Turkish Parliament has stripped pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Leyla Zana of her status of parliamentarian on the grounds of absenteeism on Thursday night. Leyla Zana lost her seat due to “failing to properly take her oath of office,” as well as rampant absenteeism after missing 212 consecutive legislative sessions between Oct. 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017. With Zana’s removal, the number of HDP deputies ousted from the parliament rose to six.
Turkish Parliamentary Deputy Speaker and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Ayşenur Bahçekapılı put a resolution for the removal of Ağrı deputy Zana’s membership in the parliament to vote by basing on earlier recommendations from a special joint commission on the grounds that Zana did not take her parliamentary oath in accordance with Article 81 of the Constitution and did not attend 212 sessions.
Zana was then stripped of her status as a member of Turkish parliament, with 302 votes in favor and 22 against the proposal in the 550-seat chamber. Zana had lost her seat in the parliament in 1994 as well.
Deputies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voted for the expulsion. A few members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) took part in the vote, while fellow HDP deputies voted against the expulsion. HDP deputies protested the decision by hitting their desks.
After the November 1, 2015 election, Zana had prefaced her oath of office with the words “in hope of an honorable and permanent peace” in Kurdish, before referring to “Turkey’s nation” instead of the “Turkish nation.” Zana had left the assembly chamber by refusing the speaker’s order to retake the oath according to the official text.
Deniz Baykal, an Antalya deputy who was then serving as interim speaker, said that deputies cannot change the text of their oath according to personal whim. Zana has been called to retake her oath but she has reportedly refused.
Zana became a powerful symbol of national consciousness for the Kurds in Turkey when she took the deputy oath in the Kurdish language in 1991, the year she became the first female Kurdish deputy making it to the Parliament. At her 1991 swearing-in Leyla Zana had added the words, “I take this oath in the name of fellowship between the Turkish and Kurdish peoples.”
This was the second time the Sakharov Laureate Zana was kicked out of the Turkish Parliament in her political life. In 1994, a court sentenced her to 15 years of incarceration for “treason and membership in the PKK.”
“[The decision] is a shame for this Parliament,” HDP deputy Filiz Kerestecioğlu said in a press conference in Ankara. Kerestecioğlu and HDP deputy Mithat Sancar reminded of Zana’s arrest at the Parliament’s yard 24 years ago along with four other Kurdish deputies over alleged membership in the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “History is repeating itself,” read a statement on the HDP website.
The HDP holds 53 seats with six of its deputies ousted. Among them are the party’s former Co-leader Figen Yüksekdağ, Nursel Aydoğan, Tuğba Hezer, Faysal Sarıyıldız, and Besime Konca. While both Yüksekdağ and Aydoğan are serving prison sentences along with eight other deputies and their Co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş, Hezer and Sarıyıldız have fled to a European country as the result of an ongoing state crackdown on the HDP.
Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians since 2016. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges.
Nine HDP deputies including party’s co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ are still in prison. Moreover, a total of 27 HDP deputies were detained and released by Turkish government after Nov. 4, 2016 over alleged links to the outlawed PKK.