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Turkish Interior Ministry Detains Dozens Following Protests Over Van Mayor Election Dispute

Gulan Media April 3, 2024 News
Turkish Interior Ministry Detains Dozens Following Protests Over Van Mayor Election Dispute

Turkey's interior ministry has announced the detention of approximately 90 individuals across the nation on allegations of affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), amidst escalating tensions following a court ruling invalidating the candidacy of the elected mayor of Van. The crackdown comes in the wake of protests supporting the ousted mayor, triggering widespread condemnation and accusations of disregarding democratic processes.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya revealed that 89 arrests were made for participating in unauthorized demonstrations and voicing support for the PKK, which the government labels as a separatist terrorist organization. The protests erupted following a controversial decision by the Van branch of the electoral body, disqualifying the winning candidate Abdullah Zeydan and awarding the mayoralty to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) nominee, Abdulahat Arvas.

Most of the detainees hailed from Kurdish-majority cities such as Van, Hakkari, Siirt, Batman, and Sirnak, as well as from Izmir on Turkey's west coast. The crackdown coincided with the Van governorate's prohibition on public gatherings, protests, and demonstrations for a period of 15 days.

Zeydan, the invalidated mayoral candidate, condemned the decision as a betrayal of the people's will, asserting that it targeted not only him but also the Kurdish community and the residents of Van. His sentiment was echoed by opposition figures and civil rights activists, including Ozgur Ozel, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), which secured victory in Sunday's local elections.

Ozel criticized the decision to install the AKP candidate as mayor, highlighting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's earlier statement pledging respect for election outcomes. The Istanbul Bar Association joined the chorus of dissent, denouncing the move as evidence of political power disregarding popular mandates.

The Democratic Regions Party (DEM) expressed rejection of the electoral board's decision and vowed to challenge the invalidation of Zeydan's candidacy, alleging a deliberate effort to subvert the people's choice.

The dispute over the Van mayoral election underscores deep-seated political tensions in Turkey, particularly concerning Kurdish rights and democratic governance. As protests continue and arrests mount, concerns persist regarding the erosion of democratic norms and the suppression of dissenting voices in the country.

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