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.
“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.”