By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Kicking and punching are becoming a daily routine in the Turkish Parliament. Whenever Armenian or Kurdish Members of the Parliament criticize the government, they are viciously attacked by a gang MPs from Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
In recent days, AKP Parliamentarians have hurled insults and physically assaulted Garo Paylan (an Armenian) and Ferhat Encu (a Kurd) who represent the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Parliament.
Paylan delivered an unprecedented speech in the Turkish Parliament on April 21, 2016. After greeting the deputies in Armenian, by saying “Parev tsez,” he boldly continued: “Once World War One began on April 24, 1915, Armenian intellectuals, opinion leaders and parliamentarians were, unfortunately, the first to be arrested…. Although they had immunity, they were arrested and taken to Ankara, Ayash, Urfa and Diyarbekir, and on the way, the deputies were murdered by bandits. Of course, after the community’s opinion leaders and MPs were made powerless, and their claims to solve issues through democratic processes became redundant, the Armenian and Assyrian peoples suffered great massacres by decree and were evicted from the ancient lands where they had lived for thousands of years.”
Paylan dared to raise the shameful legacy of the Armenian Genocide which persists to this day in Turkey: “Look at the names of Talat Pasha, Jemal Pasha, and Enver Pasha. In 2,500 places in the country, streets were named after them. Today, unfortunately, we walk in streets named Talat Pasha. Can you imagine going to Germany and Berlin today and walking in streets named after Hitler and Goebbels? Would such a thing be acceptable? Well, in 2,500 places in our country, we walk in streets and avenues named Talat Pasha.”
During his remarks, Paylan recited the names and displayed enlarged photographs of several Armenian members of the Turkish Parliament, including Krikor Zohrab, who were arrested on April 24, 1915, and brutally murdered. The Armenian MP fearlessly proposed that a parliamentary committee be formed to investigate the circumstances of their deaths, identify those responsible for their murders -- those who ordered their killings and actually carried them out -- locate where their bodies were buried, rebury them with appropriate funeral services, and restore their dignity. Not surprisingly, Paylan’s proposal was rejected by the majority of Parliament.
After expressing his respect for the memory of the perished Armenian members of the Turkish Parliament in 1915, Paylan concluded his speech with traditional Armenian words of condolences for the departed: “Asdvads irents hokin lousavore” (May God enlighten their souls). Throughout his lengthy and courageous remarks, Paylan was repeatedly interrupted by taunts and threats from AKP MPs.
On May 2nd, as a parliamentary committee met to strip opposition members of their immunity from prosecution, Paylan was kicked and punched over 100 times by Erdogan’s AKP members during a 10-minute all-out brawl. Paylan described the assault as “a premeditated lynching because of his Armenian heritage.”
After the attack, when HDP members walked out of the hearing, the committee voted to approve the AKP proposal to lift the immunity of pro-Kurdish HDP MPs. This inflammatory measure is expected to be approved by Parliament shortly! Most Kurdish members along with Paylan will then be arrested on trumped-up charges. Most probably Erdogan plans to announce new parliamentary elections, hoping the AKP will win additional seats vacated by the HDP, giving him enough votes in Parliament to amend the Constitution and establish a powerful autocratic presidential regime.
Meanwhile, Paylan’s fate seems to be sealed! He will either serve a long jail term or suffer the same tragic fate as Armenian journalist Hrant Dink who was assassinated in cold blood by Turkish extremists in Istanbul on January 19, 2007!
All people of goodwill around the world must raise their voices in condemnation of Erdogan’s increasingly despotic rule. It is ironic that Paylan, who was lamenting the killing of Parliamentarian Krikor Zohrab a century ago, may end up dead himself, unless the international community issues a serious warning to the Turkish government to take the strictest measures to ensure the safety of the Armenian MP. Regrettably, nothing seems to have changed in Turkey in the last 100 years!