SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)-Turkey’s military on Wednesday imposed a curfew in parts of the southeast after at least 19 people were killed in pro-Kurdish protests over the government’s failure to act against jihadists attacking the Syrian border city of Kobane.
The disturbances were the worst outbreak of such pro-Kurdish violence in years and risked derailing Turkey’s own fragile peace process with the Kurds.
In a move unprecedented since the deadliest days of the Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s, the army was deployed to impose a curfew in several cities in the east.
The violence was concentrated in the mainly Kurdish southeast but also flared in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities, with empty buses firebombed and protesters hurling stones at police.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has so far not intervened militarily against Islamic State (IS) jihadists trying to take Kobane, to the fury of Turkey’s Kurds.
Ten of the deaths came in Turkey’s main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, where the most intense rioting took place overnight Wednesday, the government said.
Five of the deaths were blamed on clashes between Kurdish activists and supporters of the HUDA-PAR Kurdish Sunni Islamist group which is sympathetic to IS.
The clashes caused extensive damage in the city with shop fronts burned out and buses set on fire.
“Everyone should refrain from expressing their hatred and displaying violence so that the protests do not spread,” Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker said on a visit to Diyarbakir, blaming the clashes on the “lobby of chaos”.
Three people were reported killed in Mardin, three in Siirt, and one each in Batman, Mus and Van — all cities in the southeast of Turkey with large populations of Kurds.
The Turkish army has been deployed on the streets in parts of six cities including Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van to enforce an open-ended curfew.
In Diyarbakir, Turkish troops and tanks were patrolling the city of 1.5 million people and the usually thronged streets were deserted, an AFP correspondent reported.
Schools were closed in Diyarbakir until Monday and all flights into the city were cancelled.
In new violence Wednesday, several hundred demonstrators in the city broke the curfew to throw stones at police who responded with tear gas.