Pressures on the HDP and its municipalities increase with Turkey’s invasion of north Syria

21.10.2019

Pressures on the HDP and its municipalities increase with Turkey’s invasion of north Syria

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 Ertan Özgökçe, 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 for details.)

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.

 

Hişyar Özsoy

Deputy Chair of HDP for Foreign Affairs (MP for Diyarbakır)

 

 

 

 

Appendix: Unlawful pressures on HDP municipalities

 

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s threats before the March 31 local elections

At a February 26, 2019 election rally in the town of Yozgat, Erdogan said that if mayoral candidates of the Peoples’ Democratic Party win, he will replace them with appointed trustees.[1]

As a result of 31 March 2019 Local Elections, the HDP won

  • Metropolitan Municipalities: 3
  • Provincial [İl] Municipalities: 5
  • District [İlçe] Municipalities: 45
  • Township [Belde] Municipalities: 12
  • TOTAL: 65
  • Members of the Municipal Assembly [Belediye Meclis Üyeleri]: 1230
  • Members of the General Provincial Assembly [İl Genel Meclisi Üyeleri]: 101

Elected mayors previously dismissed by decrees barred from taking office

Turkey's Supreme Election Council (YSK) ruled by unanimous vote on April 10, 2019, that elected mayors previously dismissed by a decree issued during the state of emergency were not eligible to take office. Instead, via the majority vote, the YSK decided to award the seats to mayoral candidates who came in second place during the March 31, 2019 municipal elections. The decision affected six mayors of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in the districts of Van's Edremit, Çaldıran and Tuşba, Diyarbakır's Bağlar, Erzurum's Tekman and Dağpınar township of Digor district of Kars. The decision came after Hüseyin Beyoğlu, Diyarbakır's Bağlar district candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), claimed relevant laws and decree laws barred those dismissed or suspended by decrees from serving as public officials in the future regardless of their sentences.[2]

 

Members of the municipal and provincial assemblies denied seats due to their dismissals by the emergency rule decree laws

In addition to the six elected mayors of the HDP, eight co-mayors were also denied municipal positions. These candidates were not official candidates as Turkey’s domestic laws do not recognize the co-mayor system in local administrations. But they participated in the elections as candidates for municipal assemblies. Forty-eight members of the municipal and general provincial assemblies were also barred from claiming their seats despite being elected.

 

Elected HDP Mayors Replaced by the Appointed Governors

  1. Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı, the mayor of Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality, was suspended on August 19, 2019 and replaced by Hasan Bahri Güzel, an appointed governor for Diyarbakır.

Mızraklı’s suspension is based on;

  • Ongoing criminal cases for alleged terrorist offenses
  • Employing people who had been suspended by the trustee back in 2016.
  • Establishing a parallel structure within the municipality
  • Threatening contractors and extorting money from them.
  1. Bedia Özgökçe Ertan, the mayor of Van Metropolitan Municipality, was suspended on August 19, 2019 and replaced by Mehmet Emin Bilmez, an appointed governor for Van.
  • Ongoing criminal cases for alleged terrorist offenses
  • Executing the co-mayor system
  • Discrimination of district municipalities based on thepolitical parties in charge
  • Changing the positions of municipal staff previously assigned by the trustee back in 2016
  • Pressuring the staff to change their unions.
  1. Ahmet Türk, the mayor of Mardin Metropolitan Municipality, was suspended on August 19, 2019 and replaced by Mustafa Yaman, an appointed governor for Mardin. Türk was elected to be the mayor of Mardin in 2014 but was replaced by Mustafa Yaman in 2016 by a decree law.
  • Ongoing criminal cases for alleged terrorist offenses
  • Employing people suspected of having terror links
  1. Mehmet Fatih Taş, the mayor of Kulp Municipality, a district of Diyarbakır, was suspended on September 17, 2019 following his incarceration for allegedlyusing municipal vehicles to plantan IED which killed seven civilians in Kulp, Diyarbakır on September 12, 2019. Tas was immediately replaced by Mustafa Gözlet, an appointed governor for Kulp, Diyarbakır.
  2. Melike Göksu, the mayor of Karayazı Municipality, a district of Erzurum, was suspended on September 18, 2019 for her conviction on the same date. Göksu was replaced by Mesut Tabakçıoğlu, an appointed governor for Karayazı, Erzurum.

