ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Speaker of the Turkish Parliament on Monday, during a special session on the country’s official Children’s Day, took strong offense at the use of the phrase “Kurdish provinces” by an opposition lawmaker.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) head of the parliamentary group Meral Danis Bestas was complaining of an ongoing government crackdown, the continued imprisonment of Kurdish MPs, and dismissal of elected mayors as well as practices she deemed as attacks on Kurdish symbols by state-appointed officials.
“I advise lawmakers of the AKP to go to Kurdish provinces and see the changing of Kurdish names and destruction of statues by government trustees,” Bestas said.
Speaker Ismail Kahraman said designating some provinces as Kurdish was unacceptable.
“Some words are strange. For example, Kurdish provinces. There is no such thing. Where is this place? There is no such place. This is a violation of the Constitution. We won’t let anyone divide [Turkey]. Look, I want to banish from the session anyone saying that,” Kahraman said.
He then, in a raised voice, invited the HDP lawmaker to take back her words or face expulsion from the session on the 98th anniversary of the Turkish national assembly’s foundation.
Bestas explained that provinces Kurds constituted a majority were Kurdish as MPs from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) interrupted her.
“You will soon start claiming Kurds do not exist. Will they disappear when you say so?” She asked.
“We will not allow division [of Turkey], we will not let anyone change the flag, we cannot let anyone call this nation by another name,” the angry Speaker went on during the exchange on live television.
Bestas, meanwhile, continued arguments in her defense saying 11 of her fellow lawmakers have been stripped of their representative status and nine of them, including HDP’s former co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, were still in prison because they were Kurdish.
“Are you taking back your word? Or are you insisting?” He asked.
“I am Kurdish, and there are Kurdish provinces in Turkey. There is nothing I am going to correct,” she said.
Though, she argued a Kurdish province hypothetically can be found in western regions of the country as well.
“With this explanation, you have made clear that you do not refer to any province of Turkey as Kurdistan,” Kahraman said, deciding not to proceed with his threat to expel Bestas from the session.
The greater part of the Kurdish homeland falls in Turkey whose eastern and southeastern provinces are referred to as “Northern Kurdistan” by Kurdish people and political parties.
A bylaw passed by the Islamist-rooted AKP and its far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in 2017 banned the use of the word “Kurdistan” among other phrases such as “Armenian Genocide” or “Kurdish provinces.”
Several months later, MP Osman Baydemir was removed from two legislative sessions and fined 12,000 Liras (approx. 3,100 USD) for uttering the word “Kurdistan.”
An annual US report released last week on the state of global human rights recounted Baydemir’s expulsion as a violation of freedom of expression by Turkey.
Last week, Baydemir became one of the HDP MPs ousted from the parliament over a conviction for having called Turkish police officers “low-lives and fascists” six years ago in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir where he was the then mayor.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany