A Turkish court early on Oct. 2 arrested some 17 members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including the co-mayor of the eastern province of Kars, over 2014 violent protests against the siege by ISIS of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane.
Shortly after the court’s ruling, the Interior Ministry appointed a trustee to Kars Municipality, replacing Kars Co-Mayor Ayhan Bilgen with Governor Türker Öksüz.
Bilgen, alongside 19 other HDP politicians, was detained on Sept. 25 as part of a probe into the October 2014 Kobane protests. Bilgen later announced that he would resign from his post if a trustee was not appointed until his detention period ends.
One of the charges brought against the HDP members is that they were the HDP’s Central Executive Board (MYK) members during Kobane protests.
Former HDP lawmaker Sırrı Süreyya Önder said in his testimony that when the MYK meeting was being held, he was having a meeting with the then-Interior Minister Efkan Ala with regards to the Kobane protests, daily Hürriyet reported. “If you are to ask the then-Interior Minister Efkan Ala and Public Order and Security Undersecretary Muhammet Dervişoğlu, I am of the opinion that they can inform you about our delegation’s work for the incidents [Kobana protests] to be stopped,” Önder said.
Bilgen on the other hand said in his testimony that he had been already arrested on the same charges and released seven months later with a ruling of the Constitutional Court. “My case still continues at the Diyarbakır 5th Heavy Penal Court. It is out of the question that I am a part of an illegal organization,” Bilgen was quoted as saying by Hürriyet.
The 20 HDP politicians were referred to the court early on Oct. 2 with a demand for their arrest. The court released former HDP lawmaker Altan Tan, Önder and feminist activist Gülfer Akkaya under judicial control, whereas ordered the arrest of the 17 other HDP members.
Protesters flooded streets in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast in early October 2014, outraged over the Turkish government’s inaction in protecting Syrian Kurds as ISIS besieged Kobane, just across the Syrian border. The protests led to the deaths of 37 people, as members of Turkish Hizbullah also took to the streets. Ankara accuses the HDP of inciting violence.
The new launched investigation against the HDP members over Kobane protests is the latest in the government’s crackdown on the HDP. The party is often accused of having links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its former co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been imprisoned for nearly four years.
Since March 2019 local elections, mayors have been replaced by trustees in more than half of the roughly 65 municipalities won by the HDP. Ankara has appointed governors and other local authorities as trustees in those districts.