Turkish police on Tuesday detained approximately 200 people who had gathered in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır to celebrate the spring festival of Nevruz, the Artı Gerçek news website reported.
Nevruz is traditionally marked by Kurds in the second half of March as the first day of spring, with colorful celebrations across the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. However, the celebrations, which have a highly symbolic meaning for Kurds, have often been marred by heavy-handed police intervention.
This year’s Nevruz celebrations were no exception. A huge crowd gathered at Nevruz Park in the Bağlar district of Diyarbakır for the final event of celebrations that began several days ago.
There was heavy police presence in the park, with officers stationed in a special area separated by wire fences between the participants and the platform where speeches were being delivered.
Among the attendees of the celebration were Başak Demirtaş, the wife of jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş; Ferit Şenyaşar, three members of whose family were murdered by people connected to a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker in 2018; and Zeynep Mızraklı, the wife of former Diyarbakır Mayor Selçuk Mızraklı, who is currently in jail.
Police officers did not allow participants to enter the area when dressed in local “şal û şepik” clothes, which are, according to Turkish authorities, the clothing of militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
The police used pepper spray to disperse some attendees when they argued about barricades set up in the area.
Although no official statement has been made regarding the exact number of the people who have been detained, lawyers said the number of detentions is close to 200.
This year’s celebrations, which took place in various cities across the country, including İstanbul, the capital Ankara and Van, were held under the shadow of February’s major earthquakes, which claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people in the country’s south and southeast.
Mithat Sancar, co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who delivered a speech at the event, said the pain caused by the losses in the earthquakes is great but that their anger is great, too.
He said the AKP and its election ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), are responsible for the earthquakes’ turning into a huge disaster due to the corrupt regime they established.
The AKP government is being accused of failing to prepare the earthquake-prone country to such disasters and responding to the earthquakes poorly and inefficiently.
During the Nevruz celebration in İstanbul on Sunday, 224 people were detained for bringing “illegal banners” to the square and “causing outrage by shouting illegal slogans,” according to a statement from the İstanbul Governor’s Office.