Kurdish New Year marred by clashes with police in Istanbul

Police officers detain a Kurdish man while people run away as Turkish riot policemen use rubber bullet to prevent people from gathering for a Nevruz celebration in Istanbul on March 20, 2016 (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

Istanbul (AFP) - Turkish police on Sunday fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse hundreds of people attending Kurdish New Year celebrations in Istanbul in defiance of a ban on gatherings following a string of terror attacks.

Dozens of people were arrested during the clashes in the Istanbul neighbourhood of Bakirkoy on the eve of Kurdish Newruz, or New Year, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Nevruz is a key marker of the Kurdish social and cultural calendar.

Several Turkish cities, including Istanbul, had banned gatherings over the weekend, citing security concerns following a raft of bombings around the country in recent months.

In the latest attack, an alleged Islamic State bomber killed four people in a suicide attack Saturday on a busy shopping street in Istanbul.

Sunday's Nevruz celebrations were called by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples' Party (HDP) party.

Police barred an HDP lawmaker from making a statement and then used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to repel a crowd of demonstrators trying to gather in a square.

Tensions are running high between the state and Kurdish youths following the resumption of a long-running conflict between the security forces and the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in southeast Turkey last summer.

A radical PKK offshoot, the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), claimed responsibility for two suicide car bombings in Ankara in the past month that left dozens dead.

Kurdish activists and their supporters have also been targeted in several attacks, including a bombing in Ankara in October that killed 103 people which was blamed on the Islamic State group -- arch-foes of Kurdish fighters across the border in Syria.