By Aram Arkun
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Garo Paylan may be a familiar name to the Armenian diaspora, but there are currently two other ethnic Armenians serving in the Turkish Parliament.
Selina Özuzun Dogan, 39, is a lawyer who was elected to the parliament from the second district of Istanbul in June 2015 on the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party, or RPP) list. She, Paylan and Markar Esayan, that year became the first Armenians to serve in the Turkish parliament since 1964; she is only the second Turkish-Armenian female parliamentarian ever.
Dogan was a keynote speaker at the Armenian International Women’s Association 25th anniversary conference in Cambridge in October, when she gave an interview about developments in Turkish society and her role in politics.
Dogan was initially chosen by RPP president Kemal Kiliçdaroglu in a surprise move as part of the 15 percent quota in the party’s primary election that he can personally appoint. According to an article in Cumhuriyet, a newspaper affiliated with the RRP, the religious (and ethnic) minority foundations had asked to have a representative in the Turkish parliament, and proposed her name. She was then placed at the top of the party list for her electoral district in April 2015. According to the same Cumhuriyet article, the support for Dogan was an attempt to prove that the RPP, which used to be the ruling party of a one-party state during much of the life of the Republic of Turkey, but now has been forced to become an opposition party, has changed. Dogan said that without this special support, it would have been hard for her in the full election, without the necessary money and political recognition, to have succeeded.