Soylu admits Erdogan ordered appointing trustees to Kurdish municipalities
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has revealed that he received instructions from President Tayyip Erdogan six years ago to appoint trustees to municipalities in Kurdish-majority provinces.
During a campaign event in Istanbul on Wednesday, Soylu claimed that Erdogan had instructed him to remove officials “who supported terrorism” and appoint trustees to replace them.
"Six years ago, our President called me and said, 'Suleyman, these municipalities in the East and Southeast that support terrorism should be removed from their duties. I am giving you this instruction. You will remove them from their positions.' Because they were taking 9-year-old children from their mothers' arms and sending them to the mountains."
Soylu’s comments come amid growing concern over the Trustee Regime in Turkey, which refers to the government's practice of appointing trustees to replace democratically elected officials in local municipalities, most of which are predominantly Kurdish.
The opposition’s presidential candidate in Turkey, Kemal Kilicdarogu, has promised to end the practice which he said is a threat to democracy and the rule of law in Turkey.
The government justifies the appointments by accusing the elected officials of having ties to outlawed PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party.) However, critics argue that the practice is a way for the ruling party to silence opposition voices and maintain control over local government.
A Freedom House report on Turkey stated that “President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AKP have aggressively used these institutional tools to weaken or co-opt political rivals, limiting the opposition’s ability to build voter support and gain power through elections.”
In the March 2019 local elections the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) won 65 mayors, including three major cities, five provinces, 45 districts, and 12 townships. However, six of them were not given their mandates, with their positions instead being given to candidates from the ruling AKP. Since then, the Interior Ministry has appointed trustees to manage 48 of the municipalities won by the HDP. Only six of the municipalities now remain under HDP control.