Turkey arrests Kurdish mayoral candidate, 21 other women ahead of elections

Among those arrested accused of "terror" crimes was an eight-month pregnant human rights activists.
author_image Rawa Barwari

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish police on Tuesday arrested the mayoral candidate for the Kurdish city of Cizre, Berivan Kutlu, and 21 female politicians and activists, one of them eight months pregnant, in a dawn operation on their homes across the Sirnak and Van provinces.

Among those arrested were the Co-chair of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) branch in Sirnak, Leyla Kilic, the Co-chair of the local branch of HDP’s sister Democratic Regions Party (BDP), Ayse Altay, the pregnant Ayfer Sahin Bilici, a representative for the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, and other party officials.

According to Turkish state media, all 22 women were accused of “terror activities or membership,” for their alleged ties to a feminist organization known as “Free Women’s Movement” which authorities tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

There were at least 10 other people with an arrest warrant as part of the same investigation by prosecutors.

The arrests came nearly two months ahead of local elections in Turkey in which Kutlu is going to run to reclaim her city Cizre’s municipality whose administration the highly central Turkish government seized at the beginning of an ongoing crackdown on the opposition two and a half years ago.

Government-appointed bureaucrats run Cizre along with 100 other townships and cities across majority Kurdish provinces since then as some 60 elected mayors remain in Turkish jails.

Cizre’s former Mayor Leyla Imret who also holds German citizenship has fled Turkey after she found herself the target of a “terror” probe by judiciary authorities.

Late last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that his administration would once again dismiss elected mayors should HDP’s candidates win in the upcoming March 31 elections.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany