ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Stef Blok told lawmakers at The Hague on Friday that his government is deeply concerned that Turkey’s removal of multiple Kurdish mayors is a significant blow to the nation’s democracy.
In a speech before parliament, Blok argued that the move by Ankara to sack “elected mayors is a serious concern since its undermines the outcome of the democratic processes.”
On Aug. 19, Turkey’s Interior Ministry dismissed the mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin, and Van: Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Ahmet Turk, and Bedia Ozgokce Ertan, respectively. All three are from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and were accused of supporting terrorism.
The highly-centralized government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan then moved to appoint unelected governors of the three cities to replace the three mayors. The incident came only months after nationwide local elections in March.
Largely due to Dutch efforts, the European Union officially expressed concerns in August over the actions. Anders Knape, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, also expressed his “grave concern” about the developments in Turkey. The European Court of Human Rights, as well, has harshly criticized Turkey for the removals.
“The Dutch government fully supports these statements,” said Blok. “Within the UN Security Council, the EU also consistently calls on Turkey to protect the rule of law, independent judiciary, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
On Wednesday, the European Parliament issued a joint motion for a resolution that called on Turkey to reinstate the removed Kurdish mayors who had won in March elections but had been “prevented from assuming office.”
European Union member states and the Dutch government have also been monitoring court cases against politicians in Turkey, said Blok.
“In this way, the Netherlands expects Turkey to accept the standards of a functioning constitutional state.”
The Dutch government earlier also lent its weight to calls for the EU to freeze Turkey’s negotiations for membership, which have been suspended.
In late August, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the mayors' sacking, arguing that it violated the rights of voters and suspended local democracy.
“President Erdogan’s government has effectively canceled the results of the March local elections in the three main cities of the Kurdish southeast by removing voters’ chosen mayors, all valid candidates, and taking over these municipalities,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW.
“Smearing the mayors by alleging vague links with terrorism to deprive the Kurdish population of their chosen representatives endangers everyone in Turkey who is committed to democratic elections, human rights, and the rule of law.”
Editing by John J. Catherine