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Kurds protest across Europe, seek help against IS

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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 rebels, but protesters say it isn’t enough.

A demonstrator in Cyprus urged the U.S.-led coalition to “hit the jihadists harder” so that Kurdish forces can hold the town.

Tensions are especially high in Turkey, where Kurds have long been at odds with authorities and where Syria’s violence has taken an especially heavy toll. Protests were reported in at least six cities Tuesday, after 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 disperse demonstrators in the desert town of Kucuk Kenderciler, near Kobani on the Turkish side of the border. Protesters shouted and ran off across the dusty terrain.

Police also used tear gas and water cannon against hundreds of protesters in Istanbul. One person was hospitalized after being hit in head by a gas canister, the Dogan news agency reported.

Some protesters shouted “Murderer ISIS!” and accused Turkey’s government of collaborating with the rebels.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds live elsewhere in Europe, and mobilized quickly via social networks to stage protests after the advance on Kobani. Some European Kurds have gone to the Mideast recently to join Kurdish forces.

In Brussels on Tuesday, about 50 protesters smashed a glass door and pushed past police to get into the European Parliament on Tuesday. Once inside, some protesters were received by Parliament President Martin Schulz, who promised to discuss the Kurds’ plight with NATO and EU leaders.

In Germany, home to Western Europe’s largest Kurdish population, about 600 Kurds demonstrated in Berlin on Tuesday, according to police.

About 500-600 people marched from the Turkish consulate to the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt overnight, and hundreds demonstrated in other German cities. Austria, too, saw protests.

Kurds peacefully occupied the Dutch Parliament for several hours Monday night, and met Tuesday 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 not 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.

On Monday, protesters at the U.S. Embassy in Cyprus urged the international coalition to provide heavy weaponry to Kurdish fighters and forge a military cooperation pact with the Kurdish group YPG. SAPA


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