On February 10, Socialist Alliance city councillor Sue Bolton successfully moved a motion of support for the Kurdish co-mayors who have been undemocratically removed from office by the Erdogan regime in Turkey. The motion was passed with only one vote against and two abstentions. It read:
In 2019 the Erdogan government prevented 90 democratically elected HDP mayors and deputy mayors from taking up their positions or forcibly removed them from office and replaced them with government appointees. Of these, 46 remain in jail. The arrests are the latest manifestation of a long-running campaign of intimidation and suppression against the HDP. Since 2015, about 16,000 HDP representatives have been detained at one point or another. More than 5000 ‒ including parliamentarians and mayors ‒ have been imprisoned.
Human rights Watch stated on February 2019 that the Turkish authorities’ removal and arrest of democratically elected Kurdish mayors across south-eastern Turkey violates voters’ rights.”
In recent years it has particularly targeted members of the HDP whose support base is in the predominantly Kurdish south east of the country.
On September 26 2020, 82 of the party’s MPs, mayors and prominent leaders were subject to arrest warrants for their participation in public activities in 2014 in support of the residents of Kobane (northern Syria) who were resisting the brutal assault on their town by the Islamic State terrorists.
A few years earlier, in 2016, the Turkish parliament stripped almost a quarter of its members of immunity from prosecution, including 101 deputies from the pro-Kurdish HDP and the main opposition CHP party. In reaction to the failed coup on 15 July 2016, over 160,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been suspended or dismissed. 77,000 have been formally arrested and 130 media organisations, including 16 television broadcasters and 45 newspapers, have been forcibly closed. 160 journalists have been imprisoned.
For the proper functioning of democracy, the candidates who receive the highest number of votes need to be take their place as elected mayors and councillors.
1. Express its solidarity with democratically elected mayors and councillors across Turkey who have been unjustly prevented from taking up their positions or have been forcibly removed from office.
2. Directly communicate its concern to both the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Turkish Ambassador to Australia.
A right-wing Kurdish nationalist group with ties to the Turkish consulate wrote to all councillors before the meeting urging them to vote against the motion on the grounds that it would allegedly “antagonize the Turkish community in your city. It will be seen as a disproportionate political influence of the local active Kurdish community there. It will cause negative impact on multicultural harmony”.
It also argued that “Moreland council is not the United Nations of Local Councils around the world, and it is out of the council’s jurisdiction, depth and scope to take matters of international politics into its hands”.
However, Councillor Bolton countered that it was important for the council to show solidarity with local councils in other parts of the world that were facing repression.
“Every country that gets away with using dictatorial means like the Erdogan government has done, gives confidence to other anti-democratic forces around the world.”