ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Belgian Kurd was sworn in on Wednesday as the Flemish government’s state secretary for justice after briefly serving as Belgium’s state secretary for socioeconomic affairs as part of a new Flemish government.
Zuhal Demir, 39, will take on the responsibility of planning, the environment, energy, tourism, and justice in the new Flemish Government.
Demir is a member of the Flanders Party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) that is the Belgian governing coalition’s largest bloc.
The Flemish public broadcaster VRT reported that Demir studied labor law in Leuven and Brussels.
She worked as a solicitor in Antwerp. New Flemish PM Jan Jambon was the one who recruited her into the nationalist party N-VA. She was elected to the Chamber of Representatives in 2010.
Demir became Belgium’s “Minister for Poverty Reduction, Equal Opportunities, People with Disabilities, Urban Policy, and Scientific Policy” in 2017 after her predecessor Elke Sleurs left the position.
Her parents originate from the Kurdish provinces of Dersim and Elazig in the Kurdistan of Turkey.
In the past, the pro-Turkish government media claimed she supported the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) because of earlier attendance at local Kurdish activities in Belgium.
In an interview with Canvas TV in November 2016, Demir rejected the accusations of any ties with the PKK.
Regarding the allegations, Demir explained she was at a meeting for a Kurdish cultural association in Antwerp where she previously served as a lawyer and mayor of the city.
“For years, I advocated a peaceful solution for the Kurds in Turkey,” Demir said, adding she was a “pacifist,” had no sympathy for the PKK, and was against violence.
As a result, she received death threats “because of her fight against the oppression of the Kurds,” according to her website.
A man who sent her death threats in late 2016 was sentenced to six months in prison in 2017.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany