Due to his international travel ban, the former co-mayor of Diyarbakır Selçuk Mızraklı, who was removed from office, could only partake in a UN panel through a video conference. Mızraklı was ousted in August by the Ministry of Interior because of alleged “terrorist connections”. A trustee was appointed for the position.
At the UN Human Rights Council, Mızraklı explained why he wasn’t there in person. “We would like to be there with you, speaking to you face to face as co-mayors elected with 63 percent of the vote. But we have to speak through video conference because of the international travel ban imposed upon us. This is all because of a government that is trying to establish a one-man regime over the country.”
“We were elected through democratic means”, Mızraklı said. “But we were dismissed by non-democratic dictatorial means. We are not able to use the power betowed upon us by the people. In fact, it is useful to briefly explain how we got here.”
“In 2002, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power with pledges of bringing democracy, the rule of law and universal human rights principles. But since 2015, they have been trying to install a one-man rule, an authoritarian regime.”
“They have been violating the law and oppressing people through militarist means.” he said, adding militarist methods” he said, adding, “they are trying to suppress opposition groups with detentions, tortures and arrests. Since 2016, again, unlawfully, they have replaced 95 Kurdish mayors with government-appointed trustees. Our municipalities are now in huge debts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, due to corrupt operations carried out during this period.”
Against all odds
“After such a problematic period, we held local elections on March 31. In an unjust system where we could not run our campaigns properly, our members were arrested, several of our administrators were sent to prison. Despite this, we have been elected with the highest rates. During the four months we were in office, we sought to pay off the debts and served out citizens. The trustees that were appointed to the positions in the previous term have started banning Kurdish culture and language. They have started jeopardising women’s rights. We had four months working to reverse these. We worked for women, for children, for young people. Such services undermine the dictatorial system. Because of this, we were unlawfully dismissed. Governors [government appointed] were appointed as trustees. Again, they will indulge in corruption and set out to impose cultural and linguistic assimilation.”
Mızraklı brought up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and asked the council to form a commission and visit cities such as Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin, asking people whether they are content with the dismissals and the appointed trustees.
The decision to appoint trustees has to be reviewed every two months, he said, pointing out that the next review was due on October 19. He invited the council members to visit Turkey in October to observe this process.
“It is time to stop this”, Mızraklı said. “Local governments are the reflection of democracy. I salute you once more with the hope that you will not remain silent in the face of this bullying.”