Alone against all: in Turkey, the last Kurdish mayor faces Erdogan

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For more than a year, the government has confiscated, one after the other, the cities conquered by the opposition. In Kars, Ayhan Bilgen resists pressure over and over again.

In the far northeast of Turkey, near the borders with Armenia and Georgia, Kars is a prefecture-level city of 300,000 inhabitants perched at 1,800 meters above sea level. The city is particularly known for its architecture, inherited from the time when it was annexed to the Russian Empire before returning to the Turkish fold in 1918. But also for having served as a framework for Snow, a bushy political novel by Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prize in literature. Recently, Kars has been enriched with a new specificity: it is the last major municipality still led by the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), an opposition party, bringing together part of the Kurdish electorate and the left. Turkish. Of the 65 cities conquered by the HDP during the municipal elections in March 2019, 45 were taken over by the Islamo-nationalist government of the AKP. The latter overturned, under various pretexts – often accusations linked to terrorism – the municipal teams in place to replace them with guardians appointed by the prefects.

The mayor of Kars, Ayhan Bilgen, clings firmly to his chair, without deluding himself: “Anything can happen in Turkey. I don’t know what tomorrow will be like, but for the moment, i “intend to continue implementing my program for the defense of women’s rights, revitalization of the economy and the fight against human rights and local corruption. And too bad for those who feel concerned!” assiles the councilor, who stole the municipality to the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), formation of the far right.

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