Around 500 people, some of whom were working for the municipalities of Van, Mardin and Diyarbakır, were detained amid police raids. The trustees of Mardin, Van and Diyarbakır effectively suspended most of the municipal staff and heads of departments assigned by the elected mayors.[3]

 

Legal basis for suspensions

  • Article 127 of Turkey’s Constitution:

“Local administrative bodies are public corporate entities established to meet the common local needs of the inhabitants of provinces, municipal districts and villages, whose decision-making organs are elected by the electorate as described in law, and whose principles of structure are also determined by law. The formation, duties and powers of the local administration shall be regulated by law in accordance with the principle of local administration. The elections for local administrations shall be held every five years in accordance with the principles set forth in Article 67. However, general or by-elections for local administrative bodies or for members thereof, which are to be held within a year before or after the general or by-elections for deputies, shall be held simultaneously with the general or by-elections for deputies. Special administrative arrangements may be introduced by law for larger urban centers. The procedures dealing with objections to the acquisition by elected organs of local government or their status as an organ, and their loss of such status, shall be resolved by the judiciary. However, as a provisional measure, the Minister of Internal Affairs may remove from office those organs of local administration or their members against whom investigation or prosecution has been initiated on grounds of offences related to their duties, pending judgement. The central administration has the power of administrative trusteeship over the local governments in the framework of principles and procedures set forth by law with the objective of ensuring the functioning of local services in conformity with the principle of the integral unity of the administration, securing uniform public service, safeguarding the public interest and meeting local needs, in an appropriate manner. The formation of local administrative bodies into a union with the permission of the Council of Ministers for the purpose of performing specific public services; and the functions, powers, financial and security arrangements of these unions, and their reciprocal ties and relations with the central administration, shall be regulated by law. These administrative bodies shall be allocated financial resources in proportion to their functions.”[4]

 

  • Article 47 of the Municipal Law No 5393:

“Municipal organs or members thereof in respect of which or whom an investigation or prosecution is initiated on account of an offence connected with their duties may be suspended from office by the Minister of Interior pending the final judgment. The decision of suspension from office shall be reviewed every two months. If the continuation of suspension from office no longer serves the public interest, it shall be lifted. The decision on suspension from office shall be lifted in the cases where no prosecution is initiated, or the public case is dismissed or ends in acquittal, or lapses due to general amnesty, or ends in a conviction for an offence which does not require removal from office. A suspended mayor shall receive two thirds of his monthly allowance for the period of suspension from office and continue to enjoy his other social rights and benefits.”[5]

The government used powers under the state of emergency adopted following the July 2016 attempted coup to take direct control of municipalities and remove elected mayors. A September 1 decree (no. 674) amended the Law on Municipalities to permit the takeover of municipalities suspected of supporting terrorism. In 2016, mayors in 94 of the 103 municipalities controlled by the DBP were suspended from office on alleged suspicion of terrorist offenses and the municipalities taken over by government-appointed provincial authorities. Mayors from other parties were removed in four other municipalities but in each case the authorities allowed other elected local representatives to take over their duties.[6]

 

Twenty-seven members of the municipal and provincial assemblies suspended

Twenty members of the municipal assembly and seven members of the general provincial assembly have been suspended since the local elections on March 31, 2019.

