ANKARA (Combined Sources) — A rally was scheduled to take place on May 11 in Yerevan, in support of Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament, whose assault was captured on videotape last week as he was speaking in the Turkish parliament. (See related editorial on page 17.)
The rally was the raise awareness about his safety.
“Garo Paylan’s life is in danger. We want with this initiative to express our support to Armenian MP who endangering his life speaks about the Armenian Genocide and the protection of Armenians in Turkey. We are with Garo and will be consistent that his life will not be in danger. Therefore, we will apply to the UN Office in Armenia demanding them to alert Turkey to fulfill its obligations. After that we will send a letter to the UN Office in Armenia: we should remind the UN about its mission and enforce it make its member states to adopt and fulfill the mandatory obligations by the UN,” the organizing group’s post on facebook said.
Concern for his safety has also been raised in the US. The Armenian National Committee issued a call to action to raise awareness about his safety through the State Department, and Human Rights Watch, as well as by writing to the US Embassy in Turkey.
The US Embassy in Turkey responded to the letter by the Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian. The Embassy officer said that they are aware that Paylan was one of a number of parliamentarians injured after fighting broke out during a recent debate in Turkish Parliament.
“We share your concern about the need for all persons living in Turkey whatever their religious, ethnic, or national origin, to be able to voice their views freely without fear of threat and reprisal. Our annual Human Rights Report describes in great detail the United States government’s ongoing concerns about the patterns of discrimination, hate speech, attacks, and other issues faced by all of Turkey’s minorities. The United States government has consistently raised these concerns with the government of Turkey in both public and private channels, and we will continue to engage the government of Turkey to underscore the need to provide equal protection to any citizen facing specific threats, regardless of their ethnic and religious identity”, the response letter reads.
The incident, which has been capture on video, took place on May 2. The issue at hand was stripping members of the pro-Kurdish HDP Party, of which Paylan is a member, of their parliamentary immunity. Ultimately, the parliamentary committee approved the contentious ruling-party proposal to strip legislators of their immunity from prosecution. It was during this debate, while Paylan was speaking that he was attacked.
The proposed constitutional amendment, which could pave the way for the trial of several pro-Kurdish legislators on terror-related charges, was cleared by the committee late on Monday.
Pro-Kurdish party lawmakers walked out of the meeting following the brawl, which left one legislator with a dislocated shoulder and a second with a bloodied nose.
Video filmed by legislators inside the committee room showed lawmakers throwing water bottles at each other and engaging in fistfights. One legislator jumped into the fight from a table top and another was seen kicking an opponent.
Pro-Kurdish legislator Mithat Sancar was heard saying the party “would not be part of this theatre that is being staged” before he and his colleagues left the meeting.
The amendment, which still needs to be approved by the full assembly, was proposed by the ruling party after Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP) of being an arm of outlawed Kurdish rebels and repeatedly called for their prosecution.
The move comes amid a surge of violence in Turkey’s southeast after a fragile, more than two-year-old peace process with the rebels collapsed. Hundreds of people, including close to 400 security force members, have died in the renewed fighting, which has also displaced tens of thousands of people and left some towns and districts in ruins.
The HDP, which backs Kurdish and other minority rights, denies accusations that it is the political arm of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). It has called on the government to end security forces’ operations in the south-east to resume peace efforts.
The party’s two co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag, face possible prosecution for making statements last year in support of calls for Kurdish self-rule in south-eastern Turkey.
In response, Demirtas vowed that if its deputies charged with aiding the PKK terror organization were stripped of parliamentary immunity and tried then “the people” could form a new parliament.
Demirtas’s controversial remarks came at the HDP parliamentary group meeting held at Parliament on Tuesday, where he claimed that the proposal aims to liquidate the HDP.
“The Parliament is [a representation of] the will of the people, we will defend this. If our friends are arrested, if they are stripped of their deputy rights, no option will be incontestable for us. People form parliaments, not parties, and the people can form multiple parliaments if they wish to do so. If they wish to bring this issue up, then this group, [of] 59 people, will stand by its people. The people, the public would be able to do whatever they wish to do and we would not stand in the way of our people. Defending the will of parliament does not mean defending the will of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party),” Demirtas said.
(Stories from Armenpress, the Guardian and Daily Sabbah were combined to compose this report.)