Political Islamist İsmail Kahraman, the speaker of the Turkish Parliament, took strong offense at the use of the phrase “Kurdish provinces” by Metal Danış Beştaş, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), during a special session on the occasion of April 23, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.
According to a report by Kurdistan24, Beştaş, who is also the HDP’s parliamentary group leader, was complaining of an ongoing government crackdown, the continued imprisonment of Kurdish deputies and the dismissal of elected mayors as well as practices she deemed to be attacks on Kurdish symbols by state-appointed officials. “I advise the deputies of the Justice and Development Party [AKP] to go to Kurdish provinces and see the changing of Kurdish names and the destruction of statues by government trustees,” Beştaş said.
Parliament Speaker Kahraman said designating some provinces as Kurdish was unacceptable. “Some words are strange. For example, Kurdish provinces. There is no such thing. Where is this place? There is no such place. This is a violation of the constitution. We won’t let anyone divide Turkey. Look, I want to banish anyone saying that from this session,” Kahraman said.
He then in a raised voice invited HDP deputy Beştaş to take back her words or face expulsion from the session on the 98th anniversary of the Turkish national assembly’s foundation.
Beştaş explained that provinces in which Kurds constituted a majority were Kurdish as deputies from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling AKP interrupted her. “You will soon start claiming Kurds do not exist. Will they disappear when you say so?” she asked.
“We will not allow the division of Turkey, we will not let anyone change the flag, we cannot let anyone call this nation by another name,” the angry Kahraman said during the exchange on live television.
However, Beştaş continued to argue in her defense, saying 11 of her fellow deputies have been stripped of their parliamentary status and nine of them, including the HDP’s former co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş, were still in prison because they were Kurdish.
“Are you taking back your words? Or are you insisting on them?” Kahraman asked.
“I am Kurdish, and there are Kurdish provinces in Turkey. There is nothing I am going to correct,” replied Beştaş, although, she argued, a Kurdish province hypothetically could be found in the western region of the country as well.
“With this explanation, you have made clear that you do not refer to any province of Turkey as Kurdistan,” Kahraman said, deciding not to proceed with his threat to expel Beştaş from the session.
A bylaw passed by the Islamist AKP and its far-right ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in 2017 banned the use of the word “Kurdistan” among other phrases such as “Armenian Genocide” and “Kurdish provinces.”
Several months later, HDP deputy Osman Baydemir was removed from two legislative sessions and fined TL 12,000 for uttering the word “Kurdistan.”
An annual US report released last week on the state of global human rights recounted Baydemir’s expulsion as a violation of freedom of expression by Turkey.
Last week, Baydemir became one of HDP deputies ousted from Parliament over a conviction for having called Turkish police officers “low-lives” and “fascists” six years ago in Diyarbakır, where he was then the mayor.