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Dismissal of Elected HDP Co-Mayors Cause Reactions: MPs wounded, Journalists Detained

Following dismissal of elected Peoples’ Democratic Party HDP metropolitan co-mayors in the cities of Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin, immediate reactions had been observed yesterday. Following HDP Central Executive Committee decision to start non-stop protests, reactions have grown. Opposition representatives criticized the decision as police conducted raids and detained more people. During the protests, multiple HDP deputies have been wounded and several journalists were detained. International organizations have been naming concerns and condemning the dismissal of elected officials, replaced by appointed trustees.

Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu on dismissal of elected mayors, “it is utterly wrong to expect that state will be silent in the face of those attempting to turn municipalities into centers of terrorism and misuse the honorable votes of the people” as he defended the dismissal of elected HDP mayors from metropolitan seats and replacement with appointed trustees instead. AKP spokesperson Ömer Celik continued to support the minister’s views saying, “through using the constitutional mandate, a precaution has been used against them for putting dirt on the mandate given by people and turning municipalities into service for terrorism.” Former Minister of Interior from 1990s, Mehmet Ağar also announced his support for dismissal of elected HDP mayors, “if you replace the name of our heroes with the names of terrorists who died in conflict against security forces, you can no longer occupy that seat”.

MINISTRY OF INTERIOR’S REASONING FOR DISMISSALS

Among the cited reasons for dismissal of HDP co-mayors on the declaration by Ministry of Interior are:

  • “Applications of so-called co-mayorship following directives of terrorist organization rulers despite this application not being cited as an official application. Illegally sharing their status with the so-called co-mayors. 
  • Employment of formerly dismissed personnel at the municipality, attempts to hire people who are linked to terrorist-organizations, trying to convert municipalities into centre of terrorism.
  • Permitting these people that are not employed at the municipality to have oversight on all municipal activities. Permitting people who have been denied their mandate due to having been formerly dismissed of public offices despite getting elected within HDP ranks for municipal councils, to hold positions at the municipality as if having received their mandate.
  • Hiring people related to those joining terrorist organizations at a time when new recruits to terror organizations has slowed down. Applying mobbing and pressure to relatives of martyrs.
  • Instead of supplying services to meet people’s needs, joining funerals of terrorists that attempt lives of our soldiers, police, gendarme, guards, teachers and many others as well as the integrity of our state; open support for terrorist organizations and terrorists.
  • Replacing names of streets, avenues, parks that held names of heroes who reminded us of national past, with names of terrorist organization members who have been sentenced to prison term after 2019 municipal elections.
  • Mayors standing a minute of silence for killed terrorists, playing the so called organization anthem in these occasions.”

CALLS FOR NON-STOP PROTESTS

Following dismissal of elected mayors, HDP Central Executive Committee has taken a decision of non-stop protests. An online campaign has been started with the hashtag #SiyasiDarbeyeDurDe (Say No to Political Coup) following dismissal of elected HDP co-mayors in Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin. 
HDP Women’s Council declared that the primary target of trustee appointments is co-mayorship, calling for all women to reclaim the women’s labour that makes municipalities possible and to raise their voices against assault on women’s presence.
HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan, “initially to CHP and Kılıçdaroğlu and everyone else, we make this call… Do not remain silent, we are certain you have a word to say in the face of this application; we can reclaim the future of Turkey and our children.” HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli who was barred from making a statement in front of Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality, “raise your voices everywhere, stop the life. Ours is a struggle for law and justice. Reclaim your future and future.”

PROTESTS IN THE THREE METROPOLISES

Police intervention targeted citizens, co-mayors and members of parliament prior to HDP’s mass protest and press manifestation in Diyarbakır.  HDP co-mayors for Eğil and Silvan who set out to go to Diyarbakır centrum, have been blocked entrance to the city by police barricade. HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli also joined in the protest in Diyarbakır; following harsh police intervention, HDP deputies Ayşe Acar Başaran and Feleknas Uca have been hospitalized. Police intervention against protestors in Diyarbakır while people chanted “resistance will prevail”. Protestors did not leave the spot despite two water cannons’ intervention in Diyarbakır. Protestors in Diyarbakır responded to police intervention with slogans and raising their hands with the victory sign. While the protests in Diyarbakır continued, members of parliament that attempted to start a sit-in in front of HDP Diyarbakır headquarters has been targeted by police. Members of parliament have been beaten by police. HDP Diyarbakır deputy Meral Danış Beştaş, “appointed trustees cannot serve as mayors in this city; the only thing they can do is to take baths in the municipal offices.” Previously, Dr. Mızraklı after getting elected as Diyarbakır Metropolitan Mayor had entered the municipal offices to discover that appointed trustee mayor had made extravagant alterations to the offices, also installing a luxurious bathroom in the office. 

In Mardin also police intervened the protest against appointment of trustees as mayors.  HDP deputies Serpil Kemalbay and Tülay Hamitoğulları have been wounded in police intervention in Mardin.  During the police intervention, a citizen sat on the road and raised his hand in victory sign facing the police. HDP deputy Tally Hatimoğulları who was wounded during police intervention in Mardin, has received stitches on her ear in hospital and received treatment. Mass protest and press manifestation by HDP in front of Mardin Metropolitan Municipality has been banned by governorship. 

