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Turkey: MRG condemns detention of Diyarbakir co-mayors

26 October 2016

The detention of Gültan Kışanak and Firat Anli, the co-mayors of Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality on Tuesday, 25 October 2016, is a very serious violation of human rights and further undermines any hope of a peaceful settlement to Turkey’s Kurdish conflict, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG).

‘The detention of Diyarbakir’s co-mayors is a very serious blow to human rights,’ comments Carl Söderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy & Communications. ‘At stake are the Kurdish people’s right to elect their own representatives, the right for Kurds to be elected to public office and their right to political participation.’

Kışanak is a prominent former member of Parliament, before becoming Diyarbakir’s first woman mayor in 2014. Along with Anli, her co-mayor, they were taken into custody on Tuesday. They are both members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP). Kışanak had just returned home from Ankara and was arrested at the airport after having testified before a parliamentary commission looking into the failed July coup attempt.

According to a statement by the prosecutor, the two co-mayors are accused of links with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).  The detentions follow the removal of 28 elected mayors of Kurdish-majority towns and their replacement by government-appointed trustees in September – a move that led to widespread demonstrations. However, so far, the Ministry of Interior has found no evidence to link DBP-led municipalities with the PKK, but the supression still continues.

‘Diyarbakir is one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey and the country’s biggest Kurdish-majority municipality,’ Söderbergh notes. ‘The arrest of its co-mayors is therefore hugely significant and will undoubtedly lead to a further escalation in the conflict. MRG therefore calls for the urgent release of Gültan Kışanak and Firat Anli and a renewed focus by all sides on dialogue.’

Turkey rose 19 places in MRG’s Peoples under Threat 2016 survey, which ranks countries where communities are most under threat of mass killing or genocide.

Notes to editors

Photo: Members of the Kurdish minority in Turkey. Saeed was just 23 years-old and had been the sole breadwinner in his family. He was a Yazidi Kurd – a religious minority group. He was killed trying to return to his village in Iraq’s north-west region to help others who weren’t able to flee soon after it had come under attack by troops from the militant group, ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant). His widow, Khalil, is struggling to look after her three young children, the youngest just four months old, and shares one room with 16 members from her extended family in a bare, unheated building that once served as a military barracks in a desolate coal mining area in Şırnak province, south-eastern Turkey. Credit: Caroline Gluck/EU/ECHO. Published on Flickr under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).