Feb 28 2018

Pro-Kurdish opposition MPs rapidly losing seats in Turkish parliament

Two more deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have been stripped of their seats in parliamentary after being found guilty in criminal cases.

HDP MPs Ahmet Yıldırım and İbrahim Ayhan lost their parliamentary status this week after receiving the criminal verdicts, in Ayhan’s case on “terrorist propaganda” charges based on his social media posts and attending funerals of members of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Yıldırım lost his seat after receiving a one year two month jail sentence for “insulting the President,” marking a first in Turkish parliamentary and possibly wider history. The HDP deputy called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “a parody of a sultan in a palace.”

“Ahmet Yıldırım losing his parliamentary status is probably a first in the history of world politics,” commented human rights lawyer Kerem Altıparmak on Twitter. “The first time that a parliamentarian loses his status for insulting a head of state. And besides, the statement they called an insult was stone-cold political criticism.”

 

Another HDP deputy, Selma Irmak, was also found guilty on two separate charges on Wednesday, and will lose her seat in parliament after receiving a ten-year sentence.

Irmak’s expulsion will bring the total number of HDP deputies ejected from parliament to ten of the 59 elected, including former party co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ.

The Turkish authorities accuse HDP politicians of promoting terrorism due to their links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which resumed its decades-long conflict with Turkish security forces in 2015. The ruling Justice and Development Party has also taken 89 local municipalities that had been governed by the HDP- affiliated Democratic Reginos Party under government trusteeship.

Human Rights Watch describes the arrests of politicians and seizure of local administrations as “(violating) rights to political association and participation and freedom of expression of the elected officials, and denies the right to political representation for those who elected them.”