As Turkish forces entered northeast Syria to expel US-backed Kurdish forces, seven mayors with the nation’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested and replaced by state-appointed trustees.
The developments bring the total number of HDP mayors detained and removed from office to 12 since the March 31 municipal elections, increasing pressure on the party and raising concerns democratic representation is being suppressed in the nation’s Kurdish-majority southeast.
“Turkey is waging a war on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border,” Hisyar Ozsoy, deputy co-chair of foreign affairs for the HDP, told Al-Monitor. He went on, “While they are attacking Kurds in Syria, trying to undermine the possibility of autonomous Kurdish self-administration, they are simultaneously increasing the pressure on Kurdish politicians at home here in Turkey, so these are two sides of the same coin.”
The detained officials have been charged with making propaganda for and membership of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which state officials claim is closely linked to the HDP political structure. While most allegations stem from the prosecuted mayors’ past activities, human rights advocates have questioned the timing of their detention as Turkish forces conducted an offensive on PKK-linked groups in Syria.