Garo Paylan

Garo Paylan, Armenian MP for the HDP

Garo Paylan, a deputy of Armenian origin from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has been banned from parliamentary sessions for three days for using the word “genocide” to describe incidents that took place in 1915, during an address in Parliament in the early hours of Saturday.

Paylan, an HDP lawmaker from İstanbul, was speaking against a switch to an executive presidency during debates in Parliament and presented examples from history to support his argument that late Ottoman era officials such as Talat Pasha and Enver Pasha eliminated a pluralist constitution.

Paylan said that during the chaos between 1913-23, four groups of people, namely Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and Jews, were lost as a result of massacres and genocide.

Following Paylan’s mention of “genocide,” which is one of the political taboos in Turkey, deputies from various parties protested the Armenian deputy.

The chairman who moderated the session, Ahmet Aydın from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told Paylan to watch his behavior and his words.

In an effort to explain how the pluralist nature of society was changed, Paylan said the drafters of the first constitution were 109 people, composed of 69 Muslims and 40 Christians, in proportion to the Ottoman population. However, Paylan said, today Christians only make up one per thousand.

“Obviously something happened to us,” Paylan went on to say about the dramatic decrease in the number of Armenians in the country.

“I call this genocide, you call it whatever you want, but let’s name it and move on,” Paylan said, with several deputies saying no genocide ever took place in Anatolia.

“The Armenian people know what happened to them. I know what happened to my ancestors. In your terms, I am a ‘residue of the sword’; we almost do not exist,” Paylan said.

He further suggested taking lessons from the past and facing history.

Paylan has been banned from parliamentary sessions while several, regardless of party affiliation, accused the Armenian deputy of treason.

The Armenian issue is considered highly sensitive in Turkey as the state refuses to call the events of 1915 genocide. With the exception of a small minority, the society also stands in line with the official narrative that the killings were mutual and Armenians were forced to migrate because of their uprising during World War I.

The 1915 incidents refer to the killing of Anatolian Armenians during the days of World War I. While Armenia claims the killings were tantamount to genocide, Turkey categorically rejects the claim and says the killings were a result of the circumstances of the war.