Kurdistan Turkey seizes major Kurdish municipalities, sacks elected mayors

Turkey seizes major Kurdish municipalities, sacks elected mayors
The Mayor of the Kurdish city of Van Bekir Kaya, who was sacked by Turkey's Interior Ministry, is seen between two plainclothes police officers as they take him for questioning after his arrest at the city council, Nov. 17, 2016. (Photo: DHA)

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Kurdistan24) – Turkey on Thursday seized the administrations of municipalities of the Kurdish cities of Van, Mardin, Siirt and Dersim, and sacked their elected mayors, appointing government trustees in their stead in the latest wave of a crackdown on pro-Kurdish politicians.

Press releases announcing the appointments on the website of the ministry did not provide any justification for the seizures of the Kurdish municipalities.

Turkish police arrested the Mayor of Van Bekir Kaya and four other municipal officials at the city council in the morning while anti-terror units made a house raid, conducting a search at Kaya’s home, reported the Kurdistan24 bureau in Diyarbakir.

Turkish authorities accuse Kurdish politicians of collaborating with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that has been waging a decades-old guerrilla warfare against the government forces, a charge they deny.

The arrest of Kaya, who was in January 2016 sentenced to 15 years in prison in a terrorism-related trial, came a day after those of the co-mayor of Siirt Tuncer Bakirhan and co-mayors of Dersim Mehmet Ali Bul and Nurhayat Altun.

Both Bul and Altun have since been sent to a prison by a local Turkish court.

In Mardin, scores of municipal workers protested the removal of their elected mayor Ahmet Turk, as the police detained two during a scuffle.

Police cordoned the municipal buildings in Van and Mardin, searching offices and confiscating computers as well as dossiers.

Municipalities of the four Kurdish cities were run by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP).

The Interior Ministry appointed governors and sub-governors to run the municipalities of the four cities, raising the number of government-seized DBP municipalities to 34 since September.

The DBP won the municipalities of 103 counties, towns, and cities in the 2014 local elections. 

The number of elected Kurdish mayors removed from their posts rose to 52, as 39 of them have been put in prison according to the second largest opposition block, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).