Participants from Kars (Qers) and Van (Wan) concluded a 13-day ‘Great Freedom March’ in Diyarbakir, protesting for Kurdish rights and the freedom of Abdullah Öcalan. The march, symbolised by a shift from white to black vests, faced police resistance but received widespread support, underscoring ongoing calls for justice and autonomy.

Participants of the ‘Great Freedom March‘ converged in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Diyarbakir (Amed) on Tuesday after a 13-day journey from Kars (Qers) and Van (Wan). Marchers demanded Turkey release Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan from isolated imprisonment and initiate a democratic resolution to the Kurdish issue.

Participants, including politicians and leaders of democratic mass organisations, donned black vests in exchange for white as they approached the city centre, to mark the 25th anniversary of Ocalan’s 15 February capture, which they term an ‘international conspiracy’.

The vibrant reunion of the Kars and Van groups in the Çarıklı (Palûkê) neighbourhood included an exchange of flowers between the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) Co-chairs Çiğdem Kılıçgün Uçar and Keskin Bayındır, representing the respective contingents.

An enthusiastic welcome saw crowds gathering in front of a shopping mall hours in advance, defying police attempts to block the event. Chants like “Bîjî berxwedana zindanan” (Long live prison resistance) and “Berxwedan jîyane” (Resistance is life) echoed through the area.

DBP Co-Chair Keskin Bayındır addressed the assembled crowd, asserting, “This march will achieve its goal. We have never bowed to your oppression before, and we will not start now. You cannot stop our people with these intimidation tactics. There are thousands of us here.”

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM Party) MP Newroz Uysal said every street in Diyarbakir was a potential site for protest and vowed to spread the objectives of the march throughout the city.

The Peace Mothers, a group of Kurdish women wearing symbolic white headscarves and advocating for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question, broke through the police blockade to join the marchers, greeting them with carnations and singing. Many residents of Diyarbakir joined the fervour from their balconies.

The march began after MPs blocked the road to traffic in response to police threats of “intervention”, lifting the blockade and paving the way for the procession to proceed.