A Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker was temporarily suspended from the Turkish parliament on Jan. 13 for using the word “genocide” in reference to the World War I mass killings of Ottoman Armenians in 1915, during heated discussions on changes to the constitution.
HDP Istanbul deputy Garo Payla, who is of Armenian descent, said four communities had been lost and “driven from these lands in large massacres [and] genocides,” referring to Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and Jews.
Lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) angrily interrupted Paylan’s speech as AKP deputy Naci Bostan slammed Paylan’s comments as “provocative” and “unfair.”
Ultimately, Paylan was banned from attending three sessions in the parliament, which is currently voting on provisions in a bill to change the constitution.
Paylan made the comments during a speech in which he criticized the draft constitution for giving one man extensive executive powers.
Paylan’s HDP also left the assembly in protest at the punishment given to its deputy.
Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I as a result of civil strife triggered in part by Armenians siding with invading Russian troops, but contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute genocide. It also says many Muslim Turks perished at that time.
Paylan’s comments came after a vicious fight broke out in parliament on Jan. 12 as lawmakers voted on parts of the 18-article constitution bill which – if passed – will be put to a referendum at the end of March or early April.