Turkish authorities detained Tuesday the two co-mayors of the country's largest Kurdish-majority city and charged them with supporting terrorism as the nation clamps down on national security, Reuters reported.
Gultan Kisanak, a former MP, was detained Tuesday upon her arrival at Diyarbakir Airport. She was traveling from Ankara where, hours before, she testified at a parliamentary commission concerning a July 15 failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kisanak's co-mayor in Diyarbakir, Firat Anli, was detained the same day in his home. The two have been charged with making speeches in support of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a militant group that seeks Kurdish autonomy and is labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, the U.S. and the E.U. The pair were also accused of instigating unrest and transporting the bodies of militants for burial.
Turkey has undergone a period of intense government crackdown since suffering a number of terrorist attacks and a failed coup attempt earlier this year. The same day the co-mayors were arrested, an explosion rocked Tuesday the southern resort town of Antalya, wounding several people. A car bombing earlier this month near the Iraqi border killed 18 and was blamed on the PKK. In this year's deadliest attack, suicide bombers believed to be linked to the Islamic State group killed over 50 people, nearly half of them children, at a wedding in Gaziantep.
Erdogan has publicly vowed to eliminate security threats at home and abroad, specifically targeting members of the militant group also known as ISIS and the PKK, as well as their supporters. The government has purged over 100,000 public servants since imposing emergency rule after the failed coup attempt.
Kisanak, who took office in 2014, was Diyarbakir's first female mayor and is the most high-profile Kurdish politician to be arrested since the recent government crackdown. She previously spent years in prison alongside thousands of other Kurds held during a 1980 military takeover in the country. Kisanak has claimed she was routinely tortured and raped during her imprisonment. She went on to become an influential symbol of Kurdish identity and member of the Democratic Regions Party. Erdogan, who founded the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)accuses Kisanak's party and its larger affiliate, the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) of advocating for the PKK, something both entities deny.
The PKK began their insurgency against the Turkish state in 1984, conducting guerrilla operations and bombings throughout the country for nearly three decades. The group announced a ceasefire in 2013, but abandoned it two years later after negotiations with the government failed.
While Turkey supports Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting ISIS in Iraq, it targets the PKK and its Syrian-based affiliate, the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) at home. Last week, Turkey claimed to have killed 200 YPG fighters in airstrikes in northern Syria. Clashes broke out in September when the government removed dozens of Kurdish mayors from office over suspected PKK links.