Kurdish Riots Flare in Turkey Over Party Shut Down
DIYARBAKIR (Combined Sources)–Kurdish protesters have clashed with police throughout Turkey as members of the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the main Kurdish party, met to discuss their next move after being banned by the country’s constitutional court.
About 10,000 people turned out on Monday as Kurdish MPs arrived in the city of Diyarbakir, where they were to discuss whether to boycott parliament.
But as the gathering turned violent, Kurds threw stones at police who attempted to disperse the crowds with tear gas and water cannon.
It was the fourth consecutive day of riots following the court’s decision to outlaw the political party.
“The streets have become a battleground where people are still waiting on a decision from the DTP on whether they will formally resign from parliament,” said Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Diyarbakir. “Apparently no decision has been taken and reports say that the DTP are split on their next move.”
Earlier on Sunday, riots erupted in Istanbul’s busy Beyoglu district as around 200 Kurds protesting the DTP closure clashed with Turkish nationalists and police, leaving at least one person injured from a gunshot during street battles, Turkish and Western media reported.
According to the AFP, the demonstration had ended peacefully, but a group of Kurdish youths, some of them masked, embarked on a march, hurling petrol bombs and stones at shops, apartment buildings and cars.
They were confronted by a group of Turkish nationalists and local residents, armed with knives and sticks, and several with guns. Gunshots were heard as the two groups attacked each other before riot police arrived, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Also on Sunday, angry protesters took to the streets in Diyarbakir, the largest city of the Kurdish-majority southeast, hurling stones and fireworks at the security forces, the AFP reported.
The police responded with pepper gas and water cannon. Several people were injured. Paramilitary soldiers were called in to help the police in the town of Yuksekova, where protestors set barricades in the streets, officials said. At least 15 people were detained in the two demonstrations.
In Hakkari, the authorities said they captured a demonstrator who had snatched a policeman’s gun in street clashes on Saturday.
The constitutional court banned the DTP on Friday, saying it had links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the government has listed as a “terrorist group”.
The party will formally cease to exist when the court ruling is published in the official gazette. The DTP is the 27th political party to be shut down in Turkey since 1968.
Members of the DTP had initially decided to withdraw from parliament on Saturday but stopped short of their resignation because of internal disagreements between party members.
Huseyin Bagci, a political analyst in the Turkish capital, Ankara, told Al Jazeera the Kurds were likely to form another party “very soon” and the DTP’s closure would lead to increased tensions in Turkey.
“I think the fight of PKK is not anymore on the mountains but it will be in the cities, the big cities, in particular in Istanbul, probably Izmir, in Ankara, in Mersin.”
Ahmet Turk, the chairman of the DTP, called on all Turkish parties to reconsider the ban which forces the Kurds out of the political sphere.
“Obstruction of democratic politics will deepen hopelessness. This is a fact. Turkey will not solve the problem by closing this party. My struggle will not end with the closure of the party,” he said.
People in Diyarbakir appeared to have lost faith in the democratic process, according to Al Jazeera’s Khodr. “While the party [DTP] hasn’t taken any decision on what they intend to do, it seems the people here have and most of them are saying that they want their MPs out of parliament and they’re opting for an armed struggle,” she said.
The DTP’s deputy chairwoman, Emine Ayna, said Sunday that lawyers were preparing to appeal the Constitutional Court’s decision to ban the party.
Late on Sunday police had closed the street leading to the main DTP office in Istanbul and a police armored vehicle stood guard.