Turkey lifted a 15-year state of emergency in the southeast today, ending an era in which security forces wielded wide-ranging powers against Kurdish separatists in a conflict that claimed 30,000 lives.
"A new, normal period is starting for the region," Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu told reporters in Diyarbakir, capital of the mainly Kurdish region.
In June, Parliament set today as the date for scrapping emergency rule in the provinces of Sirnak and Diyarbakir after lifting it in two other provinces earlier this year.
Emergency rule, which gave Turkish authorities extraordinary powers to detain suspects and carry out investigations, was imposed in 1987, three years after the Kurdish Workers' Party launched a violent campaign for independence.
Human rights groups said the special powers handed to police led to serious abuses. Of the more than 30,000 people who died in the fighting, most were Kurds; thousands of others fled to major cities to escape violence. Hundreds of villages emptied.
Fighting subsided after Turkey captured Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish Workers' Party, in 1999. He ordered the rebels to withdraw from Turkey and campaign for greater cultural rights by political rather than military means.
People in Diyarbakir welcomed the end of emergency rule, saying they hoped it would bring peace and help the economy. About 1,000 gathered in the center of the city today to celebrate.
"Emergency rule in the region has ended, but our wish is that its practices not continue as well," said Halis Gural, 35, a tradesman. "Emergency rule should be abolished in minds, too."