After the last two municipal elections in Turkey, held in 2014 and 2019, the mayors elected as candidates from the pro-Kurdish parties have been replaced by the Ankara administration with unelected appointed ‘trustees’. With a widescale repeat of the process after the 2019 elections, it has now actually become an almost standard procedure for the government as a way of disregarding Kurdish votes.
This planned civilian coup d’etat on local government in Kurdish-majority provinces is currently on a path of near completion with a wider and total strategy of Kurdish disenfranchisement, if a ban on pro-Kurdish parties, sought by the governing coalition parties, is approved by the Turkish constitutional court.
The second wave of the civilian coup d’etat on local governments in Kurdish-majority provinces started less than five months after the 2019 elections, and was almost completed by October 2020. Mayors of 54 of the 65 local governments in control of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) have been replaced with government appointed ‘trustees’, Mesopotamian News Agency (MA) reports. Three of them were mayors of metropolitan municipalities (provinces with a population over 750,000) while five were city mayors and the rest, mayors of districts or towns.
The initial targets of the civilian coup were the co-mayors of three metropolitan municipalities, one being Selçuk Mızraklı, the co-mayor of Diyarbakır (Amed). He had been elected in the 2019 elections with 63 percent of the vote in Diyarbakır, one of the two largest metropolitan centres in the south east of Turkey with a population of over 1.7 million. After being replaced with a government appointed trustee in August like his predecessor Gültan Kışanak , he was arrested in October on the spurious charge of being a ‘member of a terrorist organisation’.
Imprisoned for almost two years now, Mızraklı, a medical doctor and a former MP, replied to the questions sent to him by MA via his lawyers.
You’ve been imprisoned now for more than a year. What’s your view of the situation in Turkey and the region?
I was elected as an MP in the 2018 general elections, then co-mayor of Diyarbakır in the 2019 municipal elections. A trustee was appointed as the mayor by the government, without any legal justification on 19 August 2019, and I was arrested in October 2019.
While I am held in a small prison, I can say that the whole country has actually been turned into a vast prison. They’ve turned the country into a prison to be able to stay in power. Furthermore, now they are trying to turn the whole country into a graveyard of the peoples. I can see on the news that the country is currently faced with natural disasters. These are actually the outcome of unnatural interventions. It’s not nature that is responsible, but the government that has manipulated nature for profits.
We have been ruled for 20 years by governments of the Justice and Development Party which have continously destroyed the green areas by covering them with concrete, deforming the face of nature. We know those who have turned their blind eyes on wildfires for profits. We know those who declare razed areas development zones, offering them to their supporters for construction of hotels.
These are the same people who have dried up the rivers, shifted river beds, turned rivers into marshes by building hydroelectric power plants. Those who have then declared those marshes development zones and gave TOKI [Housing Development Administration of Turkey] access to any available space. These are the people to be held accountable for the recent disasters. They have the blood of so many disaster victims on their hands. There has been a succession of wildfires. There have been floods, even after moderate rainfalls.
These are the outcomes of the government’s failed policies.
On 19 August 2019, the co-mayors in three metropolitan municipalities have been replaced with government appointed trustees. Two years have passed since then. What actually happened on 19 August?
Actually it started before that. The local governments headed by trustees appointed earlier were once again taken over by the people.
The state officials who couldn’t accept this, filed appeals at the interior ministry a day after the election results were announced, requesting the appointment of [government] trustees again. Previously, those who were allured by the glimmer of the [presidential] palace had built their own mansions in cities, and were already living a life of luxury in those mansions…
The interior ministry responded by first revoking the certificates of some of the elected mayors…
Then within four months we got subjected to two seperate inspections by the ministry. The fact that the local governments could actually function as the lungs of the people, that they could be entirely in people’s control, terrified them. Those who were stripped of their means of profit, their accomplices, started pressurising the ministry. Those who tried to assimilate the people through a destruction of cultural identity, who were aware that they were about to lose all the grounds they had, stepped in.
Altogether they made the coup of 19 August.
Trustees had earlier been appointed after the 2016 municipal elections. It’s been the start of a second term on 19 August. Do you think the Ankara government can actually achieve something through this policy?
Trustees have been appointed to destroy the identity of the Kurdish people, to forcibly assimilate them, and to opress the women’s movement. This administration is the enemy of women, children and the environment. It’s the enemy of the people.
The people elected their representatives to get rid of it. The local governments here was the voice of the local people. It wanted to silence this voice. It wanted to give its supporters access to new grounds of profit. It wanted to isolate and destroy the Kurdish people and their political movement.
This is why they imprisoned politicians, appointed trustees to local governments, ceased activities of organisations on false allegations, shut TV stations and other media outlets. These are all interrelated and are the extensions of a certain strategy…
They couldn’t succeed. Although some might have thought that they had some results with this strategy, it is apparent now that they actually did not succeed at the end of five years.
You have served as co-mayor for only four and a half months. What would you have done for Diyarbakır if you hadn’t been replaced with a government appointed trustee?
We were faced with a wreckage when we started serving on 16 April 2019. Everything had been looted, in financial terms.
Furthermore there had been new assaults on the language, identity and beliefs of the people…
We initially had to confront these. In only four months, despite all the attempts of the ministry, of the city administration and other state institutions to stop us, we managed to reopen the Zarokistan [nurseries and kindergartens]. The women’s institutions, dissolved during the term of the trustee, were reopened. Culture and art centres were revived.
Besides these, the project on solid waste collection and the waste-to-energy project was started. Projects on opening new mass transit routes and acquiring new means of mass transport were initiated. We had projects for turning Karacadağ into a touristic centre of attraction, had started organic agricultural production, setting up of non-profit sales points, building garment factories and establishing solidarity networks.
These were all terminated with the government appointment of the trustee.