At least 12 people died on Tuesday during violent clashes across Turkey, local media reported, as the fate of the besieged Syrian border town of Kobani stirred up decades of tensions with Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
Violence erupted in Turkish towns and cities mainly in the Kurdish southeastern provinces, as protesters took to the streets to demand the government do more to protect Kobani, a predominantly Kurdish settlement which has been surrounded by Islamic State fighters for three weeks.
Authorities imposed curfews in at least five provinces, police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators who burnt cars and tyres, whilst groups linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) clashed with Islamic State sympathisers, authorities said.
Eight people died in Diyabakir, the largest Kurdish city in the southeast, DHA News agency reported, citing a senior police officer. Several others died in the eastern provinces of Mus, Siirt and Batman in clashes between police and protesters.
Istanbul Governor’s Office said 98 people were detained in ‘illegal protests’ across the country’s biggest city, and 30 people were wounded, including eight police officers.
The death toll in one night has already surpassed that seen during weeks of anti-government protests which turned violent last year.
Protesters burnt Turkish flags and sculptures of the founder of the modern Turkish republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, gestures likely to infuriate nationalist Turks and the government.
“I condemn those who burn flags and Ataturk sculptures. These are provocations carried out to prevent help coming to the east (towards Kobani) from the west,” Selahattin Demirtas, co-chair of the HDP, Turkey’s leading Kurdish party.