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The recently-appointed mayor of the district of Kızıltepe in the southeastern province of Mardin cut financial support for the district’s football squad, on the grounds that the players and the team’s management are members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

Last month, the government removed Kızıltepe’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) mayor Nilüfer Elik Yılmaz from her office, accusing her of membership in an armed terrorist organization. She is one of numerous HDP mayors that have been booted from office by the government following their victories in this year’s March local elections. 

Though the HDP is one of Turkey’s legal political parties with a significant presence in parliament, many of its leaders, including former co-heads Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been imprisoned on terror charges, while dozens of its mayors in the eastern and southeastern districts of the country have been stripped from their posts, in what critics say is in attempt by the government to dismantle the party. 

Scores of HDP mayors were replaced after the failed military coup of July 2016, while the same process has been taking place ever since the HDP again won back many of their seats in the local elections earlier this year. 

The Kızıltepe Belediyespor amateur team was established in 2010, and has been financially supported by the municipality since then. This support continued after 2016, when Kızıltepe’s previous HDP mayor was dismissed from office and replaced with a government appointee. 

However, the most recent appointee that took power last month promptly decided to cut all of the team’s funding, which amounts to 50,000 TL according to the club’s president Metin Aslan, who said that all of the team’s players, who were accused by the appointed mayor of being members of the PKK’s “mountain squad”, were subjected to investigations where all of their identity card numbers were searched. 

Aslan said that two trainers who were working with the district’s football and volleyball teams were appointed other non-sports-related positions after the new mayor took office.