Thousands of Kurds and members of another community of Turkish diaspora in Germany have held a demonstration in protest against what they call Ankara’s crackdown on dissent.
About 25,000 Kurds and Alevis rallied in the western city of Cologne on Saturday to demand a halt to “Turkey’s harsh treatment of Kurds” and the government’s massive crackdown on the suspected plotters of the failed coup of July 15.
The protesters said they were demonstrating “for democracy, peace and freedom,” calling on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop the clampdown.
More than 35,000 people have been arrested and over 100,000 discharged from the army and public institutions since Turkey launched the crackdown to detain those behind the abortive coup.
The protesters in Cologne called on Turkey to release pro-Kurdish activists and lawmakers from jail. They carried images of Selahattin Demirtas, the young co-leader of the People’s Democratic Party, also known as the HDP, who was arrested last week along eight other Kurdish lawmakers on suspicion of assisting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Photos of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is serving a long jail sentence on a prison island, were also seen held by the demonstrators.
The PKK is regarded as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the world community. Its decades-long fighting for an independent state in southeastern Turkey has left tens of thousands dead.
Police said it detained several Kurdish youth after they threw stones and bottles at officers. It said a group of about 200 to 300 Kurdish youth broke away from the main protest and began to cause unrest.
“Flares were ignited by a few individuals. When police tried to prevent them, stones and other objects were thrown at them,” police said in a statement. Local media said a police officer was injured during the clashes.
Germany has been very critical of Turkey’s crackdown on suspected coup plotters and Kurds. However, it fears pro-Kurdish protests could spark clashes on German soil between members of the community and Turks. Over a million Kurds are estimated to be living in Germany, more than any other European country. The country is also home to the largest population of Turkish expatriates in the world.