Kurdish mayors face terrorism charges for providing aid to migrants

A prosecutor in Turkey’s eastern province of Van cited blankets given to refugees and irregular migrants as evidence of aiding and abetting terrorism in the indictment against the İpekyolu district’s co-mayors, Turkish news site Gazete Duvar reported on Thursday.

İpekyolu co-mayors Şehsade Kurt and Azim Yacan of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were detained on November 8, and arrested three days later. District governor Sinan Aslan was appointed as a replacement by the government.

The indictment against Kurt and Yacan said co-mayors gave the blankets in question theoutlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been involved in an armed conflict with Turkey for over three decades, citing a secret witness testimony, Gazete Duvar said.

Due to its position on Turkey’s border with Iran, the Van province hosts many irregular migrants, who end up sleeping on the streets or in derelict buildings.

HDP’s İpekyolu municipality under co-mayors Yacan and Kurt distributed blankets to the migrants sleeping in the bus station, and provided daily hot meals and fresh fruits for 500 people as part of the Social Works Department’s aid efforts, the news site said.

Turkish police captured some 23,000 irregular migrants in the province in 2019 alone, and the last decade saw 400,000 migrants taken into custody, Gazete Duvar said citing official data.

Yacan was the 16th HDP mayor to be replaced by government appointees since the March local elections, out of a total of 32 mayors to date.