Turkish authorities detained 19 people including two Kurdish deputy mayors in the northeastern province of Kars as part of a mass crackdown on Kurds during a “terrorism-related” operation, Turkish media reported on Thursday.
The detainees included local party heads from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and municipality council members in the province, the state-owned Anadolu news agency said.
The authorities blame 19 people for aiding Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members, attending their meetings, and operating under their orders.
Ongoing detentions and arrests against the #HDP in #Qers: This morning Turkish police have detained several HDP executives including the elected co-mayor of Qers Şevin Alaca. Qers Public Prosecutor’s Office has issued 19 arrest warrants (@MAturkce) #TwitterKurds pic.twitter.com/m6x6GsdJGd
— Cahîda Dêrsim (@dersi4m) October 1, 2020
Last week, the HDP mayor of Kars along with dozens of others were detained over protests in 2014 against an attack on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s government accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK militant group, leading to prosecutions of thousands of its members and some leaders. The HDP denies such links.
Since March 2019 local elections, mayors have been replaced by trustees in more than half of the roughly 65 municipalities won by the HDP. Ankara has appointed governors and other local authorities as trustees in those districts.
The former two co-leaders of the HDP, Selhattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, have both been jailed since 2016 on terrorism charges, with several other prominent party members accused of supporting terrorism over what the government says are links to the PKK.