Turkey’s unlawful invasion of northern Syria seeks not only to destroy the possibility of a Kurdish-led autonomous region there but also to reshape domestic politics though militarism and Islamist-nationalist discourses aimed at destroying the democratic opposition at home, first and foremost the HDP – the only anti-war party at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
With the start of the invasion on 9 October 2019, Turkish government completely shut down the democratic political field and suspended even the most basic rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of press, the right to assembly and peaceful protest. It banned any critical news about the war in the media. Leave aside criticizing the invasion; even calling it an “invasion” or “war” is criminalized by the government as “supporting terrorism” or “treason.”
Since October 9th, hundreds of people were detained due to their social media postings critical of the war and at least 24 of them were arrested. HDP’s offices in many towns are under the blockade of the police. HDP deputies cannot even have a press statement in front of party buildings. The government also banned in-door meetings “for security reasons” on various occasions. And, of course, assaults on HDP-run Kurdish municipalities have aggravated.
On 15 October 2019, the police raided municipalities of Hakkari, Yüksekova, Nusaybin and Erciş, and detained co-mayor of Hakkari Mr Cihan Karaman, co-mayors of Yüksekova Ms Remziye Yaşar and Mr İrfan Sarı, co-mayors of Erciş Ms Yıldız Çetin and Mr Bayram Çiçek, and co-mayors of Nusaybin Ms Semire Nergiz and Mr Ferhat Kut. On17 October, co-mayors Cihan Karaman, İrfan Sarı, Remziye Yaşar, Semire Nergiz and Ferhat Kut were arrested with the typical charges of “making terror propaganda” and “membership in a terrorist organization.” On 18 October, the Minister of Interior appointed “trustees” to replace the mayors of Hakkari, Nusaybin and Yüksekova, which increased the number of “trustee-run” HDP municipalities to eight.
On 21 October 2019, suspended co-mayor of Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality, Mr. Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı was detained together with co-mayor of Diyarbakır’s Kayapınar Municipality Ms. Keziban Yılmaz, co-mayor of Bismil Municipality Mr. Orhan Ayaz due to an “ongoing legal investigation” against them.
Previously, on 19 August 2019, the Interior Ministry had suspended and replaced with “trustees” the co-mayors of greater municipalities of Diyarbakir, Mardin, and Van; Mr Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı, Mr Ahmet Türk, and Ms. Bedia Özgökçe Ertan, respectively. In September the mayors of Kulp and Karayazi were arrested and replaced by “trustee” governors. Earlier, in April, six HDP candidates who won mayoral offices in Kurdish districts were denied their election certificates with the pretext that they had previously been dismissed from public office with emergency government decrees. Election certificates were granted to the AKP candidates who had lost the ballot. Furthermore, the Ministry of Interior denied election certificates to eighty-eight HDP municipal council members on the grounds of pending criminal investigations. Since the local elections on 31 March 2019, eight co-mayors, two province assembly members, and one municipal assembly member were arrested (See appendix: Unlawful pressures on HDP municipalities).
The government’s unlawful assaults on the HDP over the last four years seek to wipe out democratic politics and consolidate Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule. Despite extremely dire circumstances, our democratic struggle goes on. We once again invite the international community to stand in solidarity with democratic forces in Turkey. And we call upon the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to spend more efforts to stop these unlawful assaults committed by a country that is a member of the Council of Europe.
Vice Co-chair of HDP for Foreign Affairs (MP for Diyarbakır)
21 October 2019