DEM Party’s Great Freedom March reaches Diyarbakır amid protest ban

The Great Freedom March organized by Turkey’s pro-Kurdish DEM Party has arrived at the southeastern Diyarbakır province amid a protest ban issued by the governor’s office. Protesters marched surrounded by police, and three were detained. 

Protesters march surrounded by the police.

Evrim Deniz / Gazete Duvar

The Great Freedom March organized by the pro-Kurdish People’s Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party on Feb. 13 reached southeastern Diyarbakır province.

Protesters marched demanding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan’s physical freedom and a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue while the governor’s office banned all marches and demonstrations in the province.

The march started on Feb. 1 in the eastern Kars and Van provinces and will end on Feb. 15 in Öcalan’s hometown in southeastern Şanlıurfa. Protesters came together in Diyarbakır on the 13th day of the march.  

DEM Party deputies, Diyarbakır branch co-chairs, mayoral candidates, women’s organizations, and civil society representatives greeted the marchers in front of a shopping mall. 

The group responds to police announcing the protest ban.

Many police officers were also convened at the meeting point and announced to the crowd their march would be blocked due to the protest ban. 

The surrounded crowd responded to the police announcement with megaphones. “The governor cannot ban our constitutionally-granted right to protest,” said Hakkari deputy Onur Düşünmez. 

The 75-person crowd began the march surrounded by police. Diyarbakır residents supported the marchers with applause and victory signs identified with the Kurdish movement. 

Another group not allowed by the police to join the marchers, began a sit-in in front of the shopping mall. Police intervened in the sit-in and detained three people. 

The march was met with repression in each of its legs, with the governor’s offices often issuing protest bans before the march reached their provinces. The provinces the march passed through have Kurdish majority populations and are mainly governed by DEM Party municipalities.  

PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan has been kept in isolation for 25 years in F Type High-Security Prison on İmralı Island in Bursa, serving a life sentence. The jailed PKK leader last had a brief phone call with his brother on March 25, 2021. Since the interrupted phone call, no information has been received from Öcalan as well as other prisoners on the island, Hamili Yıldırım, Veysi Aktaş, and Ömer Hayri Konar.

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)