Supporters of the terrorist PKK who were planning major demonstrations in Gemlik, a township in the northwestern province of Bursa, on Sunday were not allowed to do so as police blocked roads and turned away buses carrying protesters to the province.
The protestors were planning to hold the march specifically on Oct. 9, the anniversary of the day jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan had to leave Syria, previously a safe haven, in the face of mounting pressure from Turkey in 1998. Bursa’s provincial governor had declared the march illegal, and police set up checkpoints on roads to Gemlik, a small port on the Marmara Sea across the water from the island prison where jailed PKK leader Öcalan is being held.
“We won’t be able to hold the march today because of police obstruction,” Aysel Tuğluk, a Kurdish member of Parliament, was quoted as saying by the state-run Anatolian news agency. One convoy of around 1,000 people was prevented from leaving Diyarbakır, a major city in the mainly Kurdish Southeast, on Saturday afternoon, NTV news reported.
Öcalan is currently incarcerated on İmrali Island just south of İstanbul and has held on-again off-again talks with state officials seeking ways to end a separatist conflict that began in the 1980s.
The march was organized by TUHAF-FED, an association for families of convicts and those under arrest in prison. The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), a political group mostly comprised of members of the now defunct Democratic Society Party (DTP), also supported the event.
The group was planning to protest Turkey’s refusal to allow Öcalan’s lawyers to visit him. The PKK leader has not been allowed to meet with his lawyers for over a month, due to a hiatus in the several legal cases where Öcalan is on trial.
The PKK is now fighting for greater autonomy and Kurdish rights, having earlier sought a separate state. Öcalan’s supporters also want the state to recognize him as a legitimate representative of the Kurds in possible peace talks.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, including three victims of a car bomb in Ankara last month carried out by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK). Turkey’s military has been mounting air and artillery strikes since August on PKK positions in the Kandil Mountains of northern Iraq in reaction to a string of terrorist attacks.
Within Turkey, security forces have reportedly detained thousands of Kurds suspected of ties to the PKK in recent months. Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin said on Friday that Kurdish media was exaggerating the numbers, though the the courts had formally ordered the arrest 277 suspects since Sept. 1.
On Friday night, according to Anatolia, police arrested 49 suspects in İstanbul and 18 in Diyarbakır. They were picked up as part of an operation against a Kurdish organization considered close to the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
09 October 2011, Sunday / TODAYSZAMAN.COM WITH REUTERS,