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Middle East

Deadly clashes as Turkey's Kurds protest Kobane 'inaction'

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-10-08

Kurdish protesters clashed with police in several Turkish towns and cities late Tuesday, leaving at least a dozen dead as anger over Ankara’s perceived inaction in the fight against jihadists at the Syrian border mounted.

Some of the deadliest demonstrations erupted in Diyarbakir, the largest town in Turkey's majority-Kurdish southeast region, with Turkey's private Dogan news agency reporting eight killed and many wounded as police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters who burned cars and damaged businesses.

At least 14 people were killed in violent demonstrations in several Turkish towns and cities, primarily in the southeastern region, including three killed in Mardin, two in Siirt, one in Batman and another in Mus. Violent demonstrations also broke out in Istanbul, the country’s commercial hub, where one protester was hospitalised after being hit in the head by a gas canister, Dogan reported.

Thousands of people had joined the demonstrations called by the main pro-Kurdish party, the People's Democratic Party (HDP), against Ankara's failure so far to intervene militarily against Islamic State group jihadists fighting for the Syrian border town of Kobane.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has vowed that Turkey will do whatever is necessary to prevent the fall of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab.

But Kurds furiously accuse Ankara of merely looking on as the town faces being overrun by jihadists despite dozens of Turkish tanks being deployed on the border.

Curfew imposed in several Kurdish-majority provinces

Turkish Interior Minister Efkan Ala hit back at pro-Kurdish protesters, accusing them of "betraying their own country" and warning of "unpredictable" consequences if they continue.

What is Kobane's strategic significance?

"Violence will be met with violence... This irrational attitude should immediately be abandoned and (the protesters) should withdraw from the streets," Ala told reporters in Ankara.

In Mus, a 25-year-old protester was killed after being struck in the head by a tear gas cannister fired by police to disperse the protesters.

In Diyarbakir, enraged youths torched a police vehicle and shops and attacked government offices overnight.

In Istanbul's Gazi neighbourhood, largely populated by Kurds, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse a protest by several hundred Kurds, according to AFP.

Local authorities ordered a curfew in several Kurdish-majority provinces including Diyarbakir, Mardin, Siirt and Van.

Ocalan gives Turkish state mid-October deadline

Kurds have been particularly irked by the reluctance of Turkish authorities, who are concerned by Kurdish separatism, to allow Kurds over the border to fight the Islamic State group.

They have warned that the fall of Kobane could mean an end to the peace talks between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey for the past three decades but has largely observed a ceasefire since last year.

Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan said in a message relayed by his brother that the government had until mid-October to show it was serious about the peace process.

"They (the government) are talking about resolution and negotiation but there is no such thing," he said.

"This is an artificial situation, we will not be able to continue anymore," said the statement carried by the Firat news agency.

"The state must take action... Can a peace process make any progress this way?"

Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) -- considered the urban wing of the mountain-based PKK -- called on "millions" to take to the street to protest against what it termed "IS brutality".

Kurds take to streets across Europe

Demonstrations also erupted Tuesday in several European nations that have large Kurdish populations.

In Germany, home to Western Europe's largest Kurdish population, about 600 people demonstrated in Berlin on Tuesday, according to police. Hundreds demonstrated in other German cities.

In Brussels on Tuesday, about 50 protesters smashed a glass door and pushed past police to get into the European Parliament. Once inside, some protesters were received by Parliament President Martin Schulz, who promised to discuss the Kurds' plight with NATO and EU leaders.

Kurds peacefully occupied the Dutch Parliament for several hours Monday night, and met Tuesday with legislators to press for more Dutch action against the insurgents, according to local media.

The Netherlands has sent six F-16 fighter jets to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq, but says it does not see a mandate for striking in Syria.

France, too, is taking part in airstrikes on Islamic State group positions in Iraq but not in Syria, wary of implications on ongoing international efforts against President Bashar al-Assad.

"We don't understand why France is acting in Kurdistan in Iraq and not Kurdistan in Syria," said Fidan Unlubayir of the Federation of Kurdish Associations of France.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

Date created : 2014-10-08

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