Newroz, the beginning of the Iranian new year celebrated as a Kurdish tradition, was going to be celebrated on 20 March (Tuesday) in the south-eastern cities of Batman, Van, Mersin, Cizre in the province of Şırnak and Viranşehir in the province of Şanlıurfa. Those who went out to celebrate encountered massive police interventions facing tear gas, truncheons and water cannons.
One of the harshest interventions occurred in Mersin on the eastern tip of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mersin Governorship had actually issued permission for the celebrations on 20 March but the Ministry of the Interior decided to cancel all Newroz celebrations. Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Mersin Deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü talked to bianet about the police's attitude during the intervention in Mersin.
Kürkçü: "We were beaten with fists and shields"
Kürkçü said that a notice on the celebrations on 20 March was given out before the Ministry of the Interior decided to cancel the events. The notice was valid until the circular of the ministry was issued. Hence, thousands of people had prepared themselves to make a move in accordance with the notice.
According to the politician, the groups were being dispersed by the police as soon as they started to march towards the celebration area in Mersin.
"The attack intensified more and more. The crowd I was in was beaten with truncheons; also tear gas was used. Liquefied gas came to my head. This is harmful. We were beaten with fists and shields too. That was the situation. There were hundreds of cartridge shells on the ground".
"The date has never been subject to debate until this year"
"The Mersin Governorship and Police Directorate seem to be completely crazy. They intervened against the people very harshly; they shot into the air. The administration of this city does not know what they did. They attack the people and make them pay for a political fear. It is impossible for us to retreat; we will be right next to the people wherever they go", Kürkçü emphasized.
He indicated that never before the date to celebrate Newroz on was subject to discussion. "As a matter of principle, the largest mass celebrations would be held on the Sunday closest to the actual date. This debate was created by the government".
"I don't know this kind of brotherhood"
While we were talking to Kürkçü on the phone, the police intended to take the people next to him into custody. The politician left the scene to talk to the police and handed his phone to Ramazan Kortar, a citizen of Mersin.
Kortar said, "We are Kurds, we are human beings, we are Muslims. Why are they tyrannizing and insulting us? They say we are brothers. I do not know such a brotherhood. They should become the brothers of somebody else. If we are brothers, we ought to have our flag and our party too. How can we be equal brothers otherwise?"
Subsequently, 23-year-old Baran Kader took the phone and said, "There was no need to do this. We wanted to celebrate our holiday. What about it? What is going to happen if the police do not throw tear gas at us? We were going to lit a fire and sing songs; we were not going to create trouble"
BDP Istanbul Deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Mersin Deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü and Akdeniz District Mayor Fazıl Türk started a sit-down strike at the Tırmıl Area in Mersin.
Ahmet Türk attacked by police in Batman
In Batman, the police also intervened with tear gas against the people who were going to celebrate Newroz. A tear gas bomb was thrown to a bus of politicians with passengers Ahmet Türk, Mardin MP and Co-Chair of the Democratic Society Congress; Van Deputy Aysel Tuğluk; Diyarbakır MP Nursel Aydoğan; Feleknaz Uça; Fatma Kurtulan and Deputy Mayor Serhat Temel.
Politician Türk felt faint as the result of the tear gas. He was beaten by the police and taken to the Batman Dünya Hospital afterwards. He was discharged after having undergone medical treatment.
Nursel Aydoğan was on the bus together with Türk. She told bianet that Türk's face was swollen and bruised as a result of the beating.
According to Aydoğan, Türk suffered from heart problems due to the excessive use of gas. He was given oxygen and an intravenous solution and also the bruises in his face were treated. (IC/YY)