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Kurdish new year brings fresh calls for peace in Turkey

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By Sarah Taylor  with Reuters
Kurdish new year brings fresh calls for peace in Turkey

As the year 1394 dawned in parts of the world, the leader of the PKK Kurdistan Workers Party called for peace in Turkey.

In prison in Imrali since 1999, Abdullah Ocalan had his new year message read out by politicians in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, in Turkey’s south east.

He used the address to push the PKK to hold a congress to end a long-running armed struggle against Turkish government forces. For three decades, the militant group has fought for greater autonomy and cultural rights for an estimated 15 million Turkish Kurds.

The militant group declared a ceasefire in the country in 2013, although bouts of violence still occur. Turkey, the US and the EU consider the PKK a terror organisation.

In the lead up to the speech, prominent Turkish figures and local residents alike expressed hope it would help cement a fragile peace process between rebel forces and the government.

Local Diyarbakir man, Ramazan Benek, said:
“We want peace. We don’t have another choice. Everybody wants peace. Violence will not help anyone. War is not good for anyone. Nobody profits from war.”

Ocalan also renewed an earlier call for his fighters to disarm, with the aim of peacefully ending a war that has killed an estimated 40,000 people.