ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Clashes erupted in Istanbul’s busy Beyoglu district on Sunday as around 200 Kurds protesting at the closure of a leading Kurdish party clashed with Turkish nationalists and police, Turkish media reported.
Protesters hurled stones and petrol bombs at shops, cars and businesses in the heart of the shopping and entertainment district of Turkey’s biggest city, before a group of knife-wielding Turkish nationalists gathered and tried to attack them, state-run Anatolian news agency said.
Riot police separated the groups and dispersed protestors, in what was a third day of violent street protest since Turkey’s highest court ruled to dissolve the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), dealing a blow to government efforts to end decades of conflict in the EU candidate country.
Late on Sunday police had closed the street leading to the main DTP office in Istanbul and a police armored vehicle stood guard.
Turkey’s constitutional court on Friday banned the DTP after it found it guilty of cooperating with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) separatist guerrillas.
In the southeast of Turkey, the focus of most violent protest since the ruling, demonstrators hurled fire bombs and rocks at riot police in the town of Yuksekova. Police shot into the air to disperse the crowds, television footage showed. Several protesters were arrested.
The verdict, which has plunged the mainly Muslim country into political uncertainty, threatens to undermine Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party’s drive to reconcile minority Kurds with the state and end decades of conflict.
It is also likely to hit sentiment in Turkish financial markets when they reopen on Monday.
The PKK has fought for 25 years for a Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey. The Kurds, who make up around 20 percent of the population but were for decades forbidden to use the Kurdish language, have long complained of discrimination.
Analysts say the ban could strengthen the PKK’s hand by undermining confidence in the democratic process.
Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Jon Hemming