Violence revives fears of ethnic conflict in Turkey

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (AFP) — Ethnic riots in southeast Turkey in the past week left nine dead in the worst urban violence to hit the region in a decade, reviving memories of the height of a Kurdish rebellion that has claimed more than 37,000 lives.The ninth victim, a 22-year-old man, was killed by gunfire Sunday in Kiziltepe, near the Syrian border, where violence flared anew after street battles between rioters and the police claimed another life Saturday, a senior local Kurdish politician, Ferhan Turk, told AFP. Three others were injured, he said.

Officials were not immediately available for comment.

On Saturday, an angry crowd torched a bank and vandalised public buildings, party offices and shops in Kiziltepe, prompting the security forces to fire warning shots and use tear gas.

About 200 Kurdish protestors, some of them wearing masks, also took to the streets in Istanbul, setting fire to a truck and hurling petrol bombs, stones and bottles at the riot police, who responded with truncheons and pepper gas. Turkey’s main Kurdish party, the Democratic Society Party (DTP), urged an end to the violence and called on Ankara to come up with far-reaching reforms to make permanent peace with its largest minority.

The riots erupted Tuesday in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast, after hundreds of youths demanding vengeance attacked the police following the funerals of Kurdish rebels killed in fighting with the army. Three of the victims were children, one aged only three, and most of the injured were security forces. Officials blamed the unrest on the outlawed Kurdish Labour Party (PKK), which has waged an armed separatist campaign against the government since 1984.

Ferhan Turk described the riots as the explosion of entangled political, social and economic problems that have plagued the southeast, Turkey’s poorest region, for decades.

Fighting between the PKK and the army has ravaged the meager infrastructure and the mainstays of farming in the southeast, and forced tens of thousands of already poor peasants to migrate into urban slum areas.

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