At least 10 people were detained and one pro-Kurdish parliamentarian was hospitalised on Sunday in the wake of a police crackdown in Istanbul against demonstrations over the removal of three mayors by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Kemal Bulbul was hospitalised following the protest in Istanbul’s Esenyurt Square where police used tear gas and rubber bullets against the protesters.
Apart from Bulbul, HDP lawmakers Kemal Murat Cepni, Saruhan Oluc, Necdet Ipekyuz, and Omer Ocalan participated in the Istanbul version of “Democracy Watch” sit-ins, along with another lawmaker Ali Seker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and seniors from craft unions.
Prior to the HDP-led sit-in, police surrounded the area, citing a governorate ban on meetings and demonstrations at the square.
Following the violent crackdown in which some were reportedly injured, some dispersed groups marched in the side streets, chanting slogans such as “Rights, law, justice! [Those] will come with the HDP!”
HDP’s Oluc made a brief statement thanking the craft unions which supported the sit-ins.
“We once again emphasize that they [the AKP] cannot put an end to [our] struggle for democracy and law. We are always together with the unions. We will further broaden this solidarity,” Oluc said.
In a written statement, the HDP Istanbul Provincial Office condemned the police crackdown and the mayoral replacements.
“We will not stay silent against the [AKP-appointed] trustees who will leave [one day]. No tyrannical methods can prevent us from our way. Our democratic acts will go on in a similar manner,” the statement read.
Last week, police also dispersed the protesters using rubber bullets and tear gas, who had gathered for the same reason at Esenyurt Square. Six people were detained during that protest.
At the time, five HDP lawmakers continued their sit-in following the police intervention thanks to their immunity from prosecution, vowing that the Istanbul sit-ins would continue until September 30.
On August 19, HDP’s three mayors – Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli in Diyarbakir, Ahmet Turk in Mardin, and Bedia Ozgokce Ertan in Van – were ousted by Turkey’s interior ministry, replacing them with governmental officials.
The decision also resulted in the detaining of 418 civilians, mainly municipal council members and employees from 29 different provinces across the country.
The removed mayors, who were elected in the March 31 local government elections, and the detained HDP members are under criminal investigation for alleged links to terrorism.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the HDP of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group which has waged a three-decade insurgency in the country.
Prior to the March 31 elections, the HDP’s 90 mayors had also been removed from their posts in the aftermath of a failed coup bid that targeted the AKP-led government on July 15, 2016, due to similar terror-related charges.
Most of the deposed mayors, including Mardin’s second-time deposed Turk, were again elected as mayors from the HDP ranks in the March 31 local elections.
Besides nation-wide protests, the the removals and detentions have drawn international criticism from various quarters, including the European Union.