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Saturday, 1 September, 2001, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Turkish police arrest hundreds of Kurds
A pro-Kurdish protest in Istanbul
Protesters flee the tear gas fired by Turkish riot police
Police in Turkey have made hundreds of arrests to prevent Kurdish activists from travelling to Ankara for a mass rally.

Many were detained while trying to board buses from other cities to the capital, where roadblocks were set up and thousands of extra police deployed.

This is directly concerned with our right to freedom of movement

HADEP spokeswoman

At Diyarbakir in the south-east, the police action led to violent clashes on Friday in which several people were hurt.

The rally is an annual event organised by the only legal Kurdish party in Turkey, the People's Democracy Party (HADEP), to mark World Peace Day.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul, a Kurdish teenager has reportedly been killed when he fell from a roof while running away from the police.

A group of Turkish riot police use their shields to protect themselves from stones during demonstrations in Istanbul
Turkish police regroup during the demonstrations

In Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city, police fired teargas grenades and chased away groups of about 2,000 Kurds who had gathered to demonstrate in a suburb.

Ankara officials sent detained protesters by bus to police stations in nearby regions after cells in the city were filled.

Thousands of Ankara police had patrolled city streets, checking identity papers and detaining hundreds of people, most of whom surrendered to police without a struggle.

HADEP, which campaigns for Kurdish rights, eventually cancelled plans to hold a rally in the city, where officials had banned any mass gathering.

A HADEP spokeswoman said one party supporter died late on Friday, falling to his death down a ventilation shaft in a party building in Istanbul where he had taken refuge from police.

Going nowhere

She said the accident happened after police broke up a 200-strong group of HADEP supporters about to board buses for Ankara.

"They have arrested drivers, confiscated documents and driving licences. They have told bus firms we had contracted that they were going nowhere," the spokeswoman said.

"This is directly concerned with our right to freedom of movement."

World Peace Day on 1 September has become a traditional protest day for Kurdish activists who want cultural rights, or autonomy, for Turkey's 12 million Kurds.

Their immediate demands include free use of Kurdish in education and broadcasting, aims shared by the European Union which Turkey wants to join.

Kurdish anniversary

The day is also the second anniversary of a move by Kurdish rebels to abandon their armed struggle with security forces.

HADEP had aimed to bring 100,000 people together for the rally, but that total looks unlikely now.

HADEP officials said about 1,000 had been arrested in Istanbul alone.

Police fired in the air on Friday afternoon in the mainly Kurdish south-eastern city of Diyarbakir to disperse up to 3,000 people chanting slogans in support of jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Armed struggle

Ocalan issued orders from a Turkish jail in 1999, telling his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to withdraw from Turkey and give up its armed struggle with security forces by 1 September.

Since then, fighting between Turkish forces and the PKK has dwindled, although Turkey says the unilateral PKK pullout is a ploy and refused to recognise any ceasefire.

The PKK says it has abandoned its armed struggle for a Kurdish homeland and now campaigns peacefully for Kurdish cultural rights within Turkey.

See also:

05 Jul 01 | Europe
Kurds' desperate return home
02 Feb 01 | Europe
Turkey: Angry man of Europe
26 Jan 01 | Europe
Ocalan warns of fresh attacks
09 Feb 00 | Europe
PKK ends war with Turkey
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