The trustee system imposed in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority regions faces growing scrutiny amidst allegations of mismanagement, political suppression and legal irregularities. The situation is highlighted by recent developments in Batman (Êlih), Van (Wan) and Diyarbakır (Amed), as well as the outspoken criticisms from Kurdish political figures like Sırrı Sakık and Selçuk Mızraklı.
In Batman, the aftermath of a tragic flood that claimed four lives, including three children, has drawn attention to the response of the local administration, currently under a government-appointed trustee. The declaration of the affected neighbourhoods as a ‘General Life Affecting Disaster Area’ came 11 days after the flood, raising concerns about the efficiency and priorities of the trustee administration. Furthermore, the trustee’s dismissal of critiques as “provocation” added to the tensions. Democratic Regions Party (DBP) Co-chair Keskin Bayındır expressed strong criticism, stating, “Stop making a show over the flood, do your job,” in response to the trustee’s handling of the disaster.
In Van, allegations of corruption and mismanagement under the trustees have surfaced. The recent Court of Accounts report pointed out irregularities and a significant increase in debt, casting doubt on the fiscal responsibility of the trustee-led administration. Mustafa Avcı, the deposed co-mayor of Van, stated, “All the irregularities and corruption of the first trustee continued with the second.”
The case of Selçuk Mızraklı, the former co-mayor of Diyarbakır, further exemplifies the contentious nature of legal proceedings against Kurdish politicians and the political will of the Kurdish populace in Turkey. Mızraklı, initially sentenced to over nine years in prison, had his sentence overturned by the Court of Appeals due to insufficient examination, only to have the same sentence reimposed upon retrial. His case is seen by many as emblematic of the challenges faced by Kurdish political figures in Turkey, where legal actions are often viewed as politically motivated. Describing the allegations against him, Mızraklı said “We are facing a despicable trap that has been rehearsed and thought out. Lies and fabrication.”
These instances gain additional context through the testimony of Sırrı Sakık, a member of the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP). In a recent session of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, Sakık shared his personal experiences and insights into the trustee system. He cited specific incidents, including the replacement of elected Kurdish officials with trustees, as a direct undermining of democratic principles and an assault on the political representation and rights of the Kurdish population.
The trustee system, supposedly instituted for addressing security concerns and allegations of terrorism support, is increasingly viewed by both international and national critics as a tool for political control over Kurdish-majority regions. The removal of elected officials and their replacement with government-appointed trustees is seen as eroding the democratic process and negating the electoral choices of the Kurdish population.