Kurdish MPs threaten Turkish parliament boycott after mayors seized

Supporters of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party during a demonstration. The HDP denies any link to terrorism. (Reuters/File)
Updated 20 November 2019

Kurdish MPs threaten Turkish parliament boycott after mayors seized

ANKARA: The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is considering withdrawing its MPs from Turkey’s Parliament in protest at the government’s dismissal of four district mayors over the weekend.

The removal of the Kurdish local leaders on terrorism charges brings the total number dismissed since the March 31 local elections to 24, with some also imprisoned.

HDP lawmakers, mayors and local officials are expected to discuss a parliamentary boycott at a meeting on Wednesday in Ankara.

Removal of the Kurdish mayors has drawn widespread international criticism.

The move is seen as a violation of the right to political participation and free elections under the European Convention on Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Alice Kuhnke, a member of European Parliament for the Greens/European Free Alliance, said that the arrest of Kurdish mayors and political opponents is part of a wider attempt to silence political opponents, even those democratically elected.

SPEEDREED

• The removal of the Kurdish local leaders on terrorism charges brings the total number dismissed since the March 31 local elections to 24, with some also imprisoned.

• HDP lawmakers, mayors and local officials are expected to discuss a parliamentary boycott at a meeting on Wednesday in Ankara.

• Removal of the Kurdish mayors has drawn widespread international criticism.resignation.

“It is based on questionable laws and put in place to undermine the judiciary in order for the regime to control and keep an executive overview of court rulings — this has nothing to do with independent judiciary,” she told Arab News.

Kuhnke said the campaign against the Kurdish mayors highlights a systematic breakdown of judicial independence and rule of law.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has criticized the HDP over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the US and EU.

HDP, whose former co-leaders have both been jailed on terrorism charges for three years, denies any link.

Kuhnke said the HDP’s threat to withdraw from Parliament “is a desperate, yet understandable, sign of frustration and anger over actions taken by the regime toward the party and its members and supporters.”

Local governors who were dismissed are from eastern and southeastern provinces, especially from Diyarbakir, Van and Mardin, three largest Kurdish regions.

They were removed during and after Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria against the YPG Kurdish militia.

HDP’s opposition to the Turkish offensive, which it has described as “an invasion,” is also considered a factor in the move.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, director of Human Rights Watch Turkey, said the removal and jailing of HDP mayors accelerated after Turkey’s military incursion into northeast Syria.

“The signs are that this is a government policy to deny any distinction between the HDP and the PKK, and to crush lawful and legitimate political association supported by hundreds of thousands of people in the southeast,” she told Arab News.

“There are signs, too, that the presidency is pushing to strip 12 HDP MPs of their immunity and to target them. Dismissing and jailing politicians on bogus terrorism charges will solve nothing.”

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US blasts Houthis over ‘ticking time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea

Updated 10 August 2020

US blasts Houthis over ‘ticking time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea

  • Iran-backed militias renege on agreement to allow UN inspectors aboard stricken vessel holding 1.4 million barrels of oil

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The US blasted Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen on Sunday for reneging on a deal to allow UN teams to board a rusting oil storage vessel that threatens an environmental disaster in the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. It fell into Houthi hands in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The Houthis briefly bowed to pressure last month and agreed to allow a team of UN engineers to visit the ship, before changing their minds and restating their previous demands for the revenue from the oil. As the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

“The Houthis have failed to follow through on their agreement to allow a UN team on to the Safer,” the White House National Security Council said on Sunday.

“They are courting environmental and humanitarian disaster by obstructing and delaying. For the good of Yemen and the region, the Houthis must allow the UN aboard the Safer.”

A recent water leak into the tanker’s engine prompted warnings of a major disaster.

“The time has come for a resolute response for an outcome,” the Yemen Embassy in Washington said on Sunday. 

“There cannot be more delays or deliberations. UN inspectors must immediately access and assess the Safer oil tanker even without Houthi permission.”

The UK echoed its concerns. “There is another floating disaster off the Yemeni coast with potentially as massive an ecological footprint as the shockwave that engulfed Beirut,” former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said. “The politics preventing safe evacuation of the oil must stop immediately.”