A Turkish court has arrested a former pro-Kurdish Democratic Party (HDP) mayor in the eastern province of Iğdır over terrorism charges.
The former co-mayors Yaşar Akkuş and Eylem Çelik were detained and replaced with a government-appointed trustee on May 15. Akkuş was arrested by a court order on May 18, whereas Çelik’s detention period was extended for another four days.
Akkuş and Çelik were among several HDP mayors detained on May 15 in a further crackdown on the party. The dismissed mayors of Iğdır, Siirt, Baykan district, Kurtalan district and Altınova district in Muş had won the local elections held in March 2019.
Meanwhile, the dismissed mayor Casim Budak of Altınova district was arrested by a court order on May 17.
HDP: This is a coup, we will not back down
The HDP staged protests against the government’s targeting its mayors across several provinces on May 18. The party officials denounced the crackdown on the elected mayors as a government “coup,” saying it “will not back down, whatever the cost is.”
“If the ruling party had believed that it would win the elections, it would have listened to our call to hold another election in the areas to which it appointed trustees. Since it knows that it cannot win, it prefers to appoint trustees,” the HDP officials were quoted as saying during the protests by Mezopotamya news agency.
“If an election is held tomorrow, people will again vote for its willpower. This should be known,” said Songül Korkmaz, the dismissed mayor of the eastern province of Batman.
“Our co-mayors have been detained with the police breaking their doors. The AKP-MHP fascism is undertaking an invasion and disregarding the people’s willpower through illegal and unlawful ways. We will not back down whatever the cost is,” said Mehmet Zırığ, the dismissed mayor of the southeastern district of Cizre of Şırnak, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The HDP officials undertook their protests paying attention to social distancing rules, with all of them donning their facial masks. But in some of the provinces, the police were seen trying to ban them from holding their protests.
The replacement of elected officials has been a common practice under the AKP. Out of the 65 municipalities that the HDP won in the local elections of March 2019, some 45 posts have been now filled with appointed trustee officials.
13 political parties, platforms slam crackdown on elected mayors
Meanwhile, 13 political parties and platforms on May 18 released a joint statement slamming the crackdown on HDP mayors. The declaration said the will of the people had been once again “trampled on” by the government.
“The dismissed mayors should be reinstated back to their jobs and the oppression on the local managements should end. We will not stay silent to the [government] trampling on the right to vote and stand for election and disregarding the willpower of the people; and its attempt to inactivate and destroy the local managements,” the statement read.
The declaration was signed by the HDP, Democratic Regions Party (DBP), Turkish Revolutionary Party (TDP), the Labor Party (EP), Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), Left Party, Community Party of Turkey (TKP), Socialist Liberation Renewal Party (SYKP), Social Freedom Party (TÖP), Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP), Turkish Greens and the Left Party of the Future as well as the platforms of People’s Houses (“Halkevleri”) and Socialist Solidarity Platform (SODAP).