People who took to the streets in several provinces of Turkey to protest against the ousting of three elected Kurdish mayors after five months in the office were dispersed by police using water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The Turkish government early on Monday replaced three pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) mayors in Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces with interim state officials because of the mayors’ alleged terror links.
More than 400 people were detained as mayors Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Ahmet Turk and Bedia Ozgokce Ertan from Diyarbakir, Mardin, and Van provinces were removed from office in an Ankara-led move that has been sharply criticized by opposition parties.
Diyarbakir Governor Hasan Basri Guzeloglu, Mardin Governor Mustafa Yaman and Van Governor Mehmet Emin Bilmez were appointed to the posts of the ousted, democratically elected trio.
Turkey’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that currently there are nine investigations focused on Mizrakli, six on Turk and seven on Ertan, who came to office following March 31 local government elections, garnering between 54 and 63 percent of the vote in their respective elections.
In Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir, the riot police repeatedly used a water cannon on small groups of protesters and struck them with batons as they fled the area of the protest, which was near the city hall that is sealed off by metal barriers.
Another group of protesters, which was cornered by police officers in front of the provincial building of HDP in Diyarbakir, was reportedly attacked by the police who used batons on them.
After the violent police intervention with batons, which reportedly continued even after the protesters started to fall to the ground, pro-Kurdish HDP lawmakers Semra Guzel and Gulistan Kilic Kocyigit were sent to a hospital for treatment.
The HDP officials said in a tweet on the party’s official account that police intervention in front of HDP’s provincial building was a “public murder attempt.”
“Those who carried out this attack as well as those who ordered it have been committing a crime. Stop this barbarity, vandalism, an attempt at murder immediately,” they added.
CİNAYET GİRİŞİMİNİ DURDURUN!
Diyarbakır İl binamızın önünde milletvekillerimize yapılan saldırı alenen cinayet girişimidir. Bu saldırıyı yapanlar, emrini verenler suç işliyor. Bu barbarlığı, vandallığı, cinayet girişimini derhal durdurun. pic.twitter.com/odQ5Lm2S2U
— HDP (@HDPgenelmerkezi) August 20, 2019
Police officers also used rubber bullets to disperse a group of protesters in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district and detained a large number of them in the process, T24 news portal reported on Tuesday.
Another group of demonstrators, including mostly lawyers and HDP lawmakers, on Tuesday, gathered in front of the Caglayan Courthouse in Istanbul’s Sisli district so as to read a statement about the ousted Kurdish mayors.
The protesters reportedly faced a violent intervention by police, who tried to prevent them from reading the statement. HDP Istanbul MP Ahmet Sik was among those beaten by police officers during the intervention.
The three Kurdish mayors dismissed from their offices are accused of several crimes that include membership in a terrorist organization and spreading the propaganda of a terrorist group.
According to the ministry, the three were ousted because they allowed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to take advantage of the three municipalities for its “illegal purposes.”
They further said that an operation was launched against the PKK, an armed militant group that has waged insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984, with some 2,300 commandos on Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan frequently blames HDP for having links to the PKK militants and although the party denies such connections, a number of its members, including former co-chairs, are currently in prison over terror charges.
As part of a purge that came after a failed coup attempt in July 2016, dozens of HDP mayors were removed from their posts over similar accusations.