Wedding murder exposes Kurdish divisions in Turkey

Wedding murder exposes Kurdish divisions in Turkey
Syrian Kurds from the Syrian town of Qamishli gather behind border fences as Turkish troops stand guard (foreground) on the Turkish side of the border to prevent Turkish Kurdish protesters from approaching the fences in the southeastern town of Nusaybin.

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey - When gunmen stormed a wedding and shot dead a guest in southeastern Turkey, they stirred fears of a new outbreak of bloodshed in a region increasingly destabilised by Syria's civil war.

The killing in the city of Batman highlighted divisions between Kurds which echo the faultlines of the conflict in Syria, complicating Ankara's efforts to draw a line under a three-decade Kurdish insurgency on its own soil.

Turkey's peace process with the armed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), aimed at ending a conflict that has cost more than 40,000 lives, was already fragile.

But the emergence of a Kurdish Sunni Islamist party, Huda-Par, has reopened old wounds in the southeast, poorer than the rest of Turkey and scarred by the wider Kurdish-Turkish fight.

The party, established in December and now campaigning for local elections in March, draws support from sympathisers of Turkey's Hizbullah militant group which fought the PKK in the 1990s. "That bloodshed is the source of animosity between the two sides and is not easy for people to forget," said Ayla Akat, member of parliament for Batman from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which shares the same grassroots support as the PKK.

The historical animosity has been given a new twist with the war that has fragmented Syria, where radical Sunni Islamists are now fighting fierce battles with local Kurdish forces in the north, near the border with Turkey.

The PKK say that late last month, members of the Sunni Islamist Hizbullah attacked mourners with sticks and knives in Cizre, a town near the borders with Syria and Iraq, after the funeral of a Kurdish youth killed in a bomb attack in Syria.

Huda-Par denied its members had staged any such assault and said on the contrary, a group of 50-60 people, their faces concealed by headscarves, had headed to a district where the Islamist party's members live and attacked them, chanting: "Damn Islam", "Damn Sahria".

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