Scuffles have broken out in the southeastern Turkey between security forces and Kurdish protesters demanding the release of the imprisoned leader of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan.
On Saturday, scores of Kurds rallied in the city of Batman, located about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) southeast of the capital, Ankara, to demand self-governance as well as Ocalan’s immediate freedom, private Cihan news agency reported.
Several politicians, including lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish and left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Ayse Acar Basaran and Mehmet Ali Aslan, were among the protesters.
Police forces then intervened and fired shots in the air as well as tear gas canisters to break up the protest. They also used water cannons against demonstrators to disperse the crowd.
Four people, among them Batman provincial chief for the social democratic Kurdish political party, Democratic Regions Party (DBP), Mehmet Can Demir, were later arrested.
Ankara has been engaged in a large-scale military campaign against PKK in its southern border region in the recent past. The Turkish military has been also conducting offensives against the positions of the PKK in northern Iraq.
The operations began in the wake of a deadly July 20 bombing in the southern Turkish town of Suruc, an ethnically Kurdish town located close to border with Syria. Over 30 people died in the Suruc attack, which the Turkish government blamed on Takfiri Daesh terrorists.
After the bombing in Suruc, the PKK militants, who accuse the government in Ankara of supporting Daesh, engaged in a series of supposed reprisal attacks against Turkish police and security forces, in turn prompting the Turkish military operations.