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Turkey arrests 5 Kurdish mayors as crackdown continues

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Men wave the party flag as they attend the pro-Kurdish 4th Ordinary Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) congress in Ankara on February 23, 2020. (File photo by AFP)

Turkey has arrested five mayors of the Kurdish-majority areas as part of its ongoing crackdown against the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).

The HDP deputy chairman, Mithat Sancar, said on Monday that security forces had surrounded municipality buildings in the southeastern province of Batman, as well as those in the Egil, Silvan, Lice and Ergani districts of the Kurdish-populated southeastern province of Diyarbakir.

Sancar condemned the move, saying the party had not received official notification from the central government.

"We reject with hatred this vile attempt that does not shy away from showing enmity against Kurds even in these difficult days when the whole world is battling an epidemic," he said.

The interior ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly claimed the HDP has ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group.

Thousands of HDP members have been prosecuted over the same accusation, including its leaders. The party denies any affiliation with the outlawed Kurdish militant group.

At least 21 elected mayors belonging to the pro-Kurdish party have previously been detained for alleged ties to the PKK militant group, which has been seeking autonomy in Turkey’s largely-Kurdish southeast since 1984 and is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey.

The interior ministry has said the mayors' roles would be taken over by their provincial governors, who are appointed by the central government.

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