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Newroz 2010: Destruction of stages, isolated arrests and one death in ar-Raqqah

April 8, 2010 – Although this year's Newroz festivities in al-Hasakah were comparatively quiet, at least one person died in skirmishes with security forces in the Syrian city of ar-Raqqah (ar-Raqqah province). KurdWatch documents the events in chronological order:
On March 20, 2010, employees of the ʿAmudah city hall in the village of Dugir (ʿAmudah sub-district) destroyed the tents and the stage that had been erected for the Newroz celebration the following day. Eight Syrian-Kurdish parties, united in the Kurdish Political Council since December 2009, had called for the Newroz festivities. The festival itself proceeded wthout disturbance on March 21.
The Newroz stage in al-Malikiyah (Dêrik) was also destroyed on March 20, 2010. The festivities likewise proceeded peacefully.
Between nine and ten o'clock on the morning of March 21, 2010, clashes between Syrian security forces and Democratic Union Party (PYD) supporters occurred near the PYD's Newroz stage close to the grain silo north of the city of ar-Raqqah. They were triggered by a dispute between a group of Arabs and PYD supporters. The former was bothered by a picture of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, which was attached to the stage. The dispute developed into a brawl, with security forces in attendance using water guns. PYD supporters responded by throwing stones at the security forces' vehicles, which in turn provoked the security forces to fire live ammunition into the crowd. Mihemed Heyder Ûmer (b. 1992) was killed by a shot in the head. Other people suffered bullet wounds and were later treated in local hospitals. Members of the security forces are also said to have been injured. Reports that a young woman, Medya Qewas Mesî (reportedly 22 years old), and one another person were killed have not yet been confirmed.
Numerous people were arrested in connection with the events in ar–Raqqah. Some were charged with inciting racial and sectarian strife. Several were released from custody shortly afterwards. Their cases are still pending before the court.
Despite intense research, KurdWatch was unable to obtain further information – in particular verified personal data of those injured or detained. One reason is because the security authorities in ar-Raqqah have cut access to public hospitals and thus to important eye-witnesses. No official information on the number of dead, wounded, or detained has been released. Since ar-Raqqah lies outside the majority Kurdish areas, research was even more difficult.
On March 21, 2010, several people were arrested in al-Hasakah on the way to the Newroz festivities including Qehreman Ibrahîm Elî (b. 1974) and Nuʿman Silêman Ehmed (b. 1971). To date both are still in al-Qamishli prison.
Lezgîn Hesno, Bengîn Hesno, Fêsel Xelîl, Mihemd Xelîl and Kanîwar Xelîl have also been detained. They are charged with inciting racial and sectarian strife and are still in al-Qamishli prison.

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