Pre-election crackdown on Turkey's pro-Kurdish parties

Wednesday and Friday morning saw a crackdown on members of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Democratic Regions Party (DBP) in the western city of Izmir and southeastern city of Van ahead of local elections in March, opposition media reported

Turkish police on Dec. 20 detained six members and heads of HDP's Izmir branch on the grounds of social media posts. The detainees will be taken to court on Friday, opposition daily Birgün said.

Another six opposition politicians were arrested in dawn raids by police in southeastern Van. Among them were Ökkeş Kava, the chairman of Van branch for the HDP’s sister-party the DBP, and Peace Mothers, an initiative of mothers of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters, Heme Akdoğan and Cahide Ölmez. 

The detainees in Van face charges of "making propaganda of a terrorist organisation" and "praising crime and criminals", according to pro-Kurdish Jinnews. 

Last week, HDP Co-Chair Serpil Kemalbay told Ahval the arrest of her party’s leaders and members of parliament was an attempt to silence the country’s Kurds. 

"There were numerous policies undertaken to reduce the HDP’s parliamentary representation, to bring down the HDP, to prevent the party from passing the 10 percent election threshold," Kemalbay said. 

Turkey will hold nationwide elections to choose local representatives for the country’s cities and districts on March 31. People will elect more than 20,000 officials, including mayors to city and district councils, including 30 large metropolitan areas.

In 2016, the government ordered the seizure of two dozen municipalities in the mainly-Kurdish southeast of the country, replacing elected mayors for alleged links to Kurdish militants with administrators. Selahattin Demirtaş, the head of the main Kurdish party, has been in jail since late 2016 for alleged support for the PKK.