Police clash with Kurdish demonstrators in southeast Turkey

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Turkish police have clashed with Kurdish demonstrators during a rally in support of Kurdish prisoners who have been on a hunger strike.

The clashes broke out on Saturday after hundreds of Turkish Kurds took to the streets in the southeastern provinces of Cizre and Diyarbakir to voice their solidarity with the hunger-striking prisoners.

Police used smoke grenades and water cannons to disperse the protesters who hurled firecrackers, stones and petrol bombs at armored police vehicles.

Around 700 Kurdish prisoners have been refusing food for more than two months in a show of protest against the restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language in Turkey.

However, their main demand is improved jail conditions for Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The hunger strikers, joined by six of Turkey’s leading Kurdish politicians, are demanding Ocalan, imprisoned on the island of Imrali in the Marmara Sea, have access to lawyers after 15 months of no contact.

Medical sources have warned that some inmates, who have been taking sugared water and vitamins to survive, are in critical condition and that fatalities are possible after weeks without food.

On Saturday, Ocalan’s brother issued a statement in which he said he had met with the jailed PKK leader and that he had called for an end to the hunger strike by his supporters.

“This action has achieved its goal. Without any hesitation, they should end the hunger strike,” he quoted Ocalan as saying.

The PKK has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey’s Kurdish majority southeast since the 1980s.

 

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