Turkish prosecutors launch probe into Nevruz celebration in Diyarbakır

A reveler jumps in front of a bonfire during a gathering of Turkish Kurds for Nevruz celebrations marking the Persian New Year in Diyarbakır, southeastern Turkey, on March 21, 2023. Nevruz (also known as Nawroz or Nowruz) is an ancient Persian festival, which is also celebrated by Kurdish people, marking the first day of spring, which falls on March 21. ILYAS AKENGIN / AFP

A prosecutor’s office in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır has launched an investigation into incidents that occurred at a celebration held in the city on Wednesday to mark the spring festival of Nevruz, Turkish Minute reported, citing the DHA news agency.

Diyarbakır hosted the final event of Nevruz celebrations on Tuesday that began several days ago in other cities with the attendance of thousands of people.

The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched the investigation due to the appearance of posters featuring Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in the area as well as slogans chanted in favor of the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Nevruz is traditionally marked by Kurds in the second half of March as the first day of spring, with colorful celebrations across the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. However, the celebrations, which have a highly symbolic meaning for Kurds, have often been marred by heavy-handed police intervention.

The celebration in Diyarbakır was no exception as the police on Tuesday detained approximately 200 people on the grounds that they violated the Law on Demonstrations and Public Meetings and for resisting police officers. The detainees were released on Wednesday morning following questioning.

During a Nevruz celebration in İstanbul on Sunday, 224 people were detained for bringing “illegal banners” to the square and “causing outrage by shouting illegal slogans,” according to a statement from the İstanbul Governor’s Office.

Turkish authorities deem posters displaying jailed PKK leader Öcalan and other PKK members as evidence of “terrorist propaganda.”

Öcalan, who was given a life sentence for treason after Turkey removed the death penalty, has been jailed in a high-security prison on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999.

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