The only Christian mayor in Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally, has been removed as part of a purge by the ruling Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following an abortive coup earlier this year.
“A massive purge by the Turkish government of politicians and officials accused of being supporters of the network of Fethullah Gulen — the Turkish Islamic preacher, continued this week with the sacking of Februniye Akyol, the first Assyrian Christian to be elected co-mayor in Turkey, in the city of Mardin,” reports Independent Catholic News.
Mardin, located in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey, is the capital of a province of the same name. Akyol’s Kurdish co-mayor, Ahmet Turk, has also been deposed.
— Fr. Kevin M. Cusick, LCDR (@MCITLFrAphorism) November 20, 2016
Catholic Culture notes that Akyol is among the thirty mayors who have been ousted by the Erdogan regime, which is described as totalitarian by critics.
“She was the only Christian to hold office in one of Turkey’s 30 metropolitan municipalities,” adds Premier, referring to Akyol. “The 27-year-old was elected in 2014 on the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) ticket.”
“More than 30 mayors have been fired so far amid claims they have links with the Kurdish PKK party,” it adds. “At the time of the failed coup some Turkish media reported it was an attempt by Christians to take over the country.”
PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has been deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States, and other NATO allies.
The Erdogan government has blamed the failed coup on Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States. Turkey has officially designated the religious movement led by Gulen a terrorist organization.
Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, has described the Gulen Movement as a “kind of a Turkish Islamic supremacist cult.” Erdogan has repeatedly accused the group of trying to topple his regime by assembling a network of supporters in the media, judiciary, and education sectors of Turkey.
“Erdogan, accused by his critics of an increasingly authoritarian style of rule, has long described Gülen as a terrorist,” reported Reuters earlier this year. “He seeks to break the cleric’s influence, built on a network of schools and companies in Turkey and abroad.”
Gulen denies any involvement in the failed coup attempt in July.
Nevertheless, tens of thousands of Gulen-linked officials from inside and outside the government have been removed and replaced with caretakers appointed by the Erdogan regime.
Turkey has demanded that the United States extradite the imam. However, the administration of Barack Obama is requesting concrete evidence linking Gulen to the coup attempt before considering Turkey’s request. Turkey and top Obama administration officials have acknowledged that Ankara has failed to produce any evidence.
The 30 Turkish mayors who have been deposed so far have been removed for allegedly being affiliated to Gulen and the terrorist Kurdish PKK, which has been at war with the Turkish government for more than 40 years over autonomy for the millions-strong Kurdish minority in the country.