Interior Minister and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary candidate Süleyman Soylu once again boasted during his election campaign about previously dismissing elected pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors in Kurdish-majority cities, saying that the instruction came from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Soylu said that after he became the interior minister, Erdoğan told him that he was “disturbed with the HDP municipalities in the southeast” and instructed him to “immediately dismiss” the elected mayors. The minister added that the mayors were dismissed within two days following this instruction.
In the run-up to the 14 May elections, the electoral bloc led by the ruling AKP continues to campaign on accusations of “terrorism”, especially against the pro-Kurdish circles.
This is not the first time Soylu has presented the dismissal of elected mayors as a positive action for the government. He recently described how the HDP wanted autonomy and recalled the incidents of 6-8 October 2014 that resulted in 46 deaths. “Do you remember? They declared autonomy in 17 different places. Then we destroyed them all,” he said.
Soylu was referring to the deadly incident known in the country as the Kobanê events, when the government started appointing trustees to municipalities in 2014 following the collapse of the peace process to resolve the Kurdish conflict in the country.
Kurds in Turkey took to the streets after the government refused to open a corridor to the Syrian city of Kobanê to support the Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State (ISIS) during the fundamentalist group’s siege of the city in 2014.
The protests turned into heavy clashes with Turkish forces on 6-8 October 2014 in Turkey’s largest cities and those heavily populated by Kurds. Afterwards, HDP mayors in Kurdish-majority cities were arrested and the government appointed its own people as mayors in their places.
The trial of 108 HDP members accused of initiating Kobanê incidents is ongoing and the prosecutor is seeking life imprisonment without parole for 36 of them.
Hundreds of elected mayors have been dismissed and arrested in the government’s trustee practices that continue to this day.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the opposition’s joint presidential candidate who can end Erdoğan’s 21-year-long reign on 14 May, vows to end the AKP’s practice of government-appointed mayors in Kurdish cities.
President Erdoğan and the AKP often accuse the HDP of being an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Turkish government deems a terrorist organisation. The Erdoğan administration also accuses Kılıçdaroğlu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) of “collaborating with terrorists” both over its talks with the HDP and over Kılıçdaroğlu’s pledge to put a peaceful end to the Kurdish conflict in the country.
Kılıçdaroğlu recently said that the government was treating millions of Kurds as terrorists in accusations that have intensified in the run-up to the elections.