EghtesadOnline: Turkish police detained Gultan Kisanak, the female mayor of the nation’s largest and most symbolically important Kurdish-majority city, on charges of being a member of the separatist PKK group calling for autonomy in the country’s southeast.
According to Bloomberg, police detained Kisanak upon her arrival at the airport in Diyarbakir, hours after she urged a parliamentary committee in Ankara to investigate incidents that led to the collapse of a search for peace between the government and the Kurds, local media reported Wednesday.
The Kurdish militant group is considered by Turkey, the U.S. and European Union to be a terrorist organization. Kisanak is Diyarbakir’s first female mayor and a former member of parliament. The police also detained Firat Anli, a member of the municipality council in Diyarbakir, on charges of allowing machinery owned by the municipality in the construction of a graveyard to be used by PKK militants, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party, Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish group in parliament, condemned the detentions and urged their immediate release. It also called for nationwide protests on Wednesday.
The Diyarbakir mayor is the highest-profile Kurdish politician to be detained since Turkey’s Islamist-rooted government granted itself emergency powers after a July 15 coup attempt that it blames on a rival Islamist movement. Kisanak had been invited to Ankara by a parliamentary committee, which is probing the coup attempt, to testify about a visit by alleged followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the accused mastermind of the coup, to her office in Diyarbakir.
‘Cycle of Violence’
“The reverberation of this decision will have a considerable impact on Turkish domestic politics and will have reverberations on foreign policy,” Aaron Stein, a fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said on Twitter. “This will contribute to the cycle of violence” and may be used to justify assassination attempts against ruling party officials by the PKK, he said.
Violence in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority regions has escalated along with the civil war in Syria, where warring Kurdish and Islamist militias have been fighting for territory lost by the central government in Damascus. Turkey sent troops into Syria in August partly to prevent gains by Kurdish militant groups on the border.
Kisanak, 55, was imprisoned in Diyarbakir for 4 1/2 years in the aftermath of a 1980 military coup, where she says she was regularly tortured and sexually abused. In an interview with Mideast news website Al Monitor last year, she said she was planning to convert the Diyarbakir prison into a museum.
Turkey’s government has already used its emergency powers to remove elected Kurdish officials in smaller municipalities and replace them with government appointees. That’s part of a sweeping purge that’s seen tens of thousands imprisoned and many more lose their jobs.