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Turkey Punishes Armenian MP for Mentioning 1915 Armenian Genocide

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and opposition deputies -- the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) -- have begun voting on the articles of a constitutional amendment package that would bring a dictatorial presidency.

Debates were repeatedly interrupted by brawls that erupted between the AKP and CHP deputies during the vote. The MPs even shoved one another and threw punches.

However, one common prejudice united the AKP, MHP, and CHP deputies: their hatred of Armenians.

On January 13, the lone Armenian member of Turkish Parliament, Garo Paylan of the HDP, briefly talked about the 1915 Armenian Genocide in his speech addressing the parliamentarians. Referring to the constitutional reforms enacted during the later stages of the Ottoman Empire, Paylan first called on Turkish deputies not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to promote pluralism, diversity, and inclusivity in the new constitution.

Paylan then said:

Between 1913 and 1923, Armenians, Greeks, Syriacs, and Jews had been lost. They were either exiled with genocides and major massacres or subjected to population exchanges.

As Paylan was delivering his speech, parliamentarians from the AKP and other parties interrupted him angrily. The deputy speaker of the parliament, Ahmet Aydin, also intervened, telling Paylan:

Please fix your statements. There is no genocide. There might have been some reciprocal sufferings but you cannot define it as genocide.

Paylan responded:

We used to account for 40 percent [of the country’s population]. Now we are barely one out of a 1,000. It seems likely that something happened to us. I define this as genocide no matter what you call it.

The Armenian people very well know what was done to them. I very well know what was done to my ancestors, my grandfather. To you, I am "a leftover of the sword." We Armenians are are null and void now. If we will learn lessons -- but not hostility -- from the past, let’s look at this together.

In Turkey, the survivors of Christian massacres are often called “the leftovers of the sword.” In the midst of angry and loud protests of Turkish deputies, Aydin rebuked Paylan:

[Paylan should] watch out for his behavior and attitude and stop uttering words that offend the Turkish nation.

Here is video of Paylan’s speech:

The Turkish parliamentarians then voted to ban Paylan from participating in the Parliament for three sessions.

Following the announcement of the decision, HDP deputies left the parliament with him. The group deputy chairmen of the AKP, CHP, and MHP declared they condemned Paylan’s statements, calling them “unacceptable.” The part of the speech in which Paylan referred to the Armenian genocide was also removed from the parliamentary minutes.