Posted on July 28, 2017 by Editorial Staff in Politics
Turkey’s Kurdish HDP deputies Tugba Hezer Ozturk (R) and Faysal Sariyildiz, 2016. Photo DHA/AA
ANKARA,— The Turkish parliament on Thursday voted to strip two pro-Kurdish lawmakers of their status of MP on the grounds of “absenteeism”, their party said.
The Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Faysal Sariyildiz and Tugba Hezer Ozturk were removed from office by a large majority.
They are accused of “absenteeism”, a party official told AFP.
“This is the first time that a member of parliament has lost his/her seat because of this reason,” she added.
“Those who usurp the will of the people by voting under the pretext of” absenteeism, “and those who turn a blind eye to a political purge must prepare themselves to live in shame,” the HDP’s co-chair, Serpil Kemalbay, said on Twitter.
Local media reported the two were currently abroad to escape trials where they are accused of links to Kurdish militants.
Hurriyet daily said both officials had not been in parliament since October.
Sariyildiz and Ozturk had been on a list published by the government in June of 130 individuals being investigated by prosecutors who could lose Turkish citizenship if they did not return home within three months.
“The role the people have given us, (and) the promise we have made to them to fight, will not change because of an illegitimate decision made by a fascist alliance. We will surely win,” Ozturk said on Twitter after the decision.
“We will continue to represent our people. History’s most tragicomic dictator will not escape from being tried,” Sariyildiz said.
The vote brings the number of HDP MPs who have lost their seats to four, meaning there are now 546 lawmakers in parliament instead of 550.
In the last general election in November 2015, the HDP won 59 seats, becoming the second largest opposition party.
One of those who lost her seat was former HDP co-party leader, Figen Yuksekdag, who was later replaced by Kemalbay.
Yuksekdag has been detained since November, with 10 other HDP lawmakers, including the charismatic co-leader Selahattin Demirtas.
Thousands of officials from the HDP have been detained since 2015. The HDP says as many as 5,000 of its members have been detained as part of a crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup, and which rights groups say targets dissent.
Together with other HDP officials, they are accused of having links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated as a “terrorist” group by Turkey, the European Union (EU) and the United States.
The HDP fiercely denies being a political front for the PKK. It says it is being targeted because of its opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population.
A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.