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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 17:31 GMT
Syrian Kurds storm Geneva embassy
Turkish Kurds demonstrate in front of the Syrian consulate in Istanbul
Syrian Kurds have also protested in Istanbul, Brussels and Nicosia
Around 20 exiled Syrian Kurds took over Syria's consulate in Geneva for more than two hours on Monday in protest at weekend violence in north-east Syria.

They claim the authorities encouraged violence against the Kurdish minority during clashes with the Arab majority.

The protesters left the consulate peacefully after Swiss diplomatic police negotiated with them.

A number of Kurds were arrested in Belgium on Sunday after trying to storm the Syrian embassy in Brussels.

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes, who was at the scene, said that a number of Syrian Kurds gathered outside the building as the protest continued inside.

She said they insisted their protest was peaceful, and intended to leave once their point was made.

Swiss police said that the country's diplomatic protection force were inside the building, along with Syrian consulate staff.

Our correspondent said that the protesters left the building in twos and threes around two-and-a-half hours after the demonstration began.

Clashes

The protesters said they wanted to highlight violence against the Kurdish minority in Syria at the weekend.

They accused the Syrian authorities of encouraging the violence that began at a football match on Friday, and of arming attackers from the Arab majority.

Qameshli
At least nine Kurds were killed in riots that followed between police and rival football supporters.

A number of people were reported to have been killed in the ensuing unrest on Saturday and Sunday - although there are conflicting reports.

Signs of the rioting were still visible in the cities of Qameshli and Hassakeh, and Muslim and Christian leaders called for national unity.

Protests

A number of exiled Kurds have been marching in Germany, Turkey, Belgium and Switzerland to raise awareness of the incident.

Several Kurds were arrested in Belgium on Sunday after storming the Syrian embassy in Brussels.

More than 500 Kurds marched in Berlin from the Brandenburg Gate to the US and British embassies on Monday.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas says the rare outburst of anger and violence in Syria is a sign of growing Kurdish discontent.

Syria's Kurds have no say in politics and no social or cultural rights.

Syria fears the creation of a Kurdish state which would threaten its territorial unity.


SEE ALSO:
Syria Kurd protests hit Belgium
14 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Syria frees jailed Kurdish activists
22 Feb 04  |  Middle East
Syria anniversary demo broken up
08 Mar 04  |  Middle East
Country profile: Syria
10 Feb 04  |  Country profiles


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