Slow pace of peace process infuriates Kurds in Turkey
DIYARBAKIR - Turkish riot police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of demonstrators who gathered in the Kurdish-majority southeast on Sunday to press the Turkish government to advance the peace process.
Some 8,000 demonstrators were clustered in front of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) building in Diyarbakir city for the "Government, take a step" rally.
A group of masked rioters threw stones at the police for their refusal to allow the demo, and the police responded with tear gas and water cannon.
Four people including a journalist were injured in clashes, which were still continuing in some thoroughfares of the city.
The BDP said Sunday it would launch rallies across Turkey to press the government to carry out reforms for a settlement to the nearly three-decade old Kurdish conflict.
"Our party is calling on our people as well as all oppressed and ignored segments of society to say 'Government, take a step' in order to step up the struggle for democracy," the party said in a statement.
The BDP-led campaign comes after jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan said Tuesday that he has sent Ankara a set of proposals for the next phase in peace efforts to follow the withdrawal of rebel fighters from Turkish soil.
The PKK leader declared a historic ceasefire in March after months of clandestine negotiations with the Turkish secret service with an ultimate goal of disarming the rebel fighters.
As part of the truce, Ocalan's PKK, labelled as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies, agreed to withdraw its 2,000 estimated fighters from Turkey to their bases in northern Iraq, which should be completed before winter.
The PKK first took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey in 1984, sparking a conflict that has cost some 45,000 lives.
Over the years, the armed group has scaled back its original demand for outright secession to a call for autonomy and cultural and language rights for Turkey's Kurdish minority, which makes up around 20 percent of the country's 75-million population and live mostly in the southeast.
The BDP said Sunday one of its main demands was to ensure freedom for Ocalan, who has been serving a life prison term on a remote island off Istanbul since his 1999 capture.
The BDP's other demands included release of Kurdish prisoners and political activists, the lifting of restrictions on education in the Kurdish language and reducing the 10-percent election threshold required to secure seats in the 550-seat parliament.