Hundreds of thousands celebrate Newroz in Turkey

Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated Newroz in towns and cities across Turkey, including Diyarbakır, İstanbul, Van and İzmir.

People gathered in Van, Urfa, Cizre, Nusaybin, Mardin, Siirt, İstanbul, İzmir and the Turkish capital of Ankara, among other cities, marking the holiday.

Celebrations in some towns and cities, including Kars, Ağrı, Iğdır, Muş, Doğubayezit, Derik, Ergani, however, were banned by central government-appointed authorities.
As in past years, the largest celebration took place the city of Diyarbakır, where more than a hundred thousand mostly young people showed up and attended by international guests from France, Italy, Norway.

Demonstrators waved flags belonging to the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) and others bearing the face of Abdullah Öcalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and ideological figurehead for a number of Kurdish organisations.

Men and women danced in the streets of Kurdish and rebel music, while others lit bonfires and torches. Some took part in the traditional practice of jumping over bonfires.

The gathering in Diyarbakır was marked by a show of solidarity with Kurdish fighters in the Syrian enclave of Afrin. Police helicopters circled overhead while water cannons were kept on standby.

HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan slammed the tearing down of a statue of the Kurdish folk hero Kawa by pro-Turkish forces (FSA) at the weekend.

“Those who tore down the statue of Kawa in Afrin should know that every woman, man and child gathered today in this square is Kawa,” she told the crowd.

She added that the HDP was ready to challenge the AKP and their allies the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the upcoming 2019 parliamentary elections.

“None shall fall into despair. Those imposing tyranny on a people desiring liberty shall face defeat,” she said.

“That day is coming close. We will give a historic lesson to the AKP & MHP alliance in the elections”

Celebrations in other parts of Turkey were marked with arrests and severe security restrictions.

At least 70 people had been arrested attempting to reach celebrations in İstanbul’s Bakırkoy district.

On Tuesday, Istanbul police had detained 16 young people ahead of the celebrations on suspicion of preparing for “pirate demonstrations” and “attacks”. Another 11 people were also detained in the capital Ankara for “preparing for a provocative attack ahead of Newroz” and police were searching for 14 more.

In the southeastern province of Şırnak, police detained 76 people and 27 people had been detained in raids in the southern province of Hatay.

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