Turkish gov’t detains record number of Kurdish citizens ahead of Nevroz

The Turkish government on Friday detained at least 94 Kurdish citizens across Turkey over alleged membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) ahead of the traditional spring festival of Nevroz, to be celebrated on March 21.

In southern Adana province, counterterrorism police detained 47 Kurdish citizens, including five women and 10 children, during simultaneous operations at 73 locations, according to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.

In another operation in western İzmir province counterterrorism police detained 36 Kurdish citizens over alleged membership in the PKK. Separately,  in İstanbul province, police detained 11 Kurdish citizens on the same accusations on Friday.

Turkish authorities claimed that the detainees were preparing for a terrorist attack with arms, Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices following a call by the PKK  ahead of the March 21 spring festival of Nevroz. It was also reported that police are on the lookout for more Kurdish citizens to detain on the same accusations.

Meanwhile, an event organised by Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to mark Nevroz was cancelled on Thursday by the local governor’s office in the southeastern province of Mardin.

Turkish media reported that the HDP had written to the local authorities in Mardin’s Derik district requesting permission to hold the celebration on March 18. The local governor’s office replied on March 13, denying the request on the basis that a Nevroz celebration had already been organised by the local municipality and that a second was “not necessary.”

Derik is one of dozens of local administrations in Turkey’s Kurdish areas that have been placed under “trusteeship” by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). In these municipalities, government-appointed trustees have taken over from elected municipal officials who have been removed by decree under an ongoing state of emergency.

Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with jailed PKK chieftain Abdullah Öcalan for several years until a truce in effect collapsed in the summer of 2015. Since then, there have been heavy clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.

More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

Over 1,200 Turkish security personnel and civilians, including a number of women and children, have been killed since July 2015 alone, when the Turkish government and the PKK resumed the armed struggle again.

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