Turkish parliament strips pro-Kurdish lawmaker of her status

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Turkish parliament on Thursday stripped a pro-Kurdish lawmaker of her status for a second time, this time due to her absence from its sessions, parliamentary sources said.

File photo: Pro-Kurdish lawmaker Leyla Zana takes her seat as she arrives at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara October 1, 2011. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Leyla Zana had spoken Kurdish while being sworn into parliament in November 2015, leading the speaker to rule her oath invalid. Following that, she did not attend 212 parliament meetings between Oct. 1, 2016 and April 30, 2017.

“With the hope of an honorable and lasting peace” Zana had said in Kurdish while taking the oath. She had also finished it by changing its official wording of “Turkish people” to “people of Turkey.”

Speaking Kurdish was banned in Turkey after the 1980 military coup until 1991, and some other restrictions have since been eased. Members of Zana’s People’s Democratic Party (HDP) party say there is no law stating that Kurdish cannot be used in an oath.

A majority vote in the parliament on Thursday ruled in favor of ejecting Zana from legislature due to her continued absence.

She had won a seat in the November 2015 snap elections, which were held in the wake of renewed conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, following the collapse of a ceasefire.

“Leyla Zana being stripped of her lawmaker status is void before our people,” the HDP said in a tweet following the decision. “Leyla Zana is the sound of peace, the will of the people, our member of parliament.”

In June 2015, the HDP had also won seats in parliament as a party for the first time, depriving the ruling AK Party of a majority. Zana then took her oath in Turkish.

Zana rose to prominence in 1991, causing uproar in Turkey’s parliament by speaking in Kurdish at her oath-swearing ceremony.

The speech prompted parliament to strip her of her immunity and eject her from the legislature. It was used as evidence against her when she and three other MPs, elected as independents, were jailed in 1994 for links to the PKK. They were freed in 2004.

Turkey has since broadened human rights and boosted Kurdish linguistic and political freedoms.

Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Toby Chopra