The Year in Review: Crackdown on the Kurdish Political Movement

The Turkish government continued its efforts to criminalize the Kurdish political movement with a view to weakening the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey’s third largest political party according to the results of the 2018 general election.

The party’s charismatic former leader Selahattin Demirtaş remained behind bars on politically motivated charges despite rulings by Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

According to Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, over the last four years the Turkish government distorted and perverted the legal process to serve the political aim of keeping opposition politicians Selahattin Demirtaş, Figen Yüksekdağ and other former HDP deputies locked up.

According to the Ministry of Interior, Ankara has ousted a total of 151 elected mayors from office on accusations of terrorism in the last six years, almost all from the HDP, replacing them with government-appointed bureaucrats. Speaking during a session of the Turkish Parliament’s Planning and Budget Committee in Ankara, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said during the last two mayoral terms — 2014-2019 and 2019 onwards — 73 of the 151 mayors removed from office were sentenced to a total of 778 years in prison.

State-appointed trustees now administer nearly all towns and cities in southeastern Turkey.

Here is some of the most important news from 2020 about the ongoing crackdown on the Kurdish political movement:

European Court of Human Rights calls for immediate release of Kurdish leader Demirtaş, Erdoğan remains defiant

Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled in June that the lengthy imprisonment of former HDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been behind bars on politically motivated charges since November 2016, violated his rights, but he remained in prison due to a separate case.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on December 22 called for the immediate release of Demirtaş, finding Turkey guilty of violating his rights on five accounts. The Grand Chamber said his pre-trial detention since November 2016 had sent “a dangerous message to the entire population” that sharply narrowed free democratic debate.

Yet, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sounded defiant. Speaking to his ruling party lawmakers, Erdoğan slammed the ECtHR for “defending a terrorist” who was responsible for dozens of deaths during violent protests five years ago. More..


Using genocidal language, Erdoğan ally defines Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party as ‘poisonous vermin,’ calls for its closure

Using genocidal language, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and a key ally of President Erdoğan, defined the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as “poisonous vermin” in December and called for its closure on ground of separatism. More..

Kurdish politician ousted from parliament sentenced to 22 years in prison

A high criminal court in southeastern Turkey has handed down a jail sentence of 22 years, three months on terrorism charges to Leyla Güven, who was ousted from the Turkish Parliament in June. Güven stood trial due to her statements critical of a Turkish military operation in the Afrin region of Syria. More..

Turkey has removed 151 mayors on ‘terror charges’ since 2014: Interior Ministry

Ankara has ousted 151 mayors from office on accusations of terrorism in the last six years, replacing them with government-appointed bureaucrats, according to Turkey’s Interior Ministry.

Almost all the ousted mayors are from the HDP, which Ankara accuses of ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist Kurdish group designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey. More..

Ankara orders detention of 82 Kurdish politicians over protests against alleged Turkish support for ISIL

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the detention of 82 prominent pro-Kurdish politicians in September. The detention warrants were issued over the politicians’ alleged role in protests in Kurdish majority cities against what is seen by many as the Turkish government’s tacit approval of the Kobane siege in 2014, when Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants laid a prolonged siege to a Kurdish town in northern Syria. More..

Ousted Kurdish mayor attacked by police dogs, tortured in home for hours

Ousted co-mayor of Van’s Edremit Municipality Rojbin Çetin was attacked by police dogs and tortured in her home in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır during a police raid on June 26, deputy chair of the HDP parliamentary group Meral Danış Beştaş said at a press conference. More..

Kurdish politician sentenced to prison for calling President Erdoğan a misogynist

Sebahat Tuncel, a former Kurdish parliamentarian jailed in on terrorism charges, has been handed down an additional prison sentence for insulting President Tayyip Erdoğan. Tuncel was protesting the appointment of a trustee to replace a mayor in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır and the arrest of Co-mayors Gülten Kışanak and Fırat Anlı in October 2016. More..

Pro-Kurdish party discovers wiretapping devices in İstanbul headquarters

Saruhan Oluç, deputy chairman of the HDP parliamentary group, said at a press conference in December that four listening devices were found in the HDP’s İstanbul headquarters. More..

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party members subjected to police violence during house raid

Meryem Aşkara, a member of the HDP, claimed she was beaten and threatened by special forces police who raided her house in southeastern Şırnak province. More..

Diyarbakır provincial co-chairs of pro-Kurdish HDP arrested

Zeyyat Ceylan and Hülya Alökmen Uyanık, the Diyarbakır provincial co-chairs of the HDP, were arrested in October on the charge of membership in an armed terrorist organization. More..

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