"We feel empowered, when we hear voices of solidarity from across the borders"

We feel empowered, when we hear voices of solidarity from across the borders

Our Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin co-mayors who were unlawfully removed from office and replaced by centrally appointed state bureaucrats have sent a letter to the mayors of European cities including Barcelona, Paris, London, Stockholm, Oslo, Rome, Milan, Venice. 

Diyarbakir co-mayor Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı, Mardin co-mayor Ahmet Türk and Van co-mayor Bedia Özgökçe Ertan said in their letters following:

“We are writing to you as elected co-mayors, respectively, of the metropolitan municipalities of Mardin, Diyarbakır and Van. These three major Kurdish provinces in Turkey, which host a total of 3.8 million citizens, are among the political and electoral strongholds of our party, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). In the municipal elections of 31 Mart 2019, we won the seat of the mayor in these provinces with high margins; 56.24% in Mardin, 62.93% in Diyarbakır, and 53.83%in Van. On 19 August 2019, we were removed from our offices, replaced by government-appointed trustees, and saw our municipal councils disbanded with an arbitrary decision of the Interior Ministry that violates both the Turkish Constitution and the European Charter of Local Self Government to which Turkey is a signatory. We acknowledge this decision as a government coup -- the last one in a chain of attacks of the Erdogan regime in recent years against pluralist democracy, against the Kurdish democratic will in particular.”

The mayors continued: “The two-and-a-half-year-long trustee rule in Kurdish municipalities over 2016 and 2018 has not only severely circumvented local democracy but also devastated municipal infrastructures with embezzlement, graft, cronyism, and bribery. Therefore, reclaiming expropriated municipalities in the 31 March 2019 elections served a platform to protest and hold accountable the regime’s autocratic and corrupt foreclosure of Kurdish electoral will and local democracy. Since the elections we have spent most of our efforts to bring our municipalities back on a functioning state by paying debts, finding credits, and restoring essential services, including the payment of workers’ salaries. 
In his written statement ordering our deposition and substitution by government trustees, the Minister of Interior argues that we have“links with terrorism”. It has been amply noted by local and international human rights observers how the Erdogan regime employs Turkey’s over-expansive and vague “anti-terror” legislation to silence and subdue any form of internal dissent. Any critical journalist, intellectual, human rights defender or opposition politician has the risk and threat of being targeted by “terrorism” charges in today’s Turkey.” 

“The government had declared its will to remove us from the office even before we were elected. During the election campaign of 31 March, President Erdoğan had repeatedly stated that if HDP candidates won the ballot, trustees would replace them. We have recently learned that the centrally appointed governors of Mardin and Diyarbakır did not lose any time in pursuing the threats of Mr President. They officially petitioned the Interior Ministry on 1 April 2019, one day after the election and before the election results were ratified, demanding our deposition.” co-mayors also noted.

The co-mayors ended their letter as follows:

“As we are writing this letter to you, the government is extending its repressive grip on the Kurdish people in Diyarbakır, Van, and Mardin who protest the expropriation of their democratic will. Over the past week, hundreds of protesters were detained in our cities, and dozens have been injured and hospitalized, including several of our MPs and local government administrators.

We feel empowered, when we hear voices of solidarity from across the borders. We would be most obliged to receive your sustained solidarity through initiatives such as organizing public opinion in your country, building solidarity networks, or visiting our electoral provinces. No matter how dire the circumstances currently are in our country, we will win the struggle for democracy, justice, and peace.”

3 September 2019