Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in a number of provinces across Turkey to demonstrate against the recent replacement of three Kurdish mayors with state-appointed officials in the country’s southeast, pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency (MA) reported on Sunday.
The protests occurred on the World Peace Day, which is celebrated by Kurdish and leftist groups in Turkey on September 1, while it is observed around the world on September 21.
Last month Turkey’s ruling AK Party (AKP) government dismissed Diyarbakir Mayor Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Mardin Mayor Ahmet Turk and Van Mayor Bedia Ozgokce Ertan from their offices over suspected terror links.
All three mayors were elected after the March 31 local election from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP), each garnering between 53 and 63 percent of the votes in their provinces.
Their removal sparked reactions and criticisms from across Turkey and around the world against the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as more than 400 people were detained within the scope of the same terror investigation.
During Sunday’s rallies in numerous provinces that include Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Diyarbakir, and Van, the crowds jointly said that appointing officials to replace democratically elected mayors amounts to a state-led attack against the political will of each person in Turkey.
The protest in Istanbul’s Kartal district saw the attendance of thousands of people, including representatives from many non-governmental organizations, lawmakers from the main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish HDP as well as Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK)’s co-spokesperson Sedat Senoglu.
Among the MPs who joined the event was Saruhan Ulac, Fatma Kurtulan, Huda Kaya, Zuleyha Gulum and Zeynel Ozel from HDP and Mahmut Oral, Sezgin Tanrikulu and Ali Seker from CHP as well as HDP Istanbul co-chairs Cengiz Cicek and Esengul Demir and CHP Istanbul chairperson Canan Kaftancioglu.
A message sent by ousted Mardin mayor Turk was read as a joint statement during the rally by Sebnem Korur Fincanci, president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) and author Orhan Alkaya.
“We all know that peace, justice, equality, and freedom will prevail because of the determination, persistence, organized stance and struggle of those who protected their [political] will and did not hand it over to the trustees [state-appointed officials],” Turk underlined in the message.
“In our country, the sound of war and guns drown out the voices of poverty, hunger, unemployment, the tragedy faced by the refugees and femicides,” the parties said in the statement.
Turk argued that the appointment of trustees is Erdogan’s way to punish HDP and its supporters for not voting for him in March’s local polls and also an attempt at winning back what he had lost in that election.
Criticizing the opposition for not showing the necessary amount of reaction against AKP’s removal of mayors, Turk further said the opposition’s reducing its reaction to mere harsh words encourages Erdogan and his crew, “who winks and shakes a finger at Istanbul [to threaten the province’s mayor with dismissal].”
Emphasizing that the multi-directional struggle against “one-man rule” in Turkey will be vital in the upcoming period of time.
“We will protect our vote, [political] will, lives and brotherhood. We know that we can repel these attacks if we stand together.”
Thousands, among them HDP MPs Filiz Kerestecioglu and Mithat Sancar and CHP’s Ankara lawmaker Yildirim Kaya, also came together in front of the Ataturk Culture Center in Ankara’s Altindag district on Sunday.
The joint statement against the appointment of trustees in Diyarbakir, Mardin, and Van provinces was read by Tayfun Gorgun, Ankara representative of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK).
“Today, the struggle for peace is more important than ever [in Turkey]. Because in this geography, using the word peace is seen [by political authorities] as a crime while the word war is blessed,” the statement explained.
“The destiny and future of the political power rest on its war policies. Turkey tilts toward an absolute dictatorship with its discourse of war and conflict, the polarization of people through nationalism and racism and suspension of all democratic rights.”
Highlighting that suspension of mayors is an anti-democratic practice and a coup against the political will of people, protesters in the Turkish capital further expressed their demand that the “Kurdish problem, one of the main issues in Turkey, be solved through democracy and peace and not war policies.”
Sezai Temelli, the co-chair of HDP, participated in the protest held in the Kurdish-majority province of Diyarbakir, where there has been an ongoing protest against the ousting of mayors last month.
“We have been resisting for 14 days. We were faced with a coup in this country 14 days ago. This government has lost all its legitimacy by signing its name to this unlawfulness,’’ BBC Turkish quoted Temelli as saying.