ANKARA (AP)–Hundreds of Kurds clashed with police in Turkey’s south-eastern city of van, hurling stones, firebombs and fireworks. There were no immediate reports of injuries, the Associated Press reported.
Police retaliated with pepper gas in an effort to disperse crowds and detained 25 protesters, the Anatolia news agency said. Four police officers and two protesters were slightly injured during the incidents, it said.
Kurdish youths have been staging violent streets protests over the past few weeks to denounce new prison conditions for Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan.
One Kurdish student was killed from gunshot wounds in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir while another died Monday of severe burns from a firebomb attack by Kurdish militants on a city bus in Istanbul.
The protests intensified after Turkey’s top court began its deliberations this week on a case to shut down the country’s pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) on charges of links to the outlawed PKK.
Ocalan, who is serving life in prison on an island near Istanbul, was moved to a newly built high-security jail, which his supporters claim is smaller than his previous cell. The Justice Ministry said the difference is only minimal and that the new prison is an improvement, where Ocalan will be able to socialize with newly transferred inmates.
He has been held in solitary confinement since his capture in 1999.
The PKK has been fighting for equal rights and liberation in the southeast since 1984. Turkey characterizes their struggle for freedom as terrorism and has dealt with it as such, clamping down on the country’s Turkish population and using military force and counter-insurgency techniques to destroy the PKK.
The government recently announced steps to reconcile with Kurds by expanding greater cultural rights in an effort to end the conflict that has led to the disappearance and death of thousands of Kurds.
Those steps, which include cosmetic reforms and pledges for equality, have been criticized by Turkey’s Kurds as hollow. Kurdish politicians insist the government should open dialogue with Ocalan for a realistic solution. Kurds make up more than 20 percent of Turkey’s more than 70 million people.