Turkish authorities replace four pro-Kurdish mayors with government appointees

The government in Turkey has appointed officials to replace four mayors from the country’s largest pro-Kurdish party who have been accused of links to terrorism, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

The four district mayors, all from southeastern provinces with a majority Kurdish population, follow more than a dozen other mayors from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who have been stripped of their positions since the local elections on March 31.

Belgin Diken of Diyarbakır province’s Yenişehir district is being investigated on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation, while Ahmet Çelik of the province’s Hazro district is being investigated both for membership of and making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.

Songül Erden of Şırnak province’s İdil district is accused of membership of a terrorist organisation. Orhan Çelebi, the mayor of Tunceli province’s Mazgirt district, is being investigated for making terrorist propaganda.

All four mayors’ duties have been assigned to government appointed district governors.

The HDP mayors are the latest to face legal action for alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey, the United States and European Union all list as a terrorist organisation. The PKK has fought Turkish security forces for Kurdish autonomy since 1984.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government once courted Kurdish voters, starting a peace process with the PKK in 2013. However, it has aggressively cracked down on the country’s Kurdish political movement since the peace process broke down in 2015, launching legal action against hundreds of Kurdish politicians, activists and journalists it accuses of links to the PKK.