Van - A city usurped by the AKP

Although the people of Van preferred the HDP in the March 2019 local elections, the AKP regime has suspended the HDP municipalities in all ten districts and had them replaced by trustees.

Van is the second largest city in Northern Kurdistan and, like large parts of the province, a stronghold of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The population lives under constant political and military repression of the AKP regime. In spite of all attempts of electoral fraud and blackmail, the AKP was defeated in every local election in the province and also on 31 March this year. The regime, however, did not accept the choice of the people. The municipalities won by the Party of Democratic Regions (DBP) in 2014 had already been replaced by state-appointed trustees. Now the HDP co-mayors elected in the spring had the same fate. In all ten districts governed by the HDP as well as in the city itself, trustees have been appointed starting from August.

In the March 31 elections, the HDP won 53 percent of the vote in Van City, 75 percent in Özalp district, 54 percent in Ipekyolu district, 49 percent in Erçiş district, 42 percent in Muradiye district, 53 percent in Çaldıran district, 52 percent in Tuşba district, 53 percent in Edremit district, 61 percent in Saray district, and 71 percent in Başkale district. In all these circles, the AKP regime had the democratically elected co-mayors deposed and jailed and had trustees appointed in their place.

Van is a thorn in Erdoğan’s flesh

Again and again the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan had tried with all his might to win the elections in Van province. He used every means at his disposal, from election fraud to bribery and threats. But although he went into the election campaign in Van with great resources, his party repeatedly suffered significant defeats in the important Kurdish province, including in the elections on 31 March. Even before the elections, Erdoğan had announced that if the HDP happened to win the election, it would have all those elected removed. He began to make this threat come true on August 19 by having the co-mayors of Amed (Diyarbakır), Van and Mardin removed from office and replaced by trustees. After the appointment of the trustee in Van, dozens of municipal employees were dismissed and hundreds were transferred to remote locations. The city administration's treasury was looted, so the employees could no longer be paid.

Second earthquake in Erciş

The AKP government appointed a trustee to the municipality of Erciş on 15 October and had the co-mayor Yıldız Çetin arrested. She was transferred to the T-type prison of Osmaniye, about 800 kilometers away from Van, on December 11. Erciş is a traumatized town which had been completely razed to the ground by the 2011 earthquake and was slowly getting back on its feet with the election of a DBP city administration in 2014. The DBP is a member party of the HDP. The state-appointed trustee ruled over the district from 2016 to 2019 and distributed all the assets of the municipality to supporters of the AKP. In the elections on 31 March, the population again voted for the HDP. The HDP administration had modernised large parts of the town in a short period of time and received strong support from the people. But the AKP sent another trustee on October 15.

İpekyolu: Trustee suspends support for the people

The biggest district of Van is İpekyolu. On November 8, the HDP co-mayors were replaced by a trustee appointed by the Ministry of the Interior and also imprisoned. The co-mayor Azim Yacan was taken to the distant Erzurum prison. The trustee then suspended all services of the city administration. Previously, for example, farmers had received seeds from the municipality and greenhouses had been built in many settlements.

District converted to village by the AKP

Saray lies directly at the Iranian border. Due to the embargo imposed by Turkey, the town looks like a small village. Although the district is on the border to Eastern Kurdistan (Iran), it cannot profit from the border trade. The Turkish state has systematically hindered the economic development of the village. The people of Saray voted for DBP in 2014 and HDP in 2019. The HDP won 61 percent of the votes in the local elections on March 31. On November 2, a trustee was appointed to the district and the co-mayor Caziye Duman was arrested.

Co-mayor denied mandate over dismissal with KHK

Also in the districts of Tuşba, Edremit and Çaldıran the AKP lost the elections. Although the co-mayor of Tuşba, Yılmaz Berki, was elected with 53 percent of the votes, he did not receive a mandate. The fact that he had been dismissed from the public service by a statutory decree (KHK) during the state of emergency served as a pretext. AKP politician Salih Akman was appointed in his place.

In Edremit, co-mayor Gülçan Kaçmaz Sayyiğit had been able to get 54 percent of the votes for herrself and the HDP. Here, too, a dismissal by a state of emergency decree was used as a pretext for not granting her a mandate. In her place, AKP politician Ismail Sayı was appointed mayor.

In Çaldıran, co-mayor Leyla Balkan, elected with 53 per cent of the vote, was not allowed to take office after being elected by the people, again over her dismissal with a KHK.