We call on the British Government to demand the immediate release of the Diyarbakir co-mayors Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli along with all elected Kurdish officials.

Dear Foreign Secretary

You have shown a determination to develop closer relations between Britain and Turkey since becoming foreign secretary. You have expressed strong support for Turkish democracy in the wake of the failed coup.

In view of this, we feel that you will be concerned at the latest alarming news about the arrests of elected Kurdish politicians and the threat that this poses to the country’s democratic integrity.

The Co-Mayors of Diyarbakir, Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli, were arrested in a Turkish police operation on 25 October during a new crackdown on elected officials of the municipalities in the Kurdish southeast of the country. Numerous other senior officials have also been arrested in what is part of a continuing clampdown on democracy and civil rights.

The arrests are seen as a particular provocation by Kurds because of their seniority and the position of the city as the regional capital. The arrests are an affront to the whole Kurdish people.

The Turkish government appears to be engaged in a systematic onslaught on all democratic institutions within the Kurdish region putting the whole structure of local government in jeopardy.

The Kurdish municipalities which have first endured military siege and physical assault now see their institutions and democratic processes progressively dismantled. Elected representatives are being summarily ejected from office no doubt to be replaced by government appointees.

This surely is a serious infringement of democracy. We urge you to send a strong message of protest to the Turkish authorities that this cannot be allowed to continue without repercussions.

The Kurds have repeatedly voted in successive elections for candidates who best represent their political interests and their political choices need to be respected. It is obvious that their choice of leaders has not pleased Erdogan, but now the people are facing collective punishment for exercising the democratic rights that we all take for granted.

By carrying out these arrests, Turkey is attempting to implement its long-term aim of dismantling the political strongholds of the Kurds in their municipalities and it has targeted their regional capital Diyarbakir.

The AKP has always had its sights firmly set on eroding that bedrock of support and this is the latest measure in a brutal crackdown to force the Kurdish communities into submission.

These punitive measures should not be confused with the actions taken against those accused of complicity in the coup plot, the alleged “Gulenists” and their associates. The Kurds were no party to that failed coup.

What is clear is that President Erdogan is far exceeding his powers to the extent of endangering the fundamentals of democracy. It is surely quite ironic that Erdogan who was the target of an attempt to circumvent Turkey’s democracy only a few months ago now himself poses the greatest threat to that same democracy.

But alarm bells should have been ringing long before the failed coup when Erdogan abandoned the peace process with the Kurds. The latest mass arrests and pending prosecutions add yet more victims to the countless numbers of Kurdish politicians and activists who have been incarcerated or suffered even worse fates.

The dangers of allowing President Erdogan a free rein to do virtually what he wants in the country are too great and urgent for Turkey’s allies to remain passive and silent. The country is being transformed out of recognition and is turning into a virtual prison for its Kurdish population.

Peace and security cannot be restored by such flagrant injustice and by wounding an entire people. Kurds are outraged at these arrests and it impossible that they will quietly accept these attacks on respected leaders.

These events strike at the very heart of what it means to be a democracy whose lifeblood is popular consent. Elected members who are trusted and reflect the will of the people is what a democracy is all about. When a government wages war on those who have been freely elected, there is something profoundly wrong with the system.

This issue demands you urgent attention as it is a threat to the fundamentals of democracy and justice.

It is a duty for those in high office to speak out against this systematic eradication of local democracy and blatant casting aside of the popular political choice of the local populous.

The British Government cannot sit by and let this happen. These deeply alarming events demand an urgent response. Only robust language of the kind that President Erdogan himself makes frequent use will make it crystal clear that this time he has gone too far. The future of democracy is at stake in Diyarbakir, in the entire Kurdish southeast region and the whole country.

We call on the British Government to demand the immediate release of the Diyarbakir co-mayors Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli along with all elected Kurdish officials.

We keenly await your response.

30 October, 2016


Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890

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