Deputies from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were attacked, with two sustaining injuries, during a Wednesday session at the Turkish Parliament when one of them accused the government of engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurdish people in the Afrin region of Syria.
HDP deputy Mahmut Toğrul’s left arm was broken, and his colleague Müslüm Doğan was kicked in the chest by a large group of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies, according to a report by Kurdistan24.
A number of AKP deputies accused Toğrul of being a “mouthpiece of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK],” and a fight broke out after AKP deputy Leyla Şahin Usta approached Toğrul. HDP Deputy Group Chair Filiz Kerestecioğlu said Toğrul was injured in the brawl. “There should be no physical aggression in response to words,” Kerestecioğlu said.
“The rhetoric ‘we will give Afrin to its rightful owners’ and announcements of settling refugees currently in Turkey there is a plan of demographic change in a Kurdish-populated region; it is called ethnic cleansing,” Toğrul had told the legislators during a speech.
“Kurds have lived in Afrin for a millennium. It is called ‘Kürt Dağı’ [Kurd Mountain]. You cannot resettle people from Aleppo, Idlib or Raqqa in the houses and lands of the people of Afrin,” he said, referring to Sunni Arab-populated cities in Syria.
Toğrul said the Turkish army was bombarding civilian areas, leading to hundreds of casualties during its military campaign in Afrin that began on Jan. 20, citing a report released last month by Amnesty International. Toğrul’s words led to an uproar among AKP deputies who after the speech began moving toward the HDP seats.
“About 40 of them started madly coming toward us. They began punching me and others. I fell to the ground, and they continued to kick us,” Toğrul said during a press conference on Thursday.
The scuffle ended after other lawmakers from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) intervened.
Toğrul said the administration of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was trying to silence his party through what he called “lynching.”
“I was seriously beaten. I went to the hospital and received a medical report saying that I cannot work for 45 days,” he said and added that HDP deputies Garo Paylan and Behcet Yıldırım also received blows.
Speaking at the session, AKP deputies denied that the Turkish military had any involvement or responsibility in civilian causalities. “Describing acts of the Turkish army, which are being conducted to protect and ensure the survival of our country, by saying ‘the Turkish army has done ethnic cleansing,’ is just the most vulgar speech,” AKP deputy Mustafa Elitaş said.
President Erdogan has continued to say that once his army’s “Operation Olive Branch” is completed he will give “Afrin back to its rightful owner,” a phrase he has repeatedly used in his claims that the area “belongs to Arabs.”
“At least 150,000, maybe 200,000, people will go back,” he told a meeting at his Ankara palace.
Earlier this week, the HDP warned that Turkish intentions were in contravention of international law and amounted to a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions.