Vice-President Hautala denounces unseating of Leyla Zana by the Turkish parliament

Vice-President of the European Parliament, Heidi Hautala strongly condemns the vote held on 11 January 2018 by the Turkish parliament to depose Leyla Zana, Laureate of the 1995 European Parliament Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Ms Zana, the first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish parliament and a prominent advocate for the Kurdish rights, was dismissed from the parliament for the reason that she had missed a number of parliamentary sessions. In addition she was accused of having spoken in Kurdish, and not Turkish, in her swearing-in ceremony to the parliament, in November 2015.

When Ms Zana was first elected with a landslide to the Turkish assembly in 1991, she stated at her swearing-in ceremony in Kurdish: “I take this oath for the brotherhood between the Turkish people and the Kurdish people.” Speaking Kurdish in public arena was still prohibited and Ms Zana received a 15 years prison sentence for her words. At her sentencing, she stated: “I have defended democracy, human rights and brotherhood between peoples and I’ll keep doing so for as long as I live.” She served 10 years of the sentence and was released in 2004, under heavy international pressure.

Vice-President Hautala recalled that unseating a representative, freely and fairly elected by the people, is inherently an unconstitutional act, adding: “The work of Ms Zana continues, and we here in the European Parliament will continue to work with her, for democracy, for human rights and for the rights of all the peoples to live side by side, together.”