Hundreds of Turkish nationalists hold placards, reading: “We want respect for martyrs,” during a march Sunday on Istiklal Avenue to protest at the resumption of peace talks with Kurd rebels, saying they sullied the memory of soldiers killed in the near three-decade conflict. — AFP
ISTANBUL — Hundreds of Turks staged a demonstration in Istanbul Sunday in protest at the resumption of peace talks with Kurd rebels, saying they sullied the memory of soldiers killed in the near three-decade conflict.
“We want respect for Turks,” “We want respect for the martyrs,” the demonstrators chanted.
The protest was held a day after three Kurdish lawmakers visited Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), at his island prison, the second such visit since the peace negotiations resumed late last year.
“Hang this bastard Ocalan,” the Istanbul crowd chanted, according to an AFP correspondent.
Some demonstrators made hand gestures associated with extreme right-wing group Grey Wolves and demanded that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamic-leaning party leave office.
Turkey’s secret services resumed negotiations with Ocalan with the ultimate aim of ending the PKK’s fight for autonomy in the southeast that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.
The PKK is branded a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.
On Saturday Ocalan signaled that his followers could release captives and further a fledgling peace process that may be the best hope in years of ending the decades-long conflict.
Reading a short statement by Ocalan, Pervin Buldan, a member of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) who visited him with two other lawmakers, said upon their return that the rebel leader would like to see captives held by the PKK freed.
“A historic process is under way. All sides should be very careful and sensitive,” Buldan cited Ocalan as saying.
“The state and the PKK both have prisoners. The PKK should treat prisoners well, and I hope they return to their families.”
Ocalan may be referring to both captured soldiers and government employees kidnapped by the PKK in recent years.
Thousands of militants and their suspected supporters are in jail, many of them awaiting verdicts in trials that last years.
Ocalan is serving a life sentence for treason. In jail since 1999, he still holds sway over the PKK and is considered a hero by nationalist Kurds. Ethnic Kurds make up about 20 percent of Turkey’s population of 75 million people.
There are also large numbers of Kurds living in Iraq, Syria and Iran, and Kurds are frequently described as the world’s largest ethnic group without its own state. – AFP