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Clashes follow pro-Kurdish mayor's removal in Turkey

Tuesday, 4 June, 2024 , 22:06

Diyarbakir, Turkey, June 4, 2024 (AFP) — Lawmakers brawled in Turkey's parliament on Tuesday during protests against the removal of a pro-Kurdish mayor in the southeast, video footage showed.

Tensions boiled over a day after the government announced the replacement of the mayor from the DEM party, which authorities accuse of links to outlawed PKK Kurdish militants.

In the southeastern city of Hakkari, eyewitnesses told AFP that several protesters were also hurt and detained on Tuesday after security forces moved in during a demonstration against the mayor's removal.

Mehmet Siddik Akis was the first mayor to be dismissed since local elections in March, in which DEM gained control of local authorities in several large towns in Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast.

Footage from cameras in the national parliament in Ankara showed rival lawmakers brawling as Akis's allies staged a protest in the chamber.

The clash pitted lawmakers of the ruling AKP party against ones from the DEM who tried to occupy the chamber.

The DEM members chanted that they were making a stand "against fascism", while the AKP bellowed: "Down with the PKK."

AKP members snatched banners from the hands of their opponents, with several lawmakers getting thrown to the floor in the scuffles, the videos posted on social media showed.

Akis served as Hakkari's mayor before being accused of belonging to a "terrorist" organisation.

He was removed from office and placed in detention on Monday.

Protesters gathered on Tuesday to protest against the move despite authorities banning all demonstrations for the next 10 days.

Opposition outlet Medyascope said police fired rubber bullets against DEM members and local residents.

The vice-president of the DEM, Gulistan Kilic Kocyigit, told reporters the mayor's removal was "an attack on the freedom to vote".

Ali Celik, governor of Hakkari, was appointed in Akis's place, the interior ministry said on Monday.

DEM lawmakers sent a delegation to Hakkari on Monday.

Members of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) expressed its support for the deposed mayor and also visited the city.

More than 50 mayors elected in Turkey's southeast in the 2019 local elections on the HDP (now DEM) ticket were replaced by state-appointed administrators for alleged ties to Kurdish militants.

A 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government prompted a massive crackdown on opponents of all stripes.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) has been designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.