Invitation to join the Mayors for Mayors campaign

The crackdown on democratically elected Kurdish municipalities in Turkey has taken on an alarming dimension, undermining the whole notion of local democracy and contradicting all principles enshrined by international agreements on local governments. The ongoing crackdown has practically annulled the results of the March 2014 local elections; local democracy has been suspended.

To this date:

• In 77 municipalities the tasks and powers of the mayor, municipal assembly and municipal board have been taken over by one bureaucrat appointed by the central government (the so-called “trustee”).
• 89 Kurdish co-mayors have been arrested (37 of them being women).
• 152 co-mayors have been dismissed by the Ministry of Interior (76 of them being women).
• It has become impossible to keep track of the number of city council members in detention and/or under arrest, but it is in the hundreds.
• The powers of elected city councils have been suspended; city councils are unable to meet.
• Hundreds of municipal employees have lost their jobs.
• All Women Policy Departments, women’s centers and facilities have been closed in trustee-governed municipalities.
• Co-mayorship legislated by Municipal Assemblies, a milestone achievement of women to ensure gender equality, has been declared an illegal institution.
• Cities inhabited by a total of 6 million people are now being governed by state appointed bureaucrats instead of democratically elected mayors – a de facto annulment of local elections.
Given these increasingly dire circumstances, it is very urgent and crucial to build international solidarity among the global community of mayors and municipalities in defense of local democracy in Turkey. To this end the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the major component and sister party of the HDP, have decided to launch an international solidarity campaign worldwide, with the title of: Mayors for Mayors.

Participating mayors paired with imprisoned Kurdish mayors will engage in a variety of activities ranging from following their legal cases, attending their hearings, organizing visits to prisons to writing letters to our mayors, holding press meetings on the issue, raising public awareness, discussing the issue with their respective city councils and national governments, and communicating with Turkish authorities for the release of our mayors.
Please add your voice to the voices of Kurdish mayors and mayors worldwide in defense of local democracy and local government.

Looking forward to your reply.
Sincerely,

Hişyar Özsoy
Vice Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Relations
Member of Parliament

Ayşe Berktay
HDP Party Assembly Member Responsible for Women’s Diplomacy

For your questions, please contact Ms Ayşe Berktay: kurdishmayors@gmail.com or +905326740488

Brief Context:

Since the collapse of peace talks between the Turkish government and the Kurdish movement in April 2015, the anticipated process of democratization in Turkey has rapidly deteriorated into a process of growing authoritarianism. Kurdish municipalities and elected Kurdish mayors and council members have been a primary target of these authoritarian policies.
The government began to detain and arrest Kurdish co-mayors and city council members on a massive scale after the general elections on June 7, 2015. But with the declaration of a nation-wide state of emergency rule in July 2016 and the ensuing regime of government decrees with the power of law, the crackdown has taken a radical turn. As per the first of these government decrees, Decree No 674 dated 25 August 2016, centrally appointed governors and district governors have taken over 65 Kurdish municipalities to this date, and this number is set to increase if not prevented.
Kurdish municipalities have worked to develop local democracy by implementing policies that enhance gender equality, promote political and cultural pluralism, strengthen participatory democracy, develop cooperative solutions for socio-economic justice, and resolve ecological problems. Our local communities who elected these local governments had voted for these policies. It is the political will and choice of the local electorate that is being overridden by the centrally appointed state bureaucrats, who have taken under their total control all municipal services, human and financial resources, centers, social programs and projects and now they are in the process of cancelling them one after the other.
Mr. Frédéric Vallier, secretary general of the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR), has underlined the graveness of the situation in a letter relaying the concerns of European local government associations to Turkish authorities, which states that the arrest, dismissal and/or replacement of Kurdish mayors by central government bureaucrats is clearly “against the core principles of the European Charter of Local Autonomy (ECLA) and the essence of local democracy.”
Please find attached some documents and reports to provide you with a better understanding of the overall situation of Kurdish municipalities.
Attached: 

1. Information Note on the Regime of Trustees
2. Report on Local Governments and Appointment of Trustees to Municipalities
3. Report on Women in Local Administrations and Appointment of Trustees to the Municipalities
4. List: Kurdish Mayors in Prison
5. List: Appointed Trustees and Municipalities