Kurdish politician Sebahat Tuncel calls trustee appointment ‘policy of genocide’

Prominent Kurdish politician Sebahat Tuncel has called the Turkish government’s ousting of Hakkari province’s elected mayor a “policy of genocide.” The province's governor was appointed as trustee to the municipality, over the DEM Party mayor’s alleged ties with the outlawed PKK.

Photo: Ferhat Yaşar from Gazete Duvar

Ferhat Yaşar / DUVAR

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party’s Women’s Assembly on June 4 held a forum titled “Justice and Freedom from Kobanê to Gezi” in Istanbul. 

Prominent Kurdish politicians Sebahat Tuncel and Gültan Kışanak were among the speakers at the meeting. The politicians were recently released after spending over seven years in prison for the Kobanê trials. 

In her speech, Gültan Kışanak addressed the trustee appointment in the eastern province of Hakkari, saying the government was attempting "what they could not achieve in Van.” The government’s appointment revealed “the serious democracy crisis” in Turkey.  

Kışanak emphasized how the trustee mayors issue was a problem beyond politics for women in Kurdish provinces.  

“When local democratic governance develops, women can breathe. Trustee mayors, on the other hand, suffocate women.” 

The trustee mayors of the past had shut down women’s institutions which led to an increase in femicides. 

“Whereas we had almost eliminated it when we ran our provinces. When we established the violence hotline in Diyarbakır, we barely received any reports.”

According to Kışanak, traditional societal judgments had changed under Kurdish administrations, and with the shift in societal gender values, violence against women had disappeared.

"Democracy either exists or it doesn't. There can't be democracy for the West and none for the East, for men but not for women.” 

“If women are free, society will be free. There can be no democracy or freedom in a society where half of it is enslaved, where Kurds are enslaved. The struggle for democracy is comprehensive," she added.

Sebahat Tuncel spoke after Kışanak. In her speech, she criticized court rulings against Kurdish politicians. 

"The trustee appointment in Hakkari is a policy of genocide. Is there anyone who is a Kurdish advocate of democracy in Turkey who has not been sued? No.”

Tuncel continued, “As long as there is no independent judiciary in Turkey, the court decisions against Kurdish politicians, feminists, and socialists are biased, and we do not recognize them.”

The politician also criticized the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for their reaction to the trustee appointment in Hakkari. “CHP members say let the court decide, but do these courts make fair decisions?"

"Trustee appointments are a political issue, not legal. It is the usurpation of the Kurds' right to self-govern. It is oppression. You elect a mayor or a deputy, and they are imprisoned; the heads of associations, the members, and leaders of civil society organizations are imprisoned.”

Tuncel drew attention to the arbitrary use of the law, “As long as this law exists, everyone can be labeled a terrorist.” 

A Turkish court on May 16 gave the final verdicts of the Kobanê case, and handed out prison sentences to 28 Kurdish politicians including Selahattin Demirtaş, Figen Yüksekdağ, and Ahmet Türk.

Kışanak and Tuncel were sentenced to 12 years for “being a member of an armed terrorist organization,” but the court released them on judicial control considering the duration of detention.

Kışanak was the co-mayor of Diyarbakır from the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) when the Interior Ministry ousted and replaced the post with a trustee mayor. 

Tuncel served as an independent Istanbul deputy between 2007 and 2015, and was the co-chair of the HDP in 2013-2014 with Ertuğrul Kürkçü. Since 2014, she has been associated with the Democratic Regions Party (DBP). 

(English version by Ayşenaz Toptaş)