Erdogan accuses dismissed pro-Kurdish mayors of serving 'terrorists'

Erdogan accuses dismissed pro-Kurdish mayors of serving 'terrorists'
Turkey's Erdogan defended his government's decision to remove three pro-Kurdish mayors despite widespread protest against the move.
3 min read
24 August, 2019
Erdogan accused the mayors of serving 'terrorists' [Getty]
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday defended his government's decision to remove three pro-Kurdish mayors from office and accused them of serving "terrorists", in comments published in the official Anadolu news agency.

The mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces in eastern Turkey - all members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) elected in March - were suspended on Monday over alleged ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

The dismissals sparked protests including in the Kurdish majority Diyarbakir city where police fired water cannons at demonstrators this week.

Dozens of people demonstrated against the ruling in Diyarbakir, Istanbuland the capital Ankara on Monday and Tuesday.

Members of the party gathered in Istanbul's central Taksim Square on Monday, chanting "human dignity will defeat torture", Bianet reported.

"The reign of the oppressors will collapse, the trustees will take their place in the dirty pages of history. The underdog will prevail sooner or later," the demonstrators said.

Seven members of the party were detained when police broke up the demonstration, according to the independent news outlet. Among the detainees was HDP MP Nesimi Aday.

"If you remember, in Istanbul, they made the elections twice and did not recognise the will of the people," prominent HDP lawmaker Ahmet Sik said. "What is stolen is the will of the people."

In footage published by independent news outlet dokuz8HABER, police were seen attempting to break up a demonstration against the decision in Diyarbakir using water cannons.

Protesters were seen lying on the ground as two powerful water cannon streams are directed at them.

Dismissed Diyarbakir mayor told Bianet that Turkey's democratic will had been "executed by a midnight operation".

"The last crumbs of democracy in Turkey were destroyed by this decision," he said. 

The HDP slammed the move on Monday as a "clear political coup".

"Remaining silent will mean Ankara, Istanbul next," HDP lawmaker Garo Paylan said on Monday, in reference to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)'s loss of the cities in this year's local elections.

But Erdogan on Friday dismissed the concerns vowing: ”Whoever is in hand in hand with terror, we will protect the authority given by the people within the boundaries of law till the very end.”

He also said if the mayors "serve the terrorists instead of the people ... we will kick them out."

In all three cities, government-appointed governors took over the municipal administrations.

Erdogan's government accuses the HDP party of links to the PKK, which has waged a bloody insurgency against the state since 1984. 

But the party denies any links to the PKK, which is listed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

It is not the first time Turkey has removed elected mayors from the party from their posts.

The majority of mayors from the party were dismissed and replaced with government-appointed "trustees" accused of membership in or links to the PKK in late 2016. 

The government also detained more than 400 people for alleged links to Kurdish militants, the interior ministry said on Monday.

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