Police also intervened the protest in Van against reactions following appointment of trustee mayors instead of elected HDP mayors. During the police intervention, HDP member of parliament Dr. Habip Eksik’s shirt was torn, while citizens chanted “pressure cannot deter us”.  HDP deputy Dr. Eksik said “you will be held accountable for all you do to the people’s will and representatives of the people. Those who steal the people’s will, will pay for it.” HDP deputies and citizens started a sit-in in Van protesting the police intervention; chanting “shoulder to shoulder against fascism”. Police used tear gas and water cannon in intervention against protests in Van. HDP Ağrı deputy Dilan Dirayet Taşdemir shared video of intervention with the note “Resistance shall prevail”. Sit-in continued in the city of Van with participation of HDP deputies during the night of August 20. 

IS KARS THE NEXT TARGET FOR DISMISSAL OF CO-MAYORS?

HDP Kars co-mayor Şevin Alaca’s house in Istanbul has been raided by police; Alaca was in Kars.  HDP Kars co-mayor Ayhan Bilgen has been called to prosecutor’s office following dismissal of HDP co-mayors in Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin and house raid against HDP Kars co-mayor Şevin Alacalı’s house in Istanbul. HDP Kars co-mayor Bilgen, “I hear that they are preparing an indictment for ‘starting an armed gang & leading it’ and I wish to send a song called ‘the short straw will get its right from the long straw’ for them.”

REACTIONS ACROSS COUNTRY AGAINST DISMISSALS

HDP members of parliament attempted to protest dismissal of elected mayors in front of Istanbul Çağlayan Courthouse, police intervened harshly. Human Rights Association co-chair Eren Keskin, “this is the open vision of the Republic of Turkey; let us not forget it is those that resist who change the world” after police intervention in Istanbul in front of Çağlayan Courthouse.” During the police intervention in front of Istanbul Çağlayan Courthouse, HDP deputy & journalist Ahmet Şık was beaten by the police.

A banner saying “that who arrives through appointment shall leave through resistance” signed by Revolutionary Party, in Istanbul’s Kadıköy. 2 members of the party have been detained. A protest has been observed in Istanbul’s Kadıköy on Bahariye Avenue facing harsh police intervention; numerous people have been detained.

Bursa Medical Association condemned the dismissal of elected mayors in Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin, “the officials elected through will of the people getting dismissed and replaced by appointed trustees is unacceptable.”

Antalya Labour & Democracy Forces held a press manifestation against dismissal of elected mayors in Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin, “appointment of trustees means stealing the people’s will.”

PROTESTS HAVE BEEN BANNED

Ministry of Interior banned protests, rallies, marches, press conferences in Adana following dismissal of elected mayors in Diyarbakır, Mardin, Van. Also entrance of activists to the city has been banned. Adana Governorship transferred the protest ban to institutions in the city; Education Union’s representative Seçil Sönmez upon receiving the order said “State of Emergency continues”. 

Civil society organizations in Diyarbakır issued a joint statement, “elections are guarantee of democratic life; respect for people’s will must be the most basic principle. Trustee appointments are unacceptable.” Civil society organizations, Van Bar Association, CHP Van local board and various other political parties condemned the dismissal of elected HDP mayors in Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin.

Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Maja Kocijancic reacted against dismissal of elected HDP mayors in Turkey, “appointment of governors instead of elected mayors is worrying. This is depriving citizens of their political representation.” Kocijancic added that trustees have potential for damaging local democracy and reminded Turkey of the duties listed among the directives of Venice Commission and European Charter of Local Self-Government, to which Turkey is also a signatory and must abide by its rules, overruling violations.

European Centre for Press & Media Freedom and Article 19 have named concerns regarding the harsh police intervention, condemning the targeting of journalists during protests.

OPPOSITION LIKENS APPLICATION TO COUP

CHP spokesperson Faik Öztrak, “these mayors when they were candidates 5 months ago, went through security background check and were cleared for running. What happened in 5 months that they are being dismissed now? It would only be appropriate to use democratic processes and approved judicial orders if they are to be dismissed.”

CHP’s Bülent Tezcan, “through July 20 (2016) coup you have discovered appointment of trustees to steal elected mayors’ rights, now you appoint mayors in three cities. You recognize no people’s will; you are murderer of will, experienced fascists, dictators, coup plotters.” [Following July 15 coup attempt in 2016, on July 20 AKP had declared State of Emergency that was used to dismissed hundreds of thousands of people claiming they have collaborated with coup plotters. This has been referred to by opposition parties as an actual coup]

Istanbul mayor Imamoğlu, “the will of the people is clear. You cannot do this with dry excuses. You cannot appoint trustees and declare an indefinite process. This is sad. I defy this act; I am against it. Everyone shall know their place!”

Former AKP Prime Minister Davutoğlu announced “elected officials leaving office through elections is necessity of nation’s will; it is against spirit of democracy to dismiss elected mayors of Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin who have recently been elected.” Former President & former AKP minister Abdullah Gül also said “it is not right for recently elected mayors to be dismissed in such a manner”. AKP vice chair Mahir Ünal, “unfortunately Davutoğlu and Gül who have long been speaking from their stomachs have also joined in the hostility front against our leader Erdoğan.”