Norouz falls on the spring equinox and is celebrated throughout Central Asia, especially in Iran. In southeastern Turkey, home to Turkey’s Kurdish population, celebrations saw tens of thousands of people come together. At least 3,000 police agents and various helicopters were used to maintain order in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkish Kurdistan. In the past, similar celebrations had ended in clashes with police, resulting in tens of deaths. In 2008, festivities were banned.
This year, the event was observed without a problem. In Istanbul, home to a large Kurdish community, police stopped and interrogated 29 people, who were caught shouting slogans in favour of the PKK, the Kurdish Workers’ Party led by Abdullah Ocalan, currently in prison on terrorism charges.
On the eve of Norouz, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan urged everyone to choose reconciliation. Last year, he pledged greater autonomy and prosperity for the Kurdish region, but tensions and clashes with PKK members have prevented any significant move.
Since 1984, some 45,000 people have died in clashes between Kurdish separatists and the Turkish army. The same period was marked by periods of intense fighting and moments of truce.