ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey has replaced mayors in a south-eastern Kurdish majority town with a state official, the Pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) said, amid a home crackdown on criticism of the Ankara offensive. in Syria.
The HDP said five of its co-mayors in the Kurdish majority cities of Hakkari, Yuksekova and Nusaybin were arrested on Thursday. Two other Ercis district mayors were arrested earlier this week and remain in custody, the newspaper said.
Turkey launched an offensive against dissent in most Kurdish areas following its attack on Kurdish-controlled parts of neighboring Syria. The protests were halted with tear gas and dozens of people arrested for criticizing the online military campaign.
The HDP rules many cities in southeastern Turkey, mainly Kurdish. He usually assigns a male and female co-mayor to promote gender equality.
Semire Nergiz and Ferhat Kut, Nusaybin's co-mayors, were accused of being members of a terrorist organization and replaced by a state-appointed administrator on Friday, the HDP reported.
Yuksekova's co-mayors, Remziye Yasar and Irfan Sari, were arrested for their interviews, columns and social media posts. It was not immediately clear what Hakkari Mayor Cihan Kahraman was accused of.
State news agency Anadolu said on Friday local administrators had been appointed to replace mayors in Yuksekova and Hakkari.
Nusaybin is a Syrian border town in southeastern Mardin province, while Hakkari and Yuksekova are situated on the border with Iran. Nusaybin was targeted by cross-border attacks during the operation, with a mortar and rocket attack by Kurdish militants last week killing eight people and injuring 35 others.
Friday's measures came just hours after Turkey agreed with the United States to stop its offensive in Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a planned "safe zone" in northeastern Syria.
Although most of Turkey's opposition parties have supported the offensive against the YPG Syrian militia, the HDP has called for it to stop, describing it as an "invasion attempt". The HDP says the operation was an attempt by the government to raise support amid declining public support.
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Former pro-Kurdish HDP co-leaders have been arrested since 2016 on terrorism charges, with several other prominent members accused of supporting terrorism because of what the government says are links to the banned PKK insurgent movement. HDP denies supporting the PKK. (Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Ali Kucukgocmen)