Protests were held against the Turkish government’s suppression of Kurdish politics in the Kızıltepe (Qoser) district of the Kurdish-majority province of Mardin (Mêrdîn) in southeast Turkey on Saturday, the anniversary of the government deposing elected municipal officials and replacing them with appointed trustees in municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in 2019.
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A large number of people attended the press conference in which HDP co-mayors and Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) MP Kamuran Tanhan took part outside the HDP branch office, .
In the press statement, Kurdish politicians referred to the local elections on 31 March 2024 and stressed that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will receive a strong response from the public through the election results.
Saturday 4 November also marked the anniversary of the arrests of pro-Kurdish HDP co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş in 2016.
Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ, along with many other senior party officials, have been behind bars since that time, and are on trial for calling for solidarity with the Syrian city of Kobani (Kobanê) against the Islamic State (ISIS) siege of the city in autumn 2014.
Pro-Kurdish political parties argue that both these arrests and the appointment of trustees to HDP municipalities were basically an illegal government-led operation against Kurdish politics.
Waves of trustee appointments in Kurdish-majority municipalities
Following the collapse of short-lived peace talks in Turkey aimed at ending the Kurdish conflict between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish government, the first wave of the government deposing elected officials and appointing trustees to Kurdish-majority municipalities saw a total of 95 municipalities placed under trusteeship in 2016. Along with these appointments, 93 elected co-mayors of those municipalities were arrested.
In what can only be interpreted as a reflection of public reaction to these trustee appointments, the pro-Kurdish HDP won the mayoralty of a total of 65 municipalities in the local elections on 31 March 2019.
Just four months after these elections, on 19 August 2019, there was a resumption of waves of trustee appointments, and numerous Kurdish mayors were deposed and arrested.