Tens of thousands of Turkish Kurds in New Year Diyarbakir protest over repression

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Tens of thousands of people gathered in the city of Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey on Sunday to celebrate the Kurdish New Year and protest against the repression of a pro-Kurdish opposition party.

The Newroz celebration included people jumping over bonfires and traditional dancing to the beating of drums.

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But this year the normal New Year festivities ran alongside a major protest in the Kurdish-majority city, coming just days after a Turkish prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court to shut down the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), parliament’s third-largest group.

Just hours before the event, Turkish authorities briefly detained prominent pro-Kurdish opposition MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, who had refused to leave parliament for several days after his seat was revoked.

“The HDP is the people and the people are here!” the crowd in Diyarbakir chanted, waving flags in the party’s colors.

If the HDP is banned “another party will replace it, it won’t change anything” Yusuf Celik, one of the protesters, told AFP.

“The Kurds, those who have honor, will support this cause to the death,” he added.

“One party wants to ban another party in order to stay in power, that’s not normal, or humane. No one can accept that,” said fellow protester Mursel Bakir.

The repression of the HDP also figured high in the celebrations to mark the Kurdish New Year in Istanbul Saturday.