DIYARBAKIR, Turkey, (Reuters) – Three people were killed and about 250 wounded during two days of street battles between Turkish police and Kurdish protesters in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, its governor said.
Governor Efkan Ala told a news conference late on Wednesday that the wounded included 120 protesters and 130 policemen.
Ala said 1,500 people, including many children, had taken part in the protests. He added some 200 people had been detained over the violence, the worst seen in mainly Kurdish Diyarbakir, a city of nearly a million people, in 30 years.
“The security forces prevented more deaths from occurring through their responsible attitude,” Ala said.
One of the deaths was caused by a traffic accident during the protests, he added. Many public buildings and vehicles have been damaged by the protesters.
The fighting erupted on Tuesday after funeral ceremonies for 14 guerrillas of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), killed by security forces in a military operation last weekend.
“This violence damages the image of Diyarbakir, which had been steadily improving … It will delay the flow of investment here that would curb unemployment,” Ala said.
Political analysts say the riots are rooted in high unemployment, poverty and a belief among the Kurds of the region that Ankara is not seriously interested in improving their lot.
Under pressure from the European Union, which it hopes to join, Turkey has removed restrictions on Kurdish language and culture, but critics say it is too little too late.
Turkish newspapers have blamed the PKK for the latest violence, saying it wanted to increase pressure on the government and security services.
Ankara regards the PKK as a terrorist organisation responsible for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since it launched its armed campaign for an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey in 1984.
The PKK is also on the terrorism blacklist of the European Union and the United States.