the name of security in the Kurdish areas of Turkey. It is now the responsibility of all observers, and those with any source of information direct from the communities now being subject to these conditions, to inform the public and raise a voice of outrage.

Sarah Keeler