Major security precautions in PKK leader Ocalan’s village ahead of ‘birthday celebrations’

Turkish security forces have taken major precautions in the city of southeastern city of Sanliurfa ahead of mass celebrations for PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan’s 69th birthday.

Ocalan, who has been in the prison island of Imrali for 18 years where he is serving an aggravated life sentence, is turning 69 on 4 April as thousands flock to the village of his birth as a show of support for the Kurdish leader.

Celebrations of Ocalan’s birthday started in 2004 when thousands of Kurds first visited the village of Omerli (Amara in Kurdish) in the city of Sanliurfa. Initially peaceful occasions, three people were killed in 2009 by Turkish security forces when clashes broke out after people were not allowed to enter the village of Omerli.

Since then, the governor of the city has banned the event as security forces block all entrances to the village on 4 April every year. More than 2,000 armed security personnel have been stationed around the village and entry points nearby.

Thousands are again expected to travel to Omerli where in previous years people have planted trees and visited Ocalan’s family.