Ousted HDP mayor faces terrorism charges for supporting women's agricultural cooperative

An ousted HDP mayor is facing terrorism charges over her support for a women's agricultural cooperative that was planting green beans in Mardin's villages. The prosecutors said that activities of Saray Women's Cooperative are to be considered within the framework of the KCK, which the government says is the urban wing of the PKK.

Duvar English

A Turkish court has accepted an indictment prepared against a dismissed mayor from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) who is being accused of terrorism charges. The indictment cited Nalan Özaydın's support for a women's cooperative in the southeastern province of Mardin as her alleged affiliation with terrorism.

Özaydın was dismissed from her duty last year as the mayor of Mazıdağı district in Mardin. She was later arrested on charges of links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), seen as a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union.

The indictment accepted by the Mardin 2nd Heavy Penal Court against Özaydın includes testimonies of “secret witnesses,” Mezopotamya news agency said on March 28.

The prosecutors said in the indictment that activities of Saray Women's Cooperative – founded by a group of women, including Özaydın herself – are to be considered within the framework of the Kurdistan Communities (KCK), which the government says is the urban wing of the PKK.

Following the March 31, 2019 local elections, three women, including Özaydın, established Sarya Women's Cooperative. The cooperative afterwards started to plant green beans as their first agricultural product, on a land of three hectares in a village. The number of women working on the land increased gradually with time. The cooperative then started to expand their agricultural activities to other villages. Once Özaydın was dismissed from her post, the cooperative halted its activities.

“It is understood that the suspect is within the KCK structuring, which is one of the structures of the aforesaid organization [PKK], and took part in the works regarding the establishment of city councils and cooperatives that are part of this structuring,” the prosecutors' indictment said.

The government has so far appointed trustees to 40 municipalities that were formerly held by the HDP since local elections in March 2019. Several mayors are either in jail pending trial or have been handed prison sentences for crimes related to terrorism.

The removal of the mayors echoed the dismissal of dozens of mayors in 2016 over similar accusations, part of a purge that began after a failed coup.