Turkish Kurds in New Year protest over political repression

·2-min read

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the city of Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey on Sunday to celebrate the Kurdish New Year and protest against the repression of a pro-Kurdish opposition party.

The Newroz celebration included people jumping over bonfires and traditional dancing to the beating of drums.

But this year the normal New Year festivities ran alongside a major protest in the Kurdish-majority city, coming just days after a Turkish prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court to shut down the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), parliament's third-largest group.

Just hours before the event, Turkish authorities briefly detained prominent pro-Kurdish opposition MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, who had refused to leave parliament for several days after his seat was revoked.

"The HDP is the people and the people are here!" the crowd in Diyarbakir chanted, waving flags in the party's colours.

If the HDP is banned "another party will replace it, it won't change anything" Yusuf Celik, one of the protesters, told AFP.

"The Kurds, those who have honour, will support this cause to the death," he added.

"One party wants to ban another party in order to stay in power, that's not normal, or humane. No one can accept that," said fellow protester Mursel Bakir.

The repression of the HDP also figured high in the celebrations to mark the Kurdish New Year in Istanbul Saturday.

"These efforts to shut down (the HDP) are proof that the government is finished, on the point of crumbling," said HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has long portrayed the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) -- as the political front of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The PKK has been waging an insurgency since 1984 that has killed tens of thousands and is considered a terrorist organisation by Ankara and its Western allies.

But the HDP firmly denies formal links to the militants. It says it is coming under attack because of its fervent opposition to Erdogan's 18-year rule.

Several recent surveys have shown Erdogan's governing alliance losing votes as Turks suffer from a waning economy and persistently high inflation.

The HDP claims Erdogan is seeking to shut it down before the next general election in 2023.

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