Turkish police fire gas and water cannon and detain hundreds but fail to prevent the celebration of Newroz around Turkey, with HDP co-chair Demirtaş addressing a mass Newroz crowd in Batman
Thousands of Kurds and others braved police attacks around Turkey yesterday to celebrate Newroz, which had been banned by Turkish authorities in many areas around the country amid continuing operations in southeastern districts that have killed hundreds.
Police used water cannon against celebrants in Istanbul attempting to reach Bakırköy Public Market, where the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had called for this year’s celebration of Newroz.
At least 75 people were detained as they tried to reach the area, although HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ said she had been informed that upward of 120 people had been detained, some of whom had been beaten.
Police surrounded the HDP’s office in Şirinevler, which is close to Bakırköy, but protesters managed to link up in side streets, shouting the slogan that “Newroz cannot be prohibited.”
Others stopped traffic on the E6 Highway outside Gazi neighborhood and danced the halay while shouting slogans.
Police also banned celebrations of Newroz in Batman, Adana, Hatay and İzmir on 20 March.
Batman residents overcome police ban
Officers attacked revelers who were waiting at the entrance to Batman at 12:30 p.m. with water cannon and gas. Protesters continued to dance the halay and shout slogans as the police water cannon failed to douse a Newroz flame that was set by revelers.
Police also used armored personnel carriers to shut access to the road from Diyarbakır due to the impending arrival of HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş. During the wait, one young person dancing the halay was injured just above the eye by a plastic bullet fired by police.
Demirtaş was eventually able to arrive at the scene, although police initially refused to grant entry to the town to anyone except the HDP co-chair. After negotiations, all were permitted to enter the provincial center, although police again fired tear gas, water cannon and plastic bullets at the crowd. Despite the attacks, Demirtaş was able to address Batman residents.
“They are afraid of the hundreds of thousands of Batman residents exercising their will to come to the square. These cowards are now listening to my voice. Let me address those cowards: You don’t represent the people of Batman. You’re bureaucrats appointed here with a few signatures. You can’t go head to head with the people of Batman with the mentality of occupiers,” Demirtaş said.
Addressing the Batman governor, Demirtaş said: “If you won’t respect this will, if you won’t allow in a party’s co-chair to the party’s building, then sorry, but you’re not needed in Batman. Resign and get out of Batman.”
Demirtaş also paid tribute to Mazlum Doğan, one of the founders of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who sacrificed himself in Diyarbakır Prison in 1982 at Newroz in protest at the country’s military regime and the inhuman treatment of prisoners.
The HDP co-chair also called on Batman residents to come to the 21 March celebration of Newroz in Diyarbakır, which was first banned by authorities before receiving an official go-ahead.
In Adana, police attacked revelers in the southern province’s Dağlıoğlu Neighborhood, prompting locals to engage in self-defense as they erected barricades and set tires on fire. Unable to dislodge the protesters, police eventually abandoned the area designated for Newroz festivities, allowing the lighting of the Newroz flame and the beginning of celebrations.
Some 50 people were detained in Adana’s Ceyhan district, according to the Dicle News Agency (DİHA).
Celebrations were also banned in nearby Dörtyol in Hatay province.
On the Aegean coast of İzmir, police closed all roads to prevent people from celebrating the holiday at the designated area.