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Deadly protests in Turkey

October 10, 2014

Four days of violent protests across Turkey have claimed at least 30 lives. Demonstrators are angry at the government's policy towards the besieged Syrian town of Kobani and its Kurdish refugees.

Türkei Diyarbakir Protest Ausschreitungen 09.10.2014
Image: Reuters/Osman Orsal

More than 30 people had been killed and 360 injured at anti-government demonstrations in different parts of southeastern Turkey as of Friday. Unrest boiled over in response to the government's perceived inaction against militants from the self-proclaimed "Islamic State," who were inching closer to taking the border town of Kobani in Syria.

The smoke rising from Kobani can be seen in Turkey, whose Kurdish population is also angry about how the government is handling border controls; the government says it is worried about letting in supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a separatist group which is outlawed in Turkey. Kurdish fighters in Syria, however, blame Turkey for blocking crucial resupplies of ammunition for their defensive forces.

An estimated 180,000 refugees have fled to Turkey from Syria to escape the jihadists so far. Fighting in Kobani on Friday was concentrated on the border crossing, preventing more people from leaving. According to news agency AFP, UN Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, called on Turkey to relax the border to allow Kurdish refugees to help protect Kobani.

Syrien Türkei Grenze Kämpfe um Kobane gehen weiter
Recent fighting in Kobani has trapped 500 civilians in the city, unable to leaveImage: picture-alliance/AA

Worst violence in years

The clashes, the worst in Turkey in recent years, had spread across 35 cities, including Istanbul and Ankara. In addition to the protestors and security personnel killed in the clashes, two policeman were shot dead by five "terrorists" in the city of Bingol on Thursday night while inspecting the site of a demonstration. The gunmen were then themselves killed by security forces.

In the four days of protests, 1,000 people have been detained and 58 formally arrested for taking part in the protests according to Interior Minister Efkan Ala. Ala also said that 212 schools had been damaged since the demonstrations began.

"The spiral of violence must immediately be stopped," he told reporters.

History of tension

The bloodshed has already far exceeded the eight deaths of the May-June 2013 anti-government protests centered around Gezi Park in Istanbul, in which eight people were killed according to official accounts.

The region claimed by the Kurdish people as Kurdistan covers parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Ankara has long battled the call for an independent Kurdish state. Guerrilla warfare between Kurdish fighters and the Turkish government in the 1980s and 90s killed thousands.

es/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)