Police use tear gas to break up early Nevruz demonstrations

Police use tear gas to break up early Nevruz demonstrations

Protesters throwing stones at police in Diyarbakır. (Photo: Cihan)

March 18, 2012, Sunday/ 11:36:00

A police officer and a civilian were injured in clashes between police and pro-Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) demonstrators in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, while police used tear gas to disperse protesters attempting to hold an unauthorized demonstration in İstanbul's Kazlıçeşme Square, as tension rises ahead of Nevruz.

Nevruz is traditionally celebrated on March 21, but this year the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) requested permission to hold celebrations on March 18, a request declined by local authorities in İstanbul and Diyarbakır.

However, demonstrators, mostly PKK supporters, attempted to defy the ban on Sunday. Hundreds of demonstrators, some armed with homemade bombs and firebombs, clashed with the police in Diyarbakır, resulting in two injuries.

In İstanbul, protesters barricaded roads near Kazlıçeşme Square in Zeytinburnu and threw stones at security forces as police used tear gas and high-pressure water hoses to disperse the group. Passengers in cars and buses passing by the area were also affected by the tear gas.

Police also stepped up security on all forms of public transportation that can be used to reach Kazlıçeşme, searching and checking the identity cards of suspicious individuals. Tram operators were also instructed not to stop at Topkapı, the stop nearest to Kazlıçeşme.

A police helicopter was also used to secure the area.

Intelligence reports have suggested that the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is planning to stage bloody attacks during Nevruz, which is celebrated by at least 100,000 people on the streets of Diyarbakır alone. Large amounts of explosives have been found in several Turkish cities in recent weeks, which police say were being stored for use in violent attacks to be staged by the terrorist PKK during this year's annual spring festival of Nevruz.

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