DIYARBAKIR, Turkey: Turkish police on Saturday fired water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of protesters who demonstrated against a three-month military crackdown backed by a curfew in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir.
The Turkish authorities have kept the curfew in place in the central Sur district of Diyarbakir since December 2 in a bid to root out Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants.
But activists say civilians have been killed and the clashes have caused major damage to its historic mosques and other buildings.
Thousands of people gathered in the city’s Kosuyolu Park to demand an end to the curfew and specifically a 24-hour break to rescue those still trapped in Sur, an AFP correspondent said.
The meeting began peacefully with speeches from Kurdish leaders but participants then spread in different directions with the police firing water cannon and tear gas canisters.
Some protesters threw stones and noise bombs at the police and at least 10 people were arrested. One person was badly wounded by gunfire in the clashes.
According to the army, 237 “terrorists” have been killed in the curfew operation in Sur so far. But Kurdish activists cast heavy doubt on the figures.
Turkey has carried out the military operations in several urban centers in the southeast over the last months, marking a new escalation in half a year of fighting with the PKK since a two-and-a-half year truce collapsed in July.
The PKK launched a formal insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, initially fighting for Kurdish independence although it now presses more for greater autonomy and rights for the country’s largest ethnic minority.
The conflict has left tens of thousands dead.