European Parliament expresses solidarity for dismissed Kurdish MP in Turkey

By Rudaw  16 Jan 2018 – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The European Parliament president opened the first session of 2018 by voicing support for controversial HDP deputy Leyla Zana, who was dismissed from the Turkish legislature last week. The president also commented on the worsening human rights situation in Turkey.

“As president of this house I would like to express to Ms. Zana my solidarity and the solidarity of the entire European Parliament,” Parliament President Antonio Tajani said on Monday in Strasbourg, France.In its Thursday session, the Turkish parliament voted to dismiss Zana for missing 212 sessions over a seven-month period between October 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017.

Zana was detained several times during that period and had to give testimony in court. “It is not acceptable in a democracy that someone elected by the people should be illegitimately deprived of their seat,” he added.It was the will of the people that made her an MP, and only the “people can take it away,” her party, the HDP, stated after her dismissal.As the first Kurdish woman in the Turkish parliament, Zana has stirred up controversy several times.

Before taking her parliamentary oath on November 17, 2015 as the deputy for Agri after the most recent elections, she cheered in Kurdish “biji ashti,” meaning “long live peace.”She also changed the wording of the oath to “the nation of Turkey” instead of the “Turkish nation.”In 1991, she defied Turkish law when she recited the final portion of her oath in Kurdish.”I take this oath for the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people,” she said, earning herself a 10-year prison sentence.

The Turkish parliament has harsh punishments for speaking in Kurdish or using the word ‘Kurdistan’ in the legislature. HDP’s spokesperson Osman Baydemir was temporarily barred from the parliament in December for doing so.In 1995, the European Parliament awarded Zana the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought “for her courageous defense of human rights and commitment to forging a peaceful, democratic resolution to conflicts between the Turkish Government and its Kurdish population.”“Thirty years after the first award of the Sakharov prize, we should not simply remember, but look after the people who have been awarded the prize, a symbol of those who struggle for human rights throughout the world,” Tajani said, lauding Zana’s work.

“I would like to express my concern about the repeated human rights violations in Turkey,” he added. “These aren’t simply aimed at the political opposition but representatives of civil society.”

Tajani listed several names of journalists and academics who have been imprisoned in Turkey for their work.“The European Parliament will continue to support these people in their struggle for freedom and justice,” he added.