City

District

Status

Name

Date of Dismissal

Replaced By

Diyarbakır

Kayapınar

MA*

Adnan Akgül

August 21, 2019

M. Zülküf Güler, an employee of the District Governor’s office

Van

Çaldıran

MA

Faruk Demir

August 9, 2019

 

Van

Çaldıran

MA

Necmettin Şahin

August 25, 2019

 

Van

Çaldıran

MA

Pınar Demir

August 25, 2019

 

Van

Çaldıran

MA

Hülya Darak

August 25, 2019

 

Van

Çaldıran

MA

Mehmet Sıddık Moraner

August 25, 2019

 

Van

Edremit

MA

Medeni Özer

August 10, 2019

Ercan Karahan, the head of District Agricultural Directorate

Van

Edremit

MA

Savaş Encü

August 21, 2019

Vedat İli, an employee of the municipality

Van

Edremit

MA

Sevinç Şeker

August 21, 2019

 

Van

Edremit

MA

Atiye Şen

August 21, 2019

Abdullah Ekinci, the head of municipal police

Van

Tuşba

MA

Ercan Yılboğa

August 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

Serap Çakmak Genç

May 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

Suat Yetişkin

May 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

Diyar Orak

May 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

Ahmet Sağnıç

May 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

İsa Taş

May 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

Şükrü Aydemir

May 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

Mehmet Nedim Türemiş

May 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

Çetin Yılmaz

May 21, 2019

 

Bitlis

Tatvan

MA

Selami Karahan

May 21, 2019

 

Muş

Center

GPA**

Kader Erol

September 9, 2019

 

Muş

Center

GPA

Mehmet Demir

September 9, 2019

 

Muş

Bulanık

GPA

Filiz Aydın

September 9, 2019

 

Muş

Bulanık

GPA

Ceyhan Aydemir

September 9, 2019

 

Muş

Malazgirt

GPA

Suat Kalın

September 9, 2019

 

Muş

Korkut

GPA

Mehmet Şakir Tuğrul

September 9, 2019

 

Muş

Varto

GPA

Musa Kaya

September 9, 2019

 

* MA: Member of the Municipal Assembly

** GPA: Member of the General Provincial Assembly

The suspension of these elected members shifted the majority in municipal assemblies who make decisions in these districts and provinces.

 

Detentions of the elected figures

City

District

Status

Name

Erzurum

Karayazı

Co-mayor

Burhanettin Şahin

Mardin

Nusaybin

Co-mayor

Ferhat Kut

Diyarbakır

Bismil

Co-mayor

Gülşen Özer

Mardin

Nusaybin

MA*

Mehmet Emin Alkan

Mardin

Nusaybin

MA

Samiye Demir

Diyarbakır

Bağlar

MA

Nursel Örmek

Siirt

Kurtalan

MA

Abdulgaffur Kubilay

Şanlıurfa

Ceylanpınar

MA

Dilan Ablay

* MA: Member of the Municipal Assembly

 

Incarceration of elected figures

City

District

Status

Name

Tunceli

Center

GPA**

Mithat Kaya

Bitlis

Center

GPA

Medeni Yalçınkaya

Ağrı

Patnos

MA*

Mehmet Şahin Savcı

Diyarbakır

Kulp

Co-mayor

Mehmet Fatih Taş

Diyarbakır

Kulp

Co-mayor

Fatma Ay

Erzurum

Karayazı

Co-mayor

Melike Göksu

* MA: Member of the Municipal Assembly

** GPA: Member of the General Provincial Assembly

 

[1]https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/02/turkey-erdogans-threats-replacing-elected-mayors-backfires.html

[2]http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/diyarbakir-van-and-mardin-mayors-dismissed-over-alleged-terror-links-145874

[3]https://gazetekarinca.com/2019/08/van-kayyumu-tum-daire-baskanlarini-gorevden-aldi-belediye-meclisini-feshetti/

[4]http://www.ilo.org/dyn/travail/docs/2435/Constitution%20of%20Turkey.pdf

[5]http://www.lawsturkey.com/law/municipality-law-5393

[6]https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/20/turkey-crackdown-kurdish-opposition