17, November 2016
Several Turkish soldiers at NATO’s central command in Ramstein has sought asylum in Germany in the wake of Turkey’s widespread crackdown against military personnel, journalists and political activists. According to a German official, quoted by the dpa news agency, family members of the soldiers stationed at the airbase insouthwestern Germany have also applied for asylum.
Paul Junker, a regional official in nearby Kaiserslautern, said the asylum requests had come from “more than one family,” but declined to say how many individuals were involved. German Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth said last month that 35 Turkish diplomatic passport holders had formally applied for asylum in Germany. The actual figure of the asylum seekers, he said, could be higher.
Relations between Turkey and Germany have strained following the July 15 botched coup, which Ankara claims to have been organized by US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier often clashed with Turkish officials during a visit to Ankara this week, reflecting tough times in their relations.
After 11 years of negotiations, Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU look more remote than ever, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu telling Steinmeier on Tuesday that Turkey was “fed up” with the European Union. “We are truly fed up of these statements degrading Turkey. The criteria are clear but there are double standards and a two-faced approach. This is what we don’t like,” Cavusoglu told a joint news conference. Over 240 people were killed and more than 2,100 others injured in the coup attempt, which Gulen has strongly condemned and denied any involvement in.
Tens of thousands of people, including military personnel, judges and teachers, have been suspended, dismissed or detained as part of the post-coup crackdown. International rights groups argue that Ankara’s crackdown has gone far beyond the so-called Gulenists and targeted Kurds as well as government critics.
Turkey detains, suspends mayors over PKK links
On Thursday, Turkish officials arrested and suspected three mayors in the Kurdish-majority southeastern part of the country over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.
Unnamed security sources said police detained the mayor of Van city, Bekir Kaya, and four other municipal officials early Thursday.
The sources said the mayors of Mardin and Siirt citties, identified as Ahmet Turk and Tuncer Bakirhan respectively, had also been discharged and replaced with administrators appointed by the Interior Ministry. Earlier this month, 13 legislators from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested after being accused of links to Kurdish militants.
Party leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ remain in custody along with eight others, waiting to stand trial on terrorism-related charges. A shaky ceasefire between the PKK, which has been calling for an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984, and the Turkish government collapsed in July 2015. Ever since, attacks on Turkish security forces have soared.
Over the past few months, Turkish ground and air forces have been carrying out operations against PKK positions in the country’s troubled southeastern border region as well as Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and northern Syria.