Turkish parliament expels opposition MP over social media posts

Raziye AKKOC
·2-min read
Turkish member of Parliament Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu (C) has long been a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government

Turkey's parliament on Wednesday revoked the seat of an opposition party MP and outspoken rights defender after his controversial conviction over a social media post.

Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu has been a thorn in the side of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, shining a light on a variety of human rights violations that often go ignored by the mainstream Turkish media.

The 55-year-old represents the pro-Kurdish leftist Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey's second-largest opposition group.

Turkey's top appeals court last month upheld his 2018 conviction for "spreading terrorism propaganda" over a post he shared in 2016 before he was elected an MP in the northwestern province of Kocaeli.

He had shared and commented on a story which reported on an outlawed Kurdish militant group calling on the Turkish state to take a step towards peace.

Kurdish militias have been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Gergerlioglu, who will now see his immunity from prosecution lifted, defiantly declared in parliament that he will have to be forcibly removed from the chamber.

"I came here to parliament representing the people's will," said Gergerlioglu, who is also a physician, accusing the parliament of committing a "crime" against him.

"I'm not going anywhere," he shouted, calling the decision "unconstitutional".

Gergerlioglu was supported by fellow HDP MPs, some of whom applauded Gergerlioglu and banged on tables in the general assembly while chanting "rights, law, justice".

"We're not going to be silent, we're not scared, we're not going to submit," the MPs chanted as the standoff stretched into the evening hours.

- 'Not alone' -

#GergerliogluYalnizDegildir (Gergerlioglu is not alone) has become a top topic on Turkish Twitter, even though the HDP's sit-in protest was largely ignored by the main television stations.

Meral Danis Bestas, who co-chairs the party's parliamentary group, said Gergerlioglu was the 14th HDP lawmakers to have been stripped of his immunity since 2016.

"You cannot do as you please with MPs elected by the people," her fellow co-chair Saruhan Oluc told reporters.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted that Gergerlioglu's offending posts never promoted violence and that he was stripped of his seat before the Constitutional Court had a chance to review his appeal.

HRW's Turkey director Emma Sinclair-Webb called it "a shocking attack on democratic norms and the rule of law, a violation of Turkey's constitution, laws and obligations under international law."

Although he has long been an irritant for Erdogan, his advocacy for female detainees subjected to strip searches particularly angered the government last year.

Ruling party MP Ozlem Zengin last month denied that women's rights were being violated.

The debate intensified after a public backlash against Zengin's comments in which he claimed that "honourable" women would not wait months or years to report such experiences.

raz/zak/spm