A Turkish government-appointed bureaucrat acting as unelected mayor of the Kurdish city of Siirt has removed a multilingual signboard which welcomed visitors at the city’s entrance, opposition lawmakers said on Tuesday.
Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party lawmaker Meral Danis Bestas, who represents Siirt at the Turkish Parliament, revealed that a new signboard had been erected welcoming those entering her city only in the Turkish language.
She shared two pictures on her official Twitter page which showed the change. The previous signboard was in Kurdish, Turkish, and Arabic (written in Latin alphabet) as there is also an Arab minority in Siirt.
Voters in Turkey are going to the polls on March 31 to elect mayors in a nation-wide election.
“We are going to put the multilingual signboard back in its place once we get back the municipality that is already ours on March 31,” Bestas wrote.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration has seized over 100 municipalities in Kurdish provinces in the past three years.
Turkish police arrested Siirt’s elected Mayor Tuncer Bakirhan in November 2016 after a massive ongoing crackdown began against the Kurdish movement and the broader opposition.
A Turkish court sentenced him to 10 years and 15 days in prison in July last year over charges of “propaganda for and membership in a terrorist organization.”
The current official who runs municipal affairs is the Ankara-appointed Vice Governor Ceyhun Dilsad Taskin.
Resul Kacar, the HDP’s mayoral candidate in Siirt for the upcoming elections, said the latest move shows that Erdogan’s government is against the use of “our Kurdish,” which he said was as legitimate as a baby’s right to its mother’s milk.
Kacar added that the Turkish bureaucrat had also removed Kurdish books from a municipality-run library named after Celadet Alî Bedirxan, a 20th-century linguist who is largely viewed as the father of the modern written Kurmanji, the prevalent Kurdish dialect.
The use of the Kurdish language, long banned by successive Ankara governments, in public areas is relatively recent, and it saw a rise thanks to Kurdish parties’ electoral victories.
But Turkish appointed officials have tried to reverse the trend elected Kurdish mayors started at a local level.