Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Kurds protest across Europe, seek help against IS

Tensions are especially high in Turkey, where protests were reported in at least six cities Tuesday after the extremists seized a strategic point in Kobani.

Kurdish protesters clashed Tuesday with police in Turkey and forced their way into the European Parliament in Brussels, part of Europe-wide demonstrations against the Islamic State group’s advance on a town on the Syrian-Turkish border.
The activists are demanding more help for the besieged Kurdish forces struggling to hold onto the Syrian town of Kobani. Some European countries are arming the Kurds or firing airstrikes against the Islamic extremists, but protesters say it isn’t enough.
“They need something to defend themselves and civilians,” said Hakan Cifci of the Kurdistan National Congress in Brussels.
Tensions are especially high in Turkey, where protests were reported in at least six cities Tuesday after the extremists seized a strategic point in Kobani late Monday. Islamic State fighters backed by tanks and artillery engaged in heavy street battles with the town’s Kurdish defenders.
Police used water cannons and tear gas to try to disperse demonstrators in the desert town of Kucuk Kenderciler, not far from Kobani on the Turkish side of the border. Protesters shouted and ran off across the dusty terrain.
Police dispersed similar protests in the mostly Kurdish-populated cities of Diyarbakir, Batman, Van, Sirnak, Sanliurfa and Hakkari.
Clashes broke out in several Istanbul neighbourhoods overnight, as protesters set up barricades, hurled stones, fireworks and firebombs at police and set a bus on fire, the private Dogan news agency reported. One police officer was injured.
In Brussels, about 50 Kurdish protesters smashed a door and pushed past police to get into the European Parliament on Tuesday. Once inside, a delegation of the protesters was received by Parliament President Martin Schulz.
In Germany, home to Western Europe’s largest Kurdish population, about 600 Kurds demonstrated in Berlin on Tuesday, according to police.
A group of 500-600 people marched from the Turkish consulate to the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt overnight, calling loudly but peacefully for tougher action against the Islamic State group. There were also demonstrations by a few hundred people each in Bremen, Hamburg, Goettingen and other German cities.
Kurdish protesters occupied the Dutch Parliament peacefully for several hours Monday night, and met Tuesday morning with legislators to press for more Dutch action against the insurgents, according to local media.
The Netherlands has sent six F-16 fighter jets to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq, but says it does not see a mandate for striking in Syria.
France too is firing airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Iraq but has stopped short of action in Syria, wary of implications on international efforts against President Bashar Assad.
“We don’t understand why France is acting in Kurdistan in Iraq and not Kurdistan in Syria,” said Fidan Unlubayir of the Federation of Kurdish Associations of France.
Kurds protested overnight at the French Parliament and plan another protest Tuesday.
Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Raf Casert in Brussels, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Mike Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.