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Cablegate: Turkey: Public Protests in Southeast Multiply Tensions Over

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RR RUEHDA
DE RUEHDA #0039/01 2950948
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210948Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL ADANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4673
INFO RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA 1216
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1029
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0133
RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 1278

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADANA 000039

SENSITIVE
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINS PTER TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: PUBLIC PROTESTS IN SOUTHEAST MULTIPLY TENSIONS OVER
ALLEGATIONS OF OCALAN'S MALTREATMENT

1. (U) SUMMARY: Violent riots, organized marches, and rallies
in major cities throughout southeast Turkey over the weekend of
October 18 were sparked by an announcement made by Abdullah
Ocalan's attorneys that the imprisoned PKK leader had been
abused by Turkish soldiers. The Pro-Kurdish DTP party protested
the alleged attack on Ocalan, calling it a reflection of the
government's approach to the Kurdish people. Security contacts
in cities with the highest tensions are bracing themselves for
continued violence throughout the week. END SUMMARY

2. (U) Media report Abdullah Ocalan's attorneys said their
client was physically assaulted in his cell and dragged into
another room by three soldiers, who then forced him to his
knees. The attorneys reported that Ocalan had told the soldiers
that he would prefer to be killed rather than be treated in this
manner, to which one replied that he shouldn't worry because his
death was imminent.

3. (U) After convening on Friday, October 17, DTP's central
board announced the GOT was fully responsible for the incident
-- which they termed a provocation -- and characterized it as a
continuation of discriminatory GOT policies towards Kurds.
Street protests, rallies, and marches followed that night and
throughout the weekend in the cities of Antalya, Adana, Mersin,
Diyarbakir, Sanliurfa, Batman, Nusaybin, Siirt, Gaziantep, and
Siirt. It is believed that scores of protesters were been
detained by police as anti-terror and riot units were dispatched
to contend with the unrest. In Diyarbakir, Adana, Sanliurfa and
Mersin, the demonstrations were marred by violence.

4. (SBU) Adana: Weekend violence erupted in predominantly
Kurdish neighborhoods where PKK sympathizers burned tires, set
fire to cars, threw Molotov cocktails and stones at riot police.
A security contact was unable to confirm the number of
detainees, but media report "many" were taken into custody. The
anti-terror chief told the Consulate that 40-50 youth were
continuing to stage periodic riots in two city quarters.

5. (SBU) Diyarbakir: After Istanbul, Diyarbakir is the city
with the highest Kurdish population and is a DTP stronghold.
High-level DTP members organized a 5,000-strong march on October
18 to protest Ocalan's prison conditions, chanting pro-PKK
slogans and waving Ocalan posters. Muharrem Erbey of the
Diyarbakir Human Rights Association said the Ministry of
Justice's statement denying Ocalan had suffered ill treatment
had the effect of fueling tensions, and had provoked violent
outbursts in some quarters of the city. He also said six
children had been detained after hurling rocks at police. A
member of the Diyarbakir Bar Association said at least 30 people
had been taken into custody over the weekend, and that the
protests were slated to continue, particularly in reaction to PM
Erdogan's visit, which many city dwellers view as ill-timed.

6. (U) Local pro-Kurdish media outlet Evrensel reported
citizens in Diyarbakir protested PM Erdogan's October 20 visit
by shuttering businesses, staying indoors, and suspending city
services such as trash collection and public transportation.
According to the daily, police blockaded the entrance of DTP
Kayapinar district party organization's building as well as
other points in the city where anti-government protests were
staged, and responded with tear gas to demonstrators who erected
barricades and piles of burning tires. Media report students at
Dicle University set fire to classrooms and broke windows, after
PM Erdogan joined the dean for the opening ceremony of the
academic year. Security contacts inform us exceptional security
measures were taken to protect the prime minister, and did not
specify the number of individuals detained on October 20.
Security contacts in Diyarbakir and other cities are bracing
themselves for continued clashes.

7. (SBU) Sanliurfa: Attorney Sabri Cepik told us over the
weekend the violence was concentrated in the Suleymaniye suburb
where about 400-500 protesters took to the streets. Some
members of the group threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the
police. Media report a primary school, homes and shops were
sustained damaged. Cepik reported all was quiet by October 20.

8. (SBU) COMMENT: Alleged mistreatment of Ocalan is a
frequently used pretext for demonstrations by PKK sympathizers
in Turkey. The current demonstrations are also probably
designed to reinforce the PKK's recent offensives and to protest
the Turkish military's campaign in response. Political
considerations may also be at play: disorderly street scenes are
a means of motivating DTP supporters in advance of local
elections in March. DTP leaders publicly defending Ocalan may
also increase the likelihood that the Constitutional Court
decides to ban the DTP in a pending indictment. The PKK may be
hoping for such an outcome as it would reinforce the "Kurds as
victims" narrative. END COMMENT.

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