Mr. Jean-Claude FRÉCON
President, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Council of Europe
Strasbourg / France
15th October 2015,
Dear President of the Congress,
Dear Distinguished Members,
First of all, I would like to extend our regrets for not being presented with one of our collegues in this quite important and specific session where the 30th Years of European Charter of Local Self-Government will also be celebrated. In a time where we are passing through a very difficult process from many aspects, I would like to send greetings and regards to the Congress on behalf of all my colleagues.
On 14th of October, we got a notice from the District Governor of Van stating that Ms. Aygül Bidav, Co-Mayor of İpekyolu and member of our political party DBP, was suspended from the Mayorship of İpekyolu due to one of the press release (declaration of self-organisation) that she participated in. Actually, it is not a new thing for us. It has been more than 4 months that we are seriously face to face with the oppression of the central government and its local extensions. I write this letter to draw a picture of all these oppressions and violations our region is subjected to.
Dear President and colleagues,
The spiral of violence that Turkey has been in since the General Elections of June 7, 2015 affects deeply every moment of our lives and continues to cause irreparable damages. The event caused 34 young people to lost their lives in Suruç on 20th of July; the operations, arrests, curfews, murder of civilians in the middle of streets by the snipers which started on 24th of July and escalates every day and identifying the murdered children – including 7 years old ones- as terrorists have brought the daily life to a standstill in every place that Kurdish people live in. Finally, the bomb attacks which caused the death of 105 people in the Peace Rally in Ankara on October 10th have increased our deep concerns about the future of a democratic Turkey.
Hereby, I’d like to share a summary of the state of play of our local administrations:
22 Co-mayors from our political party were suspended/ dismissed by an appointed Minister of Interior of an interim government. Our 35 collegues including 18 mayors, 2 Chairs of Provincial Councils (Batman and Iğdır) and 15 city council members were arrested. There are search warrants for 6 co-mayors. 3 of our mayors are under the supervised release while one of them is sentenced with the house confinement with an electronic bracelet.
After the General Election of 7th of June, more than 3000 members of our political party were detained and approximately 500 of them were arrested. 16 municipal council members and both co-mayors of Batman Municipality have been suspended.
Another important thing that I would like to state is the huge number of our women co-mayors that have been arrested and/or suspended. In this process, 10 women co-mayors had been arrested. The reason why so many women co-mayors are arrested is that the male dominated central government can’t stand the women to be co-mayors and take place in administrative positions. The arrest of our women co-mayors, their exile to the prisons far away from their home towns, verbal and physical abuses, threats and naked search that they came face to face during their detentions, all these things show us that there is a systematic and specific policy against women.
In some cities and districts where we serve as local administrators, the self-organisation declarations, which were declared with the common agreement of the local people’s assemblies, civil society organisations, civil initiatives and local administrations within the framework of decentralization principles as a civil act against the pressure of the state, operations and civilian deaths, have been faced with the disproportionate violence of the state. This disproportionate violence implemented towards the local people in many cities and districts notably in Cizre, Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Dargeçit, Sirnak, Hakkari, Yüksekova, Şemdinli, Varto and Bismil had concluded with the death of many civilians and high human rights violations. According to the Human Rights Association’s report published on October 9th, 113 civilians lost their lives and hundreds were wounded just between 24 July and 9th of October.
I would like to submit only a few samples of serious human rights violations in our region, which are untenable for people living in this geography.
The state had declared curfews for days in our local areas where the declaration of self-organisation was announced. For instance in Cizre, the curfew lasted 8 days/ 24 hours. During these curfews, local people were prevented from covering their fundamental needs such as food and water. Energy lines as well as communication tools such as internet and telephones were blocked. No one, even the Ministers, Members of Parliament or human rights associations’ representatives, was allowed to enter these areas
In Cizre, a 70 years old man was shot by a sniper when he went out to buy bread and his body remained in the street for 3 days due to curfew. A 10-year-old girl, Cemile Cizir Cağırga, lost her life during the conflict; however, because of the curfew her family couldn’t go out and bury her. Her mother had to keep her body inside the house, in a refrigerator, for 3 days. The body of Hacı Lokman Birlik, who was executed in the street by the security forces even he was wounded already, was tied up with a rope to the back of an armored military vehicle, and dragged on the ground in neighbourhoods of Şirnak. The video of this unhumanitarian violence was disseminated to the whole the country.
In the second day of the curfew in Cizre, which continued for 8 days and caused 23 civilians death and dozens of civilians wounded, the municipal staffs who went to open the water valves which were closed by the security forces were battered and taken into custody. As a result of the explosion of a bomb thrown to a house by the soldiers in Nusaybin, a fire brigade vehicle of Mardin Municipality went to extinguish the fire. However, the vehicle had been ranked by the security forces and wasn’t allowed to enter Nusaybin because of the curfew. A lot work vehicles of our municipalities in the region are confiscated by the governorships or district governors without any legal justifications.
These unhumanitarian acts, which can’t be justified with any political, humanitarian, moral or conscious reasons, have been reported, documented and recorded by the local, national and international civil society organisations, media and press, and independent monitoring delegations.
Identifying these events only as life and human rights violations is not adequate. Today, the policies and implementations of the state and security forces of the state in our region can only be identified and named as “war crime” and “crime against humanity”.
Dear President and colleagues,
Conflictual situation experienced in our region as well as the high possibility of the above mentioned cases to happen in anytime and anywhere make us and our collegues to stay in our local areas. The co-mayors who came into administration with the votes of our local people, believe that it is a conscientiously and public responsibility to represent and be aside of them in these difficult times. Under these extraordinary circumstances, I believe that you will understand Ms. Bidav’s excuse for her absence in this session.
We believe that the self-administration and decision making freedom of local people are the milestones of democracy, and we are strengthening our struggle in this way. We have a strong trust and hope to the Congress that it will fulfil its responsibilities urgently in this matter in accordance with the principles and values that it represents.
In this context, I would like to kindly call the Congress to urgently assign a delegation to go to Turkey for raising solidarity with its members, monitoring the development of local and regional democracy on the field and objectively evaluate the situation.
On this occasion, on behalf of Ms. Aygül Bidav notably, I would like to congratulate the 30. Year of the European Local Self-Government Charter as the most powerful reference of decentralization and local democracy in the world, and express our wish to the Congress to be the protector and follower of the principles of the Charter.
Deputy Co-Chair –Responsible for Local Administrations
Democratic Regions Party (DBP)
Mr. Jean-Claude FRÉCON