In Diyarbakır tensions were high between police and members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) seeking to reach the planned site for the rally. The police first blocked a BDP bus and then blocked the path of some 50 politicians who were walking toward the site, leading to shoving between the two sides.
“You cannot block the path of deputies. You are committing a crime,” BDP Chairman Selahattin Demirtaş told the police.
Pro-Kurdish deputies were caught up in the rioting as police and demonstrators battled on the streets of Diyarbakır, where the BDP had sought to hold a rally. One BPD deputy was soaked by a water cannon in the central commercial district of Ofis as police dispersed the crowd.
Some of the demonstrators tried to pull up paving stones and break them to throw at the police; others pushed over refuse containers in an attempt to barricade some streets.
Riot police fired water cannons and teargas during the clashes as police, demonstrators and at least one BDP deputy were hurt in the rioting and some protesters were detained, witnesses said. The number of people involved was not immediately made available.
The local governor had refused the party permission to hold the rally, planned in part to call for the release of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan.
The rally coincided with the first anniversary of a declaration of “democratic autonomy” by Kurdish politicians, and it was also exactly one year after the PKK terrorists killed 13 soldiers in an attack in Diyarbakır.
Police issued warning calls for the crowds, which included children, to disperse before officers in riot gear moved in to break up the groups.
To protest the police barricades and the governor’s no to the rally, BDP deputies and some protesters staged a sit-in at a park in Diyarbakır’s Yenişehir’s district.
The sit-in ended with a press conference by the BDP leader. Demirtaş blamed the government for what happened during the protests and said they have no option but to continue their resistance against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
Elsewhere in the Southeast, on the road between Siirt and Şırnak provinces, a group of the PKK militants set up a roadblock on Saturday afternoon and halted vehicles to obtain proof of identity.
Two soldiers killed in clashes with PKK
While tension flared in the Southeast following the rally crisis in Diyarbakır, two soldiers were killed in clash with the PKK in the Kato Mountains of the southeastern province of Şırnak on Sunday morning.
The bodies of the slain soldiers were sent to the military hospital in Diyarbakır military for an autopsy.
In a previous attack in the eastern town of Edremit, in Van province on the border with Iran, the PKK militants detonated a roadside bomb by remote control, wounding 12 police officers after they got out of a vehicle, security sources said. The wounded officers are reportedly not in serious condition.
The PKK is fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish Southeast. Turkey has been conducting airstrikes on the PKK camps in Iraq’s northern mountains and inside of Turkey since August of last year, following an increase in attacks on Turkish troops and civilians by the PKK.
The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives. The group is labeled a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, which has supplied Predator drones to assist Turkey.
In the meantime, PKK terrorists raided a worksite at the Arslandağ Dam in the southeastern province of Hakkari on Saturday. After setting 21 vehicles and heavy construction equipment ablaze, the PKK members fled the scene.