ANKARA - The Turkish parliament has dismissed two pro-Kurdish lawmakers from their legislative position over government allegations that their Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is affiliated with a local militant group.
The move to strip parliament members Tugba Hezar and Faysal Sariyildiz of their parliamentary status was pronounced in the parliament on Thursday after an appeal for their dismissal was submitted and voted on.
The appeal backed government insistence that HDP is linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a group engaged in an armed insurgency against Ankara in the nation’s predominantly Kurdish southeast since the 1980s.
“This will go down as a battle for democracy, and in yours as a black stain. We will continue to make politics, whether in jail or in parliament,” said HDP legislator Filiz Kerestecioglu in defiance to the move.
The two legislators were removed on grounds of “discontinuity,” or missing general assembly meetings, further reducing the parliamentary presence of the HDP – the second-largest opposition party in the Turkish general assembly – to 55 in the 550-member legislature.
This is while the HDP, which denies direct links to the PKK, had 59 lawmakers elected to parliament in the November 2015 general election but has since lost four members.
Another HDP lawmaker, Nursel Aydogan, was also dismissed from the Turkish assembly back in May on alleged criminal charges, including membership in a terrorist organization.
The parliament further stripped in February one of the HDP’s two leaders, Figen Yuksekdag, of her membership. Her co-leader Selahattin Demirtas was then imprisoned, and Yuksekdag was subsequently replaced as co-chair.
The development on Thursday took place amid increasing concerns among opposition parties, human rights groups as well as Ankara’s Western allies that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the crackdown on suspected backers of last year’s failed military coup to suppress all dissent across the country.
Nearly 50,000 people have been detained since the unsuccessful coup, in addition to more than 150,000 dismissed or suspended from the nation’s military, civil service and private sector.