Turkey removes 28 mayors over PKK or Gulen links
Istanbul // Turkey on Sunday removed 28 mayors and replaced them with state-appointed trustees in a major shake-up under emergency powers invoked after a failed coup.
Twenty-four of the mayors were suspended from their posts on suspicion of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is waging a deadly insurgency in the south-east. The other four are suspected of ties to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for the July 15 coup attempt. He denies the charge.
The move is the most important step by new interior minister Suleyman Soylu since he was appointed in a surprise cabinet reshuffle earlier this month.
Mr Soylu said the move meant that local municipalities would no longer be controlled by “terrorists or those under instructions from Qandil”, referring to the PKK’s mountain base in northern Iraq.
The move was taken within the three-month state of emergency imposed after the coup. The incumbents had been elected in 2014 local polls.
The municipalities affected – mainly in the Kurdish-dominated south-east – include important urban areas known as centres of PKK activity such as Sur and Silvan in the Diyarbakir region and Nusaybin in the Mardin region.
The mayors of the cities of Batman and Hakkari in the south-east have also been replaced. The interior ministry said 12 of the mayors suspended were already under arrest.
Three of the 28 officials belong to the ruling Justice and Development Party, one to the Nationalist Movement Party and the rest to the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, or HDP.
The HDP condemned the appointments as a “coup by trustees” that was reminiscent of the military takeover of 1980 and “ignored the will of the voters”.
“This unlawful and arbitrary action will only deepen existing problems in Kurdish towns and cause the Kurdish issue to be even more unsolvable,” the party said.
Addressing the nation on Sunday for the Eid Al Adha holiday, president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was determined to “save Turkey from the PKK scourge”.
“Like the Gulen movement, the PKK cannot possibly withstand the power of the people and the strength of the state,” he said.
The mayors have been replaced by Ankara-appointed deputy and district governors, who took up their new posts Sunday morning. Security forces took up positions outside the affected municipal offices.
The private Dogan news agency reported that a group of about 200 people gathered in front of city hall in Suruc to protest the appointments and were dispersed with tear gas and water cannons.
Four people, including a deputy mayor, were briefly detained in a minor skirmish outside city hall in Hakkari. Co-mayor Fatma Yildiz, who was replaced on Sunday morning, said the decision was “a blow against the will of the people”, Dogan reported.
Turkish media reported internet and electricity were cut in the affected cities in the morning, but no official reason has been given.
* Agence France-Press and Associated Press
Published: September 11, 2016 04:00 AM