ANKARA (Combined Sources) — Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament, was suspended from parliament for three sessions by the authorities for mentioning “genocide against minorities” in a speech during a debate on constitutional amendments.
Paylan is an MP for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
“A period of 10 years of chaos started and during that period, between 1913-1923, we lost four peoples: Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and Jews. They were deported amidst large-scale massacres and genocides,” Paylan said during his speech on Saturday, January 14.
“Once we were 40 percent of the population, now we are as few as one in a thousand. Doubtless, something terrible happened to us. I call it genocide, you can call it whatever you want. Let’s name it together and move on,” he said.
“The Armenian people know what happened to them. I know what happened to my ancestors, to my grandfather. I am one of the ‘leftovers of the sword’ (kiliçartigi) as you call it, declared null and void, reduced to one in a thousand,” the Armenian MP said.
“Let’s draw lessons from the past and not develop calamities out of it. You name it and let’s confront it together,” he said, calling for a pluralist constitution, citing examples from Ottoman history.
Paylan was criticized by MPs from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Turkish ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Upon hearing the word “genocide,” Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Ahmet Aydin of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) cut Paylan’s speech and called on him to keep his “manners.”
“You cannot make statements hurtful to this nation. This platform of the nation
cannot be used to hurt it. This is the Grand National Assembly of Turkey,” protested Aydin ending the session for an hour and a half.
Aydin said the word was an “insult” to the Turkish nation and republic.
AKP and its far-right opposition ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) members pounded their desks to disrupt Paylan as they called on him to apologize for his remarks.
As tensions grew, MPs from the AKP, MHP and the Republican’s People’s Party (CHP) voted to suspend Paylan’s right to attend plenary session for three days.
The HDP issued a statement on Monday condemning the suspension of Paylan. “In order to fulfill their parliamentary mandates, MPs should have the right to express their ideas without any fear and intimidation. This suspension is in clear violation of freedom of expression that simultaneously delineates the limits of “acceptable” speech at the Turkish parliament,” the HDP said.
“This antidemocratic practice also gives insight into the character of Constitutional amendments under debate and the presidential system that Erdogan-AKP regime is so eager to establish,” the HDP added.
In the meantime, the Turkish parliament approved a constitutional reform package that would pave the way for a presidential system presented by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Paylan’s comments came after a vicious fight broke out in parliament on January 12 as lawmakers voted on parts of the 18-article constitution bill which — if passed — will be put to a referendum at the end of March or early April.
A native of Istanbul, Paylan was the first Armenian in decades to be elected to the Turkish Parliament in June and November 2015 elections from the HDP list.
(Reports from ARA and Kurdistan 24 were used to compile this story.)