Rights activist, opposition MP Gergerlioğlu harassed during election campaign

Turkish member of Parliament for the left wing political party Peoples' Democratic Party Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (C) reacts as he is surrounded by MPs applauding and brandishing placards after he was dismissed following a vote at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, on March 17, 2021. Adem ALTAN / AFP

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent human rights advocate, was harassed in Turkey’s northwestern province of Kocaeli during his campaign for upcoming parliamentary elections, the Yeni Yaşam news website reported on Monday.

Gergerlioğlu is running for a seat in the Turkish parliament from the opposition Green Left Party (YSP). 

Gergerlioğlu and party officials were harassed by a group of people during a gathering with locals as part of his election campaign in the Kuruçeşme neighborhood of Kocaeli, according to Yeni Yaşam.

During a press conference held at the YSP’s Kocaeli office, he said they had to end their gathering and left the neighborhood to file a complaint with the police, but the group followed them and continued their verbal attacks in front of the local police station.

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place on May 14.

The YSP has been facing pressure since the HDP announced in late March that it would run in the parliamentary elections under its banner so as to circumvent the risks that could emerge from its possible closure ahead of the elections.

Gergerlioğlu’s rights activism has frequently made him a target of the Turkish government since he harshly criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his officials for widespread rights violations in the country, especially following a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

In July 2021 Gergerlioğlu returned to his seat in parliament four months after he was stripped of his parliamentary status based on a conviction over a social media post in 2016.

He had been jailed for four months after his conviction was upheld and released from prison later based on a decision from Turkey’s Constitutional Court. The top court ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to stand for election and engage in political activities as well as his right to liberty and security were violated through his imprisonment.

The lawmaker’s conviction and the removal of his parliamentary status attracted global outrage at the time, with many calling it a kind of punishment for his activism and politically motivated.

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