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20 Mar, 2016 03:14

Turkish police deploy tear gas, water cannon to disperse Kurds celebrating Newroz (VIDEO)

Turkish police deploy tear gas, water cannon to disperse Kurds celebrating Newroz (VIDEO)

At least 10 people have been arrested after Turkish police broke up the Kurdish Newroz festivities in the town of Silopi. Officers deployed water cannon to disperse the crowd which gathered in defiance of Ankara’s ban on mass gatherings amid a crackdown on Kurdish militants.

Several hundreds of people flocked to the streets of Silopi in southeastern Sirnak province for the Newroz (the Persian New Year also celebrated by the Kurds) festivities, organized by the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party despite a ban on public gatherings, local media reported.

Up to 500 people were seen on the streets when the police arrived and demanded that the crowd disperse. According to reports, police have also made a second attempt trying to convince the crowd to leave the vicinity of the municipality building.

Besides refusing to leave, a small portion of Kurds allegedly started scuffles with the officers and began throwing stones at police lines. Several dozen activists proceeded with barricading the road and burning tires, according to reports.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannon to eventually disperse the celebrating crowd, with many women and children among them. At least one policemen was injured in the standoff, while authorities managed to detain at least 10 people.

The conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish population, who demand greater autonomy, has been continuing for decades. With several failed ceasefires between the sides, Ankara has been blamed by a number of human rights groups for jeopardizing civilian lives in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.

In summer 2015, Ankara launched a military operation against the Kurdish militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The violence ended a two-year truce and is still ongoing, having already resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties according to human rights NGOs.

#JusticeForKurds: RT calls on UN to probe Turkey's alleged killing of Kurdish civilians

On March 17, RT launched a petition calling for a UNHRC-led investigation into latest claims of alleged massacre of Kurds by the Turkish military during Ankara’s crackdown in the country's southeast. It is based on materials that an RT crew recorded as it visited Cizre in Turkey’s Sirnak province following reports of a brutal military crackdown on the civilian population in the area.