Leyla Zana stripped of seat in parliament

The veteran politician and Kurdish rights activist Leyla Zana has lost her seat in parliament, after 302 deputies voted to revoke her parliamentary privileges for “non-attendance”.

Zana was voted in as the deputy for Ağrı for the majority-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), but after exclaiming “long live peace” in Kurdish and changing the wording of one part of the oath from “the Turkish nation” to “the nation of Turkey”, was prohibited from entering parliament. As a result, she missed 212 sessions, triggering the motion for her dismissal that led to the vote on Thursday.

The HDP tweeted a statement of support for Zana shortly after the vote, calling her “the voice of peace, the will of the people, our deputy”.

The use of the Kurdish in public institutions is a contentious issue in Turkey, where publication and broadcast in the language was banned between 1983 and 1991. Zana fell victim to this policy when she was the first Kurdish woman to be elected to parliament, and, after taking her oath in Turkish, protested in Kurdish that she did so “under duress”. This led to a sentence to 15 years in prison in 1994.

Zana was imprisoned until 2004, and her principled stance on human rights earned her awards including the European Parliament’s 1994 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.