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Turkey Live Coverage (21 March): New Year Celebrations Turn into Deadly Clashes

1725 GMT: It is reported that Turkish border security units and gendarmerie forces have tightened security measures along the country's border with Syria in order to prevent Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) members and Syrian refugees from entering Turkey.

On Tuesday, it was reported that gendarmerie forces were questioning coming refugees on the border to see if they were really escaping from the violence in Syria. Besides, alongside the refugee camp in Hatay, two more camps were said to be formed in two other cities, Sanliurfa and Kilis. 

1645 GMT: At a conference, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that Turkey would not allow any Cold War-like sectarian confrontation in the region. 

1625 GMT: Fifth police officer killed in the ongoing operation in Cudi, Sirnak. 

1610 GMT: One policeman injured in an explosion near the provincial office of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. 

1545 GMT: The Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld an earlier court decision to sentence Ogün Samast, the hitman in the murder of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink, to 22 years, 10 months in prison.

1515 GMT: Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is going to visit Austria on Thursday. Turkish-Austrian bilateral relations, Turkey's EU accession process and Cyprus will be discussed, alongside a range of international issues, a statement from the ministry read.

1420 GMT: Republican People's Party (CHP)'s leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu criticized the government in his parliamentary group meeting. Kilicdaroglu said:

If the Republic of Turkey has prestige in the Middle East, it is because of March 1 memorandum [the rejected memorandum aimed at giving responsibility to the government to send Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) abroad and to allow foreign soldiers to use the Turkish territories for the Iraq War]. If March 1 memorandum had passed, Turkey would have 12 thousand maryrs; not just 12 [referring to 12 Turkish soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan last weekend]. What are you going to do in Syria [referring to a possible intervention by the Turkish side]? You were silent when 1.5 million people were killed in Iraq! When American soldiers raping Iraqi women, did you wish success to them? Do you have to be someone's buffer zone, subcontractor?

1210 GMT: Addressing the crowds in Mardin province, independent MP Ahmet Turk said:

They thought that they could scare us. We are ready to die! We will continue walking on the pathway of our people. We want rights, justice and freedom. 

1140 GMT: It is reported that four Turkish special police forces members were killed in an exchange of fire with the outlawed PKK's members in Cudi, Sirnak. 

1045 GMT: During his Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) parliamentary group meeting, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan talked about the clashes in southeastern provinces and said that they had received intelligence beforehand. Erdogan continued:

Don't you hear one of terrorist leaders saying that they would turn it into a blood lake? You have ears, are you deaf? We will continue putting the steps necessary to protect our nation's law, peace and prosperity.

In response to criticisms regarding Turkish forces' presence in Afghanistan, Erdogan said:

Our military presence abroad is a symbol of peace. How can you say Turkey should question its presence in Afghanistan? Those who have a broad vision should be proud of our military presence abroad. Who will be there if not Turkish soldiers?

1030 GMT: On Tuesday, peoples of the Middle East celebrating New Year with the beginning of spring. However, Newroz celebrations were far from peaceful in many parts of Turkey.

With the Ministry of Interior instructing governors’ offices that Nevruz events should not be allowed before 21 March, clashes erupted between security forces and crowds in Mersin, Batman, Şırnak, Van, Sanliurfa and Hakkari Provinces.

In Hakkari, two policemen were wounded in an exchange of gunfire. Today, it is reported that one of them has died.

In Batman, independent MP Ahmet Turk of Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) was beaten by a policer officer and taken to hospital. Turk said:

At the end of the day, they are still pursuing the policy of cruelty and suppression. They assume that they can silence Kurds with this policy. However, it is not a logical way. We have always been saying that it can only be solved through dialogue. They cannot silence this people through terror and violence. 

Following the incidents on Tuesday, Murat Karayılan, head of the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK)'s Executive Council, said that a new period had begun. He continued:

I evaluate this new process as the process of freedom. We refuse the system of the Turkish state and we should also stop joining the army, speaking Turkish and paying tax. If the system doesn’t recognize us, we won’t recognize it either.

The participation in this year’s Newroz celebrations is a significant attitude and resistance of the Kurdish people who have broken the police barricade in Amed (Diyarbakir) and Istanbul. People have displayed a great will despite all obstacles put before them and fascist attacks they were subject to. Despite all the calls we made before the Newroz, celebrations witnessed a state terror and violence. However, we cannot ermain silent in the face of the cruelty and colonialist attacks.

They don’t see the developments, truths and slaughtered Kurds in Kurdistan. I condemn this approach which doesn’t see Kurds as people. They don’t accept that the PKK [Kurdistan Workers' Party] is the people themselves.

The Syrian Front

In reference to Prime Minister Erdogan's calls on Syrian President Assad to drop violence and cruelty on his own people, Kurdish leader Karayilan criticised the "double-standard" and asked: "Is this your advanced democracy?" Karayilan added:

Erdoğan applies cruelty on the people in Kurdistan under the name of advanced democracy. Numerous politicians, human rights defenders, union members, lawyers and artists have been put in prison while young people have been abused in prison and slaughtered in the village of Roboski. They intend to blacken the future of the Kurdish people. however, we will not accept these unlawful practices any more. The rebel of the Kurdish people which has begun in this year’s Newroz in Amed will be enhanced with our honor and dignity. The historical 2012 Newroz will be the beginning of the rising and freedom struggle by our people.

Meanwhile, Turkish officials stated on Tuesday that the "Friends of Syria" meeting, with representatives from more than 50 countries, will be held on 1 April.

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