Turkish courts have arrested several pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies and politicians including the party’s co-chairs since the July 15 abortive coup. The total number of HDP deputies under arrest is 11.
At least 72 co-mayors from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP) in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish regions have reportedly been removed from their posts and been replaced by trustees appointed by Ankara and at least 60 Kurdish co-mayors have been jailed on terrorism charges.
In recent months, Turkey has targeted so many Kurdish co-mayors and politicians that it is getting harder to keep track of who among them has been arrested, jailed and released – particularly as a result of the government’s violent crackdown on the Kurdish and opposition media in Turkey.
One of the arrested politicians is Mehmet Ali Aydin, the democratically elected mayor of Diyarbak?r’s Kayapinar district. Following the arrest of Aydin on December 6, former Kayapinar district governor Mustafa Kilic was appointed as trustee of the Kayapinar municipality.
Monument erected for Roboski victims in Diyarbak?r removed upon order from trustee
One of the first activities of Kilic was to remove a monument erected in 2013 in a public square in Diyarbak?r in memory of the victims of a massacre that took place on December 28, 2011 in the village of Roboski (Uludere) in the southeastern city of Sirnak. The massacre resulted when Turkish F-16 fighter-bombers launched a five-hour long airstrike killing 34 civilians, including 17 children, some of whom were as young as 12.
The monument, erected by Kayapinar municipality, was removed on January 7 by police officers. The monument featured a statue of a mother weeping for her sons, surrounded by rockets as well as the names of the 34 victims.
“The jihad express”
The Turkish government and the judicial system, however, have embraced a completely different stance towards Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) members or supporters in Turkey. Several reports have suggested that many fighters have made their way into Syria and Iraq via Turkey to join IS, al-Nusra and other Islamist groups in the region, and that Turkey has implicitly acquiesced to the infiltration of arms and other supplies for these groups.
ISIS members have reportedly been treated at Turkish hospitals. According to a 2015 “confidential” note by a Turkish chief of police, there are ISIS sleeper cell houses in seventy cities across Turkey.
Marc Pierini, former European Union ambassador to Turkey, referred to the country’s unchecked borders as “an open-door policy to jihadists. So much so that the flight from Istanbul to Gaziantep has been called “the jihad express.”
Clarion Project reported on April 26, 2016 that “in December, 2015, the German NDR and SWR TV channels produced footage documenting the slave trade being conducted by the Islamic State through a liaison office in the province of Gaziantep in Turkey, near the border with Syria.
“On April 17, 2016, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that the Gaziantep police department had raided the said office and found $310,000, many foreign (non-Turkish) passports and 1,768 pages of Arabic receipts that demonstrate the transfer of millions of dollars between Turkey and Syria.
“Six people were brought to court for their involvement in crimes including ‘being members of an armed terrorist organization.’ But the complainant, the Gaziantep Bar Association, was not even invited to attend the hearings that lasted for only 16 days.”
Turkey’s raw material supply to ISIS
Tolga Tanis, Hurriyet’s Washington, D.C. representative, wrote in December that Turkey has been exporting potassium and ammonium nitrates to Syria in increasing amounts since the start of the civil war in 2011.
Tanis mostly based his article on a report by the Conflict Armament Research (CAR) titled “Tracing the Supply of Components Used in Islamic State IEDs” which was released in February. The report states that Turkey is among the countries which supply raw materials used in explosives by the Islamic State.
Tanis wrote that since the Turkish exporting company and government institutions including the ministry of agriculture refused to provide further information, he could not continue to track the supply of potassium nitrate to ISIS in Mosul.
Pro-government media outlets in Turkey immediately targeted Tanis after his report concerning Turkey’s alleged raw materials supply to ISIS was posted in Hurriyet. Tanis was removed from his post and replaced on January 10 by Cansu Camlibel, a pro-government journalist.
The government of Turkey, which is a candidate for EU membership, seems to have a very “unusual” understanding of what constitutes a crime and who a criminal is: ISIS members who behead people or rape and sell children and women are not considered criminals who threaten everyone, including Turks. But Kurds – including their peaceful, democratically-elected mayors and villagers – are “criminals” or “terrorists” and even the monuments that are reminders of the tragedies they have endured must be destroyed.