On the eve of local elections: hundreds of detentions, arrests, and deportation of international observers

Information note by our vice co-chair Hişyar Özsoy regarding the intensified pressures on the HDP just on the eve of local elections:

As usual, the Turkish government’s pressures on the HDP right before the local elections have dramatically intensified. These pressures are to paralyze the HDP organizationally, and render the playing field even more uneven. We have previously seen this pattern before the elections in November 2015, the referendum in April 2017, and the presidential elections in June 2018.

Detentions and arrests have targeted specific cities to directly affect election results. For example, in Iğdır, where the AKP, MHP and the İYİ Party united against the HDP, 15 administrators and members of the HDP and its sister party DBP, who were leading the electoral campaign, were detained on March 17th and 9 of them were arrested after a twelve-day detention period and with the typical charge of “membership in terrorist organization.” On March 29th, 8 members of the HDP, including the co-chair in the city, were arrested in Adana. In Van, 24 members and activists of the HDP were detained and 14 of them were arrested. In Şanlıurfa, 11 people were detained, including HDP’s candidates for the municipal council. On March 30th, one day before the elections, 53 people were detained in Istanbul in 127 house raids by the police, the majority of who were HDP candidates for municipal councils in Istanbul and its districts. All of these people were in leading positions in electoral campaigns. In total, during the election campaign, at least 713 HDP administrators and members were detained and 107 of them arrested. And over the last two and a half years, more than 6,000 HDP administrators and members were arrested -- its co-chairs, tens of members of parliament and elected mayors among them.

International observers, too, have taken their share from such pressures. Upon HDP’s invitation, about 100 people from different European countries registered with us to observe the elections. At least 12 foreign observers were detained at Istanbul Ataturk Airport and then deported, as Turkish authorities considered them as a threat to “national security.” As our previous experiences have shown, foreign observers who could enter the country may be forced to leave the electoral area or may even be detained on the day of election.

These detentions and arrests to intimidate the public happen in addition to the government’s use of public resources for political campaigning, its virtual monopoly and censorship over the media, arbitrary bans on electoral campaigns of the opposition, the president’s open threats against leaders of oppositional parties, and a dangerous political discourse that polarizes the country and criminalizes all critical voices as “terrorists.” These totally unlawful practices attest to the AKP-MHP coalition’s weakness, and not its strength.

Despite such pressures and an extremely uneven playing ground, the HDP is committed to reclaiming its municipalities that were seized by the so-called “kayyıms” (bureaucrats appointed by the government to replace elected HDP mayors) and obstructing the ambition of the AKP-MHP alliance that seeks to build and consolidate a dictatorial rule in the country.

Hişyar Özsoy
Vice Co-chair of the HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs
MP for Diyarbakır
31 March 2019