ISTANBUL—Istanbul’s Committee Against Racism and Discrimination of the Human Rights Association of Turkey released a letter addressed to the President of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, regarding the attack against Garo Paylan in parliament on May 2. Paylan, Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Armenian Parliamentarian, and other HDP representatives were attacked by fellow Parliamentarians in the Turkish National Assembly. Paylan said that he was personally targeted by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and that the attack on HDP members was planned in advance. He called the attack a premeditated “lynching” campaign and that the fact that he is an ethnic Armenian made him a target.
Below is the letter written by the committee:
Dear Mr. President,
The physical assault by members of the Justice and Development Party against members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party during the G.N.A.T. [Grand National Assembly of Turkey/Turkish Parliament] Constitutional Committee convention of May 2, 2016, which in fact left some members of the HDP injured, has thoroughly exposed the absence of the rule of law in this country.
The perpetrators of the physical attacks, which are reminiscent of lynching, against HDP members of Parliament, have committed an egregious crime at a time when significant efforts are made to sideline the Peoples’ Democratic Party from politics, to imprison the MPs, and to prevent the necessary conditions for the representation of a people.
This crime is not only one of assault, battery, or injury.
This is also a crime of racial hatred:
HDP member Garo Paylan (Istanbul) has also been publicly subjected to racial slurs targeting his Armenian identity during these physical assaults. Those who have called him “the Armenian bastard” and “the ASALA boy” have not only exposed their own racism, but also marked Garo Paylan as a target for racist attacks.
With these words hurled at an Armenian Member of Parliament at a time when racial hatred against Armenians as well as Kurds has peaked in the press, on social media, on the street, and in daily life; the very laws reinstated by the Republic of Turkey have been egregiously violated by legislators themselves. Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code defines the act of “the public incitement of one group of the public to hatred and hostility against another group” as a crime under circumstances when “it constitutes an open and imminent threat.”
This verbal and physical assault in fact meets the legal condition of “an open and imminent threat” for it to count as a criminal act: In this country, where Hrant Dink was murdered in front of his own newspaper [offices] and where Sevag Şahin Balıkçı also fell victim to ethnic-hate murder while on mandatory military duty in Batman, the kind of attack perpetrated against Garo Paylan sets the scene for further threats against his life.
This act of racism directed against Garo Paylan under the roof of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey also violates international conventions, signed by the Turkish state, which prohibit racism and discrimination. For instance, Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits discrimination in no uncertain terms. Moreover, the state of the Republic of Turkey has signed the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action of 1993, which obligate the signatory states to take precautions against racism.
The United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Turkey has also consented to adopt, dictates the signatory states’ obligations regarding the prohibition, investigation, punishment, denunciation, and compensation of the victims of racist acts and assaults.
National, international, and universal law was most egregiously violated in the National Assembly—the legislating organ of the country itself. Most importantly, the perpetrators of these acts have not been held accountable under the roof of the G.N.A.T. and have thus been tacitly condoned.
It thus appears that the legislators who claim to represent “the people”—as it is much exalted by politicians—continue to incite that same “people” to commit crimes against Armenians. In this country, where history is awash in bloody mass crimes, they mark individuals as targets for racist attacks by way of physical attacks and racial slurs under the very roof of the National Assembly.
Dear Mr. President,
You partake in the above-mentioned crimes by excluding this racial targeting, which has recurred on May 2, 2016, from your agenda, by not denunciating it, by not penalizing it, and by not declaring that you prohibit such acts.
You come first among the ranks of the state administration responsible for Garo Paylan’s security of life, since you are the head of the legislating organ in which he has been targeted. You are responsible before the world and before history.
As advocates of human rights and defenders against racism and discrimination, we invite you to fulfill your responsibility, to denounce the acts against Garo Paylan in the Assembly room, and to declare that you stand against racism and that you will apply sanctions against racist assaults occurring under the roof of the National Assembly.
The Human Rights Association
Committee Against Racism and Discrimination