Rezan Zuğurli, pictured, the 25-year-old female student of Kurdish origin became Turkey’s youngest ever mayor of Lice district after winning late March local elections. (Photograph credit: Ilaria Biancacci)
TURKEY’S YOUNGEST MAYOR SENTENCED 50 MONTHS IMPRISONMENT
A Diyarbakir court has sentenced Rezan Zuğurli, the newly elected mayor of Lice district in Turkey’s southeastern Diyarbakir province, to four years and two months in prison for “participating in illegal rallies and promoting outlawed terrorist organization,” Turkish daily Hürriyet reported on Wednesday. In its ruling, the Diyarbakir Second High Criminal Court said Zuğurli has been found guilty of “committing crimes on behalf of the PKK,” even while admitting that she was not a member of the group. Prosecutors were demanding up to 35 years in prison, although the court ultimately sentenced her to fifty months in prison.
Born into a family of prominent Kurdish activists in the village of Fis, Zuğurli grew up in the midst of an armed struggle for autonomy and political rights by the Kurds, a minority group making up one-fifth of Turkey’s population. At the age of 22, Zuğurli protested in solidarity with several Kurdish prisoners which resulted in her getting arrested and sentenced to a 13-month prison term for “alleged stone throwing.” Zuğurli spent eight months in the Diyarbakir prison, a notorious place of torture. She stated that the jail cells sometimes housed up to 45 women, some of them teenagers, with the majority being Kurds. Just two years after she was released and a year into a fragile ceasefire between the Kurds and Turkey’s government, Zuğurli ran in March 30 nationwide local elections to be mayor of the Lice district. And she was elected with a record 91 percent of the votes. Entering politics, she sees her new role as more important than ever, leading not only as a Kurd but as a woman in a male-dominated political landscape. Zuğurli, currently studying at the Communications Faculty of Dicle University in Diyarbakir, is the youngest mayor in Turkey’s history.
Turkey has jailed thousands of Kurdish politicians, academics, lawyers, journalists and others since 2009 on charges they support the PKK, which has fought the state for autonomy in a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984.