Turkey’s Interior Ministry appointed trustees to replace 32 elected Kurdish mayors in 2019, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on Wednesday, citing a report drafted by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
The HDP report also said a total of 4,567 party members were detained throughout the year and that 797 of them were arrested.
The detentions and arrests notably increased during the month of March, at the end of which Turkey held countrywide local elections, with 683 detentions and 102 arrests.
August 2019 represented another high point in the crackdown, with the Interior Ministry ousting the elected mayors of three large Kurdish cities — Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin — and authorities detaining 1,000 people and arresting 418.
The report also noted that Turkey launched a cross-border military incursion into Kurdish-held areas in northern Syria, which prompted new waves of detentions and arrests over anti-war protests organized by the party as well as investigations into 839 people over social media posts.
The practice of replacing elected mayors through appointment of government trustees on “counterterrorism” grounds in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast started during Turkey’s two-year state of emergency in the wake of an unsuccessful military coup attempt in July 2016.
Kurdish politicians, particularly members of the HDP, are often accused by Turkish government officials of having ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an insurgent group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as the European Union and the US.
Many of the ousted HDP mayors later faced terrorism-related criminal prosecutions.
The armed clashes between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK picked up in the summer of 2015 after a brief pause during which the two sides held peace talks.