The Turkish government on Monday appointed trustees to three municipalities in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast of Turkey, dismissing the newly elected mayors of Van, Mardin and Diyarbakır on allegations of terrorism.
The Turkish Interior Ministry released a statement in Turkish, English and Kurdish claiming that “the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] terrorist organization and its extensions, which have been significantly weakened as a result of the decisive struggle against terrorism in recent years, have capitalized on the use of municipalities for illegal purposes through some mayors.”
“In addition, such municipalities that have striven to become a component of that administrative model, contrary to other regions of our country, have been used as an instrument against the indivisible integrity of the state with its territory and nation as set forth in Article 3 of our Constitution,” the statement reads.
The statement also accused the mayors of changing street and park names to the those of terrorists and attending terrorists’ funerals.
Meanwhile, 418 people have been detained in 29 provinces across Turkey in operations against the PKK, the Interior Ministry also said on Monday.
In the local elections held on March 31, Selçuk Mızraklı received 62.9 percent of the vote in Diyarbakır, leaving behind Cumali Atilla, who was nominated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and received 30.9 percent of the vote.
Ahmet Türk was the winner in the southeastern province of Mardin on March 31. Following the election, Turkey’s governing AKP applied to Turkey’s Supreme Election Board, claiming that Türk should be denied the mandate to govern because of his age and declining health.
Mayor of Van Bedia Özgökce Ertan received 54 percent of the vote in the last local elections.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), to which the three mayors belong, issued a written statement calling the government’s move a coup.
“This is a new and clear political coup. It also constitutes a clearly hostile move against the political will of the Kurdish people. The Interior Ministry is acting as the enforcer of decisions and practices that usurp rights and freedoms, instigate provocations and leave not even a single grain of democracy behind,” party’s executive board said in the statement.
In 2017 the Turkish government arrested scores of pro-Kurdish deputies, mayors and co-mayors while seizing the administration of 54 municipalities across southern Turkey.
The party’s former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ were also arrested on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda and membership in a terrorist organization.
In its report titled “Kurdish Political Movement under Crackdown in Turkey: The Case of the HDP,” SCF focused on how the Kurdish political movement came under intense pressure from the current government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was bent on marginalizing the HDP with the help of a military crackdown and abuse of the criminal justice system.