Rennes and the Turkish city of Diyarbakir have been working together for more than 40 years. They built a friendship and shared common goals to develop sustainable projects at the service of their people. This is why the city has been following the arrests closely in Turkey and is speaking up to raise the alarm at the international level.
Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı was elected in March 2019 with 63% of votes to run Diyarbakır, but he barely made it into office as his function was suspended in August 2019 under charges of terrorism. He has been charged with being a Kurdistan Workers’ Party member and sentenced to nine years and four months of prison.
The former Diyarbakir Mayor, Gültan Kışanak, faced a similar situation back in 2016 when she was arrested on her way back from a meeting with the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in Bogota. In her stead, a government-appointed trustee took over the mayors’ functions. Although they had not been officially dissolved, they did not convene the local councils, effectively preventing them from functioning.
“Rennes will always be at your side in this fight,” wrote Nathalie Appéré, Mayor and President of Rennes Métropole, in a letter addressed to the UCLG calling to support the Turkish mayors’ case.
Mızraklı and Kışanak aren’t the only members of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) with such a story. Since 2016, around 40 mayors have been or are detained under similar charges. The systematic removal of democratically elected Kurdish mayors across south-eastern Turkey has been condemned and criticised by the European institutions, the UN and Human Rights Watch, saying it violates human rights and local democracy. An opinion shared by Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu who tweeted: “Ignoring the will of the people is unacceptable”.
“Being very committed to peace, respectful of human rights and convinced that only an open political dialogue will lead to a lasting solution of the Kurdish issue, I would like to draw the attention of my European local elected colleagues to the increasingly alarming situation of democratically elected representatives from the south-east of Turkey, as well as journalists, lawyers, opposition politicians and human rights defenders, whose imprisonment has multiplied in Turkey over the past years,” said Appéré. “This must stop, and we must denounce it.”
*Photo: Meeting between Gültan Kışanak, Mayor of Diyarbakir, and Nathalie Appéré, Mayor of Rennes. Rennes signed a collaboration engagement committing to helping Diyarbakir to welcome Yézidi refugees.