Two Iranian Kurds, Jiyar Cihanferd and Hesen Baledeh, who were detained while taking pictures of the municipality on 3 January, have been formally arrested after spending 22 days in custody.
The two were charged for providing intelligence on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and of being members of the the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) after having been spotted taking pictures of Mardin municipality in Southeastern Turkey on the day of their detention.
Necat Ciray, the lawyer of Cihanferd and Baledeh, while denying all charges, told BBC Turkish that the two had taken pictures and recorded video in Mardin – an important historical city known for its Artuqid architecture – as tourists unaware of the state of emergency in Turkey. The prosecutor had paid attention to a picture of the municipality sign written in the four languages of the region and interpreted this as preparation for an attack.
Mardin municipality mayors Ahmet Turk and Februniye Akyol (the latter is the first Christian woman to lead a municipality in Turkey) were replaced by government appointed trustees while hundreds of its employees were dismissed in the post-coup period. The prosecutor claimed intelligence sources had warned there would be attacks on the 28 local municipalities where Turkey’s Interior Ministry has appointed trustees.
Ciray also said Hesen Baledeh, an engineer, had come to Mardin with the intention of enrolling on a Master’s programme, at Turkey’s first Kurdology department at Artuklu University – once praised by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “revolution”.
Kurdish PEN writers association’s honorary president, Sehmus Sefer, told BBC Turkish that Jiyar Cihanferd is a PEN member and author of three books, and that he came to Turkey in December in order to present a book on Iranian Kurds of the Kalhor tribe and of the Yarsan religion (or Ahl-e Haqq – a syncretic faith that bears similarities to that of the Yazidis or Alevis).