Turkey's parliament stripped Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his status as a member of parliament on March 17. The number of HDP lawmakers decreased to 55 as a result.
"I came to this parliament with the votes of the people. I'm not going to leave the General Assembly," Gergerlioğlu said.
"This is a politically motivated decision. We are resisting here and I will resist until the very end," he noted.
"Resistance is life!"
Gergerlioğlu, a physician and longtime human rights advocate, was found guilty in February 2018 of “spreading terrorism propaganda” on the basis of a 2016 social media post that did not advocate violence. He will serve a prison sentence of one year and 10 months on the said charge.
HDP deputy Züheyla Gülüm broadcast the protests that erupted after Gergerlioğlu's deputyship was removed.
"Rights, law, justice," shouted HDP deputies, as they called the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) "putschists."
AKP lawmaker Alpay Özalan was seen walking towards HDP seats in parliament, which caused tensions to rise. Özalan, a figure known for being on the front of all the fights between deputies, tried to force Gergerlioğlu out of parliament, footage revealed.
HDP lawmakers launched a sit-in in parliament after the session ended.
TBMM'i terk etmiyoruz.!!!— Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (@gergerliogluof) March 17, 2021
AK Parti MHP Cumhur ittifakı vekilleri meclisten çıktı.
Biz çözüm için buradayız, sorunların halledilmesi için meclisi terk etmiyoruz. pic.twitter.com/HqohbElDM0
Parliament became a scene of protests before the decision to strip Gergerlioğlu of his deputyship was read, with Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) deputy Abdürrahim Aksoy, who is a former AKP MP, shouting, "Damn autocracy!"
"Damn authoritarianism, long live free democracy and free democratic Turkey, damn autocracy!" he shouted.
Turkey’s top appeals court upheld the conviction and sentence of two years and six months in prison on Feb. 19. On March 15, the Turkish Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop indicated that steps to strip Gergerlioğlu of his seat may be imminent, though Gergerlioğlu has filed a Constitutional Court challenge to the prosecution against him.
On August 20, 2016, almost two years before he became a member of parliament, Gergerlioğlu tweeted and commented on a news story briefly reporting that the leadership of the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq had called on the Turkish state to take a step towards peace. The news story also carried a lengthy response to the PKK call by Bülent Arınç, then the speaker of the parliament and former deputy prime minister.
In recent weeks Gergerlioğlu has raised the issue of routinely reported strip searches of women taken into custody as a cruel and degrading practice. His work to highlight the issue has received wide coverage in the Turkish media but has been met with full or partial denials by the prison authorities and members of parliament from the ruling coalition.
HDP lawmakers are often accused of having links to the PKK. A number of its deputies were stripped of their statuses in the past and scores of HDP members, including former lawmakers, are currently imprisoned.
The HDP was the third largest party in parliament after the June 24, 2018 elections with 67 seats. Erkan Baş and Barış Atay resigned from the party and joined the Workers' Party (TİP), Selçuk Mızraklı, Ayhan Bilgen and Bedia Özgökçe were elected mayors in the March 31, 2019 local elections, Leyla Güven and Musa Farisoğulları were stripped of their statuses as members of parliament, Tuma Çelik was expelled, Mensur Işık was dismissed and Ahmet Şık resigned.