HDP official: Turkish gov. aims to seize all Kurdish municipalities amid COVID-19 crisis
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A foreign affairs spokesperson for the Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) claims Turkey is using the coronavirus pandemic to target the remaining Kurdish municipalities in the country’s southeast.
Kurdistan 24 recently spoke to Hisyar Ozsoy, an HDP foreign affairs spokesperson, who reminded that the pro-Kurdish party had won 65 municipalities during the March 2019 elections, but a year later, the Turkish government has seized control of 46 of those municipalities.
“So, we have 18 municipalities left now and it’s [become] a trend [where] every couple of weeks [the Turkish government] takes down a couple of mayors,” Ozsoy stated.
The central government in Ankara has seized over 90 municipalities the HDP had won in 2014, replacing them with government trustees and even jailed some 60 mayors in an ongoing crackdown that began in late 2016 after the military coup.
In October 2018, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even vowed to seize HDP municipalities after the local elections held on March 31, 2019.
After the elections, the state-appointed trustees to 40 HDP-run municipalities. Additionally, six HDP mayors who won the elections were denied certificates with the excuse they had previously been dismissed from their jobs with emergency rule government decrees.
On March 23, Turkish police raided several HDP-run municipalities, detaining many elected mayors, and replacing eight elected Kurdish mayors with trustees.
The mayors were arrested on charges of “membership to a terror organization.”
Ozsoy suggested that terrorism claims are only an excuse by the government.
“When [the] Turkish government seized the municipalities, the first thing they did was put Turkish flags on the buildings,” the spokesperson told Kurdistan 24. “They are seizing the municipalities in the name of Turkish nationalism, and not because our mayors are involved in some kind of crime.”
“Everybody knows that there is no such crime. Just because they are Kurdish, and being Kurdish mayors is a crime itself. That’s why the government continues with its policy.”
He added that many government critics have been jailed on charges of terrorism.
“The category of terrorism in Turkey is so vague, broad, and ambiguous that anybody critical of the government can easily be criminalized as a terrorist. That’s, unfortunately, the legal situation in the country.”
Furthermore, there are concerns that the coronavirus might spread to prisons where there is no health infrastructure.
Turkey will have a debate this week about a draft bill that could result in the early release of about 100,000 of the 300,000 prisoners. But this excludes political prisoners.
“They [prisoners] and their families are in contact with us. Frankly, the families, in particular, are very anxious and scared. Excluding political prisoners from this legislation is totally unconstitutional and everyone should be equal before the law.”
During this “global pandemic situation, the Turkish government is discriminating against certain types of people, mainly the Kurds and the broader democratic opposition. A significant number are already in prison.”
Moreover, the imposition of state governors who are “racist” toward the Kurds amid a health crisis also presents a major problem, the HDP official said.
“These trustees don’t have the necessary communication and dialogue with local people whose political will they have just destroyed.”
According to Sunday’s data from Turkey’s Health Ministry, there are 9,217 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Turkey, including 131 deaths.
The coronavirus could have a huge impact on the mostly Kurdish-majority areas in southeast Turkey where there is a weak health infrastructure and large-scale poverty.
Ozsoy said this has put the “Kurdish people in a very difficult situation in the fight against the coronavirus.”
“They need all kinds of assistance in such a difficult health crisis,” he added.
“Honestly, we were not expecting the government to appoint trustees, at least during the coronavirus crisis. Everyone is really busy with the coronavirus and people are trying to survive.”
Even Turkish media, which is mostly controlled by the government and usually supports the state repression against the HDP, ignored the arrests.
“There was literally no news in mainstream media about this. The mayors represent the will of millions of people and it doesn’t become news in Turkey,” Ozsoy said.
As a result, the Kurdish official believes this gives the government a carte blanche for further repression.
“Now who is going to care [that] some Kurdish mayors [are] being arrested, sent to prison, and replaced by appointed Turkish governors who are very racist toward the Kurds?” Ozsoy asked.
The Turkish government will take advantage of the health crisis “to further oppress the Kurds and the democratic opposition,” he added.
“But, as we have done in the past many times, with diverse networks of social cooperation and solidarity we will survive this virus of racist authoritarianism, too, as well as the coronavirus,” Ozsoy concluded.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany