Why did Turkey replace 28 mayors with trustees?

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Why did Turkey replace 28 mayors with trustees?

2016-09-13 10:09 BST
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Turkey removed 28 elected mayors who are reported to have links to terror groups PKK and FETO, and appointed trustees instead of them

HDP deputy Tugba Hezer (circled red) attending a PKK funeral

On 11 September 2016, Turkey's Interior Ministry announced that the government replaced 28 mayors with state-appointed trustees as part of its fight against both the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)* and the Fetullahist Terror Organization (FETO)**.

While the majority of the removed mayors belonged to the HDP, three mayors were from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and one mayor was from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Mayors of the AK Party and the MHP were removed because of their links to FETO, according to the ministry's statement.

No mayors of the Republican People's Party (CHP), the main opposition party, were removed.

When asked about the removal decision, the MHP's leader Devlet Bahceli was quoted as saying "The accomplishment is correct if the point of the operation against these municipalities is the fight against terrorism – even if an MHP municipality is at stake."

24 mayors who were accused of supporting or aiding the PKK belonged to the HDP. The following incidents indicate that HDP municipality workers have been involved in supporting in PKK:

  1. "Van police department announced that the police forces seized 100 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 26 detonators and 20 large batteries that are used in bomb making from a truck owned by the Van municipality," TRT World reported.

  2. The HDP Van deputy Tugba Hezer attended the funeral of a suicide bomber who killed 29 civilians in Ankara. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the Republican People's Party and the Nationalist Movement Party together condemned Hezer.

  3. In Van's Ipekyolu district, 38 kg ammonium nitrate and 160 g A4-typed explosives were placed by the PKK on a road which students used to go to school. It was later found out that the HDP municipality helped the PKK militants to cover the trap by putting paving stones on it.

  4. Police raided a culture center in Sirnak's Idil province where a funeral organization was held for PKK militants killed in clashes with the Turkish army. The HDP municipality's co-chairs Muhdi Aslan and Nevin Oyman attended the organization as well.

  5. HDP officials, including the co-chairs of Kayapinar and Baglar provinces and a provincial co-chair, attended the funeral of a suicide bomber who killed six policemen and six civilians in Vezneciler, Istanbul. The coffin was swathed in a PKK flag.

  6. Police conducted a raid on the HDP's Sirnak municipality and found 19 howitzers and a pistol in the office.

  7. It was discovered after the attack on Cevizlik Gendarmerie Station in Mardin's Artuklu province, which claimed the lives of two soldiers, that the truck that carried the explosives belonged to the HDP's Mazidagi municipality.

Three more mayors were from the ruling AK Party while one mayor belonged to the Turkish nationalist opposition MHP. When asked about the removal decision, MHP's leader Devlet Bahceli was quoted as saying that "What is done is correct if these municipalities were considered within the scope of the fight against terrorism – even if an MHP municipality is at stake."

*The PKK is a Marxist-Leninist militant organization – listed as terrorist group by Turkey, the US, NATO and the EU – that seeks to impose its ideology on Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southeast.

**FETO, led by US-based cult leader Fetullah Gulen, is the suspected launcher of the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey, whose members are commonly reported to have infiltrated the Turkish state for decades.