More than 10 detained as police disperse protests against dismissal of pro-Kurdish mayors

More than 10 detained as police disperse protests against dismissal of pro-Kurdish mayors
3 min read
20 August, 2019
Protests against a controversial decision to remove three mayors from the pro-Kurdish HDP took place on Monday in Istanbul, Diyarbakir and the capital Ankara.
At least 15 people were detained in Istanbul and Ankara [AFP]

Seven members of a pro-Kurdish opposition party were detained on Monday in Turkey's largest city amid protests against the dismissal of three of the party’s mayors in the Kurdish-majority southeast.

Diyarbakir Mayor Selcuk Mizrakli, Mardin Mayor Ahmet Turk and Van Mayor Bedia Ozgokce Ertan - all members of the People's Democratic Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish leftist party that holds great sway over voters in the southeast - were removed from their posts on Monday morning, accused of membership of the PKK and spreading terrorist propaganda.

The mayors have been replaced by "trustees", in this case the governors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces.

Dozens of people demonstrated against the ruling in Diyarbakir, Istanbul and 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 are seen attempting to break up a demonstration against the decision in Diyarbakir using water cannons.

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

Protesters are hit by a water cannon blast in Diyarbakir on Monday [AFP]

Dozens of protesters also took to the streets in the capital Ankara to voice their opposition against the decision.

Eight people were reportedly detained in Ankara. Detentions were also reported during the Diyarbakir demonstrations, but could not be confirmed.

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.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly linked the party to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant organisation that has been engaged in an on-off civil war with the Turkish state since the early 1980s. It is classed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, NATO, the European Union, the United States and Canada, among other states.

Those allegations have seen the party's former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, and eight more former HDP lawmakers, thrown in prison.

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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