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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ANKARA653
2007-03-22 12:31:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

TURKEY: FESTIVE NEVRUZ CELEBRATIONS PASS WITHOUT

Tags:   PGOV  PHUM  PREL  OSCE  TU 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO2390
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA
RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHAK #0653/01 0811231
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221231Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1418
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC//J-3/J-5//
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU//TCH//
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/TSR ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ANKARA 000653 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL OSCE TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: FESTIVE NEVRUZ CELEBRATIONS PASS WITHOUT
MAJOR VIOLENCE

REF: A. ANKARA 559

B. ANKARA 574

1.(U) This is a joint message from Embassy Ankara, ConGen
Istanbul and Consulate Adana.

2.(SBU) Summary: Kurds throughout Turkey celebrated Nevruz
on March 21 in ceremonies that were festive and mostly
peaceful, despite earlier predictions that tension in
southeastern Turkey would lead to violent clashes with
security forces (reftels). At a GOT-sponsored Nevruz
celebration in Ankara, PM Erdogan called for Turkish citizens
to embrace diversity, and promote peace and unity. In
Istanbul, tens of thousands attended mostly peaceful
Democratic Society Party (DTP) organized celebrations in
Kazlicesme square. As celebrants began to exit, police
dispersed the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets, and
detained 70 people, after several hundred protesters chanted
pro-PKK slogans and held Ocalan posters. Events in
Southeastern Turkey drew massive crowds and were generally
peaceful, though police detained groups of pro-PKK
demonstrators at all events. Organizers believed the GOT's
prohibition against celebrating Nevruz on a weekend lowered
attendance. Both government and security forces appear to
have reached out to help avoid violence. End summary.



--------------------------

-
Ankara: Prime Minister Calls for Peace, Unity


--------------------------

-

3.(U) Hundreds gathered to peacefully celebrate Nevruz at
the official Ankara ceremony organized by the Culture
Ministry. PM Erdogan delivered remarks during which he
recited several poems and called for peace and unity among
all citizens of Turkey. After stating, "The seeds of hatred
should burn in the Nevruz fire," Erdogan lit the traditional
bonfire along with Ministers of State Mehmet Ali Sahin and
Besir Atalay, and Culture Minister Atilla Koc. The ministers
all partook in the traditional jumping over the fire, but the
PM passed due to a back injury.



--------------------------


Even the TGS Made a Gesture


--------------------------



4.(U) Even the Turkish General Staff made a gesture aimed at
diffusing tensions, posting an unprecedented "Happy Nevruz"
banner on their website.



--------------------------


Nevruz in Istanbul


--------------------------



5.(U) Istanbul Governor Muammer Guler and Istanbul Mayor
Kadir Topbas presided over the official GOT Nevruz
celebration in the Sultanahmet district. The small, quiet
official ceremony contrasted with the event organized by DTP
and several smaller pro-Kurdish parties, where 30-50 thousand
Istanbulites gathered in Kazlicesme square. Before
celebrations began, police clashed with approximately 50

protesters who carried posters supporting jailed PKK leader
Ocalan. Reinforcements were able to calm the situation.

6.(SBU) Celebrants performed Kurdish folk dances and songs,
lit and jumped over traditional Nevruz bonfires. During the
event, a handful of demonstrators waved PKK flags and
pro-Ocalan posters, despite admonitions by the organization
committee against doing so. DTP's Istanbul branch chairman
Dogan Erbas led a minute of silence in memory of "martyrs of
democracy," and then delivered a speech in which he demanded
an end to the military operations in Southeastern Turkey, and
demanded the freedom of DTP politicians recently arrested by
security forces (ref B). DTP Deputy Chairman Sirri Sakik
said during his speech that Kurds do not have equal rights
with Turks, and that "PKK is our reality, and PKK is here."

7.(U) As celebrations wound down and the crowd began to
disperse, a group of 150 demonstrators raised pro-Ocalan
posters and shouted pro-PKK slogans as a police helicopter
hovered over the square. Police used tear gas and plastic
bullets to disperse the crowd, and detained 80 people,

ANKARA 00000653 002 OF 003


including Erbas, Sakik, and six members of the organizing
committee.



--------------------------



--------------------------


Southeastern Turkey: Celebrations Mostly Peaceful, Festive


--------------------------



--------------------------



8.(SBU) Nevruz celebrations in the southeast were, for the
most part, peaceful and festive. Although numbers of Nevruz
participants this year were reportedly down from last year,
large turnouts were reported in Mardin, Batman, Van, Tunceli,
Malatya, Adiyaman, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Siirt, and several
other cities. Some snapshots:

--Adana: Adana consulate officers witnessed tens of
thousands of people packing the Mimar Sionan Open Air Theater
in Adana for the DTP-sponsored Nevruz celebration on March


21. People danced, shouted, and waved DTP flags. By noon,
only two hours after the official opening of the venue, the
Turkish National Police (TNP) told us they had arrested "as
many as" 500 people, mostly for shouting pro-Ocalan slogans
and carrying pro-PKK banners.

--Diyarbakir: Between 100,000 and 500,000 people attended
Turkey's largest celebration, in Diyarbakir. When Diyarbakir
Mayor Osman Baydemir delivered his speech, small groups
shouted pro-Ocalan slogans despite repeated warnings by the
organizing committee that they should only chant authorized
slogans. Our contacts told us that 60-70 people were
detained. Crowds in Diyarbakir carried placards reading,
"Turkish unity requires Kurdish Unity," "This spring is the
closes to freedom," and "Nevruz is the dawn of freedom for
the Middle East peoples." Some of the banned slogans
included, "The only solution in the Middle East is democratic
confederalism," and "Your health is our health," a reference
to the allegedly ailing jailed PKK leader Ocalan. Contacts
believed charges might be pressed against the former DEP
deputy (DTP forerunner party) Leyla Zana, who mentioned in
her speech that Ocalan was one of the three most respected
Kurdish leaders, the other two being Jalal Talabani and
Masoud Barzani. DTP Chairman Ahmet Turk lit the bonfire and
a Kurdish-origin parliamentarian from the European
Parliament, Feleknas Uca, also participated, as did Bianca
Jagger.

--Van: Contacts told us festivities were peaceful and
crowds, estimated at 50-100,000, were exuberant. Thirteen
persons who had carried "Esteemed Ocalan" posters were
detained. The Deputy Chairwoman of DTP, Aysel Tugluk,
delivered a speech in place of the recently jailed DTP
provincial chairman.

--Batman: Turkish Air Force jets made low-level passes
during the celebrations but the mood among the 50,000
participants remained festive, according to our contacts.
Four children were arrested for carrying pro-Ocalan posters,
then released after police took their statements.

--Siirt: Contacts reported that crowds, estimated at 20,000,
in PM Erdogan's parliamentary district hurled stones at
police check points, and that 13 people were wounded
including four policemen. The police used tear gas to
disperse the crowd. Twenty people who displayed pro-Ocalan
posters and carried yellow-re-green colored clothes
resembling a Kurdish flag were detained after the
celebrations concluded, but were later released.

--Mersin: Contacts told us that participation was lower than
expected because the local authorities did not grant
permission for the originally planned March 17 ceremony.
Between 30,000 to 50,000 celebrated. The crowd was generally
festive, but some people were attacked by an
ultra-nationalist group in the street where an incident
involving the desecration of a Turkish flag occurred two
years ago. Fifty people at the scene were detained.

9.(SBU) Comment: The lack of violence during this year's
Nevruz celebrations can be ascribed to several factors,
including a conciliatory attitude from the top - the extent
of GOT participation and the TGS website addition were
unprecedented -- good coordination at the local level and a

ANKARA 00000653 003 OF 003


professional attitude by law enforcement on the scene. In
Diyarbakir, for example, civil society worked hard to
coordinate the efforts of all parties involved in organizing
the events -- the DTP, Diyarbakir Mayor, provincial governor,
and Nevruz event organizers -- and make sure that organizers
discouraged provocations by participants. The PKK appears to
have been on board with this policy of nonviolent propaganda.
The final and most important element was the TNP's
restrained policing, which ensured that demonstrations did
not escalate into violent clashes. These factors together
succeeded in lowering the temperature in the Southeast and
elsewhere so that the violent events of last year did not
reoccur. End comment.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

MCELDOWNEY