30,000 Kurds march against Erdogan in Cologne

Some 30,000 Kurds protested the politics of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and demanded the release of jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan at a demonstration in the German city of Cologne on Saturday.

To prevent outbreaks of violence with Turkish nationalists, over 1,000 police officers were deployed as protestors rallied at the banks of the Rhein river in the western German city.

"Freedom for Ocalan!" protesters shouted as they carried photographs of the leader of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who has been serving a life sentence since 1999.

Turkey and the PKK have been fighting a civil war for 30 years. Peace talks collapsed last year and there has since been daily clashes between Turkey's military and PKK militants.

Organizers of the rally said it was also directed against Turkey's attacks on Kurdish militants in Syria, as well as Ankara's far-reaching purge of the military and civil service since a failed coup in July.

Ismail Ozen, a Kurdish-German boxer from Hamburg, was among the many participants who criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel for striking a deal with Erdogan to limit to influx of refugees in exchange for a set of incentives, such as visa-free travel in the European Union.

"Angela Merkel should not go on her knees to Erdogan because of the refugees," he said. "Erdogan is not so strong. And if a peace between Turkey and the Kurds would materialize, then that would also quickly ease the refugee situation."

Some 40,000 Erdogan supporters rallied in Cologne five weeks ago, but Germany's Constitutional Court blocked Erdogan from addressing the crowd.

Germany is home to about 3 million people of Turkish heritage.

Last update: Sat, 03/09/2016 - 17:12
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