Solidarity with Diyarbakır’s arrested co-Mayors and call to respect local democracy in Turkey


* Trial postponed to 20 August.

Local democracy in distress according to human rights international

The Congress of
Local and Regional Authorities
 of the Council of Europe has
recently passed a Resolution and
Recommendation expressing
its concern regarding the situation of local democracy in Turkey.
Both documents were adopted after a fact-finding
 conducted by two rapporteurs on October and December
2016. The decision to conduct this mission was taken in view to analyse the
consequences of the emergency legislation 
introduced following the
attempted military coup on 15 July 2016, which clearly had an
on the situation of local elected representatives as well as on
the conditions in which local democracy is exercised in Turkey.

In their explanatory memorandum, the two rapporteurs argue that some of
the measures taken after the state of emergency, such as the detention and
removal of locally elected mayors and their replacement with officials
appointed by central authorities, contradicts some parts of the European Charter of Local Self-Government regarding
local democracy, representation and self-government rights, thus Turkey’s
own international obligations
, since its Constitution stipulates that
emergency decrees should not
violate Turkey’s obligations under international law

The rapporteurs also note that Turkish authorities have a tendency to
refer to relatively distinct factors under the term “terrorist”; an important
remark when considering that most of the mayors were arrested on terrorism
charges and that the legal grounds of these accusations might not fall in line
of the rest of the Council of Europe members, as it has been
recently noted by its own Human Rights Commissioner
. In light of
these findings, the Congress expressed its concern on how these
measures are seriously risking pluralist democracy in Turkey
, noting that “the
detentions of elected mayors (…) in more than 50 municipalities in Southeast
Turkey has effectively suspended the practical exercise of local democracy in
that region”

“Examine, with a view to their release, the situation of local
representatives currently in detention”

The Congress also asked the Council of Europe to invite Turkish
authorities “to examine the situation of local elected representatives
currently in pre-trial detention in the light of the European Convention on
Human Rights and, where appropriate, proceed with their immediate release”
In the same regard, the rapporteurs expressed their concern at “what
appears to be a systematic practice of placing the mayors in prisons which are
very far from their homes, which makes contact with their lawyers and families
extremely difficult.”

The fact-finding mission has not been the only one to criticize
the specific situation of imprisoned mayors 
and, most broadly, of what
could be considered a dramatic increase of political prisoners in
International, for instance, noted that
 “the attempted coup
prompted a massive government crackdown on civil servants and civil society”
that “over 40,000 people were remanded in pre-trial detention” where “there
was evidence of torture”
. Violations of human rights by security forces
might have been “continued with impunity, especially in the
predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country”
, geographical origin of
most of the imprisoned mayors, among whom Gültan Kışanak and Fırat
Anlı, co-Mayors of the Committee’s city of Diyarbakır

The Committee expresses its solidarity and invites its members to
mobilize in support of local democracy

The case of Gültan Kışanak, Fırat Anlı and other local public servants
arrested last 25 October is specifically mentioned by the fact-finding mission
of the Congress, noting how the two co-Mayors were replaced by a “caretaker
mayor” appointed by the government who heads the municipality without convening
the municipal council. The rapporteurs observe how many municipal staff have
been suspended or dismissed, and that access to municipal services has
thenceforth been very difficult. The first part of her trial, held last 22nd April, was heavily
criticized by Turkish and international observers and labelled as politicized
By the end of the process, it was decided that she was to remain in prison
until the celebration of the next hearing of the trial, to take place on
20th June.

National and international solidarity with Diyarbakır co-Mayors has been
continuous since their detention, following the
concerns of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
, with support
coming from civil society organizations and local governments from all over the
world. The Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human
Rights launched a call
on November
 for safeguarding local democracy in Turkey and to
express solidarity with the co-Mayors and other public servants arrested. The
Committee also invited its members and partners to contact Turkish Consulates
and Embassies in their territories and to call upon the Turkish government
asking for the release of Gultan Kisanak, Fırat Anli and all other arrested
public servants of the city of Diyarbakır, and for the respect of local
democracy in Turkey. Finally, the Committee also pushed forward for the
creation of a group of observers on local democracy in the framework of
UCLG, and idea which
was recently brought forward in its last Executive Bureau

In face of the forthcoming trial to the Mayor Gültan Kışanak, on 20
June, the UCLG Committee on Social Inclusion, Participatory Democracy and Human
Rights invites its members and partners to contact Turkish Embassies and
Consulates in their territories and to call upon the Turkish government, and asking
for the release of Mayor Gültan Kışanak, the co-Mayor Fırat Anlı and all other
arrested public servants of the city of Diyarbakır and for respecting local
democracy in Turkey. We also invite our members to support and spread this call
among their citizens and to contact international and regional institutions for
human rights protection. 
You can also take part in this solidarity
campaign from the social networks by tweeting and publishing at Facebook using
the hashtag #FreeGültan.

In the following link, you will find a basic template to address the
Turkish government and the Turkish Consulates and Embassies to express
solidarity with the arrested officials and to call for respecting local
democracy in Turkey.