DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) – More than 100 Kurdish demonstrators and 10 policemen were injured and more than 160 Kurds detained across southeastern Turkey on Saturday when police broke up spring festival celebrations, security sources said.
Turkish police firing water cannons, teargas and wielding batons clashed with demonstrators in the streets in the southeastern cities of Van and Siirt.
More than 60 Kurdish demonstrators and two policemen were injured in fighting in Van after security forces tried to disperse a crowd of nearly 10,000 Kurds celebrating Newroz and shouting slogans supporting the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Tensions are high in Turkey’s mostly-Kurdish southeast as military operations against the PKK have continued after the military launched an eight-day operation into northern Iraq to wipe out PKK camps there.
The clashes on Saturday began when police tried to break up Newroz celebrations they said were unauthorized.
In Siirt 32 demonstrators and eight police were injured in more violence after police tried to disperse a group of 3,000 people with teargas and water cannons.
More than 100 Kurdish demonstrators were detained in the province of Sanliurfa, near Turkey’s border with Syria, for participating in another unauthorized Newroz celebration.
Clashes also erupted between about 2,000 revelers and police in Hakkari near the city government building.
Newroz, Nevruz in Turkish, is celebrated in Iran, northern Iraq and central Asia as the beginning of spring. In Turkey it has been associated with Turkey’s large Kurdish population in the southeastern part of the country.
It is often a flashpoint for clashes between Turkish security forces and supporters of the PKK, which took up arms in 1984 to carve out a Kurdish ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey.
Some 40,000 people have died in violence between the PKK and Turkey’s military since then.