Osman Baydemir

European Court Punishes Turkey over ‘Kurdistan’ Remark

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By Karwar Faidhi Dri

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Rudaw) — The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on June 13 ruled that Turkey should compensate a renowned Kurdish politician with more than $1,800 for punishing him after he mentioned the word “Kurdistan” during a parliamentary session.

Osman Baydemir, former lawmaker for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said during a Turkish parliament’s meeting in late 2017 that he represented Kurdistan. When he was asked by the deputy speaker of the legislature “Where is Kurdistan?” he replied “It is here,” clapping his hand on his heart. With this gesture, he won the hearts of many Kurds. The parliament banned him for two sessions and withheld two-thirds of his salary as a punishment.

The ECHR said in its ruling on Tuesday that Baydemir’s right to freedom of expression, protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, was violated.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers,” stipulates the Article.

The European court decided that Turkey, which is a signatory of the Convention, should pay the 52-year-old Kurdish politician nearly €16,957 ($18,293): €1,400 for pecuniary damage, €9,750 for non-pecuniary damage, and €5,807 for costs and expenses.

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Reacting to the ECHR’s verdict, Baydemir, who lives in the UK due to legal cases against him at home, said in a tweet on June 13 that the ruling has “a historical importance in terms of endeavors for the freedom of speech.”

“It is the rightful glory of millions of Kurds who keep Kurdistan alive in their hearts and dreams,” he added.

He told Rudaw in 2021 that Kurdistan would exist as long as Kurds continue to exist, defending the remark he made in the Turkish parliament.

The charismatic politician won the hearts of millions of Kurds around the world for his remark, with many Kurds clapping their hands on their hearts as support for what he did.

Baydemir is among a group of HDP lawmakers facing terror-related or anti-Turkish state charges. Ankara has accused the party of having ties with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a charge HDP denies.

Few months before Baydemir made the remark, the Turkish parliament had adopted new guidelines, banning the use of terms “Kurdistan,” Kurdish regions,” and “Armenian genocide.”

Baydemir is not the only Kurd being punished for using the term “Kurdistan.” Many people have been arrested for the same reason — which is seen as a separatist move by Ankara.

Kurds consider Kurdish-populated areas in southeast Turkey, northern Iraq (Kurdistan Region), western Iran, and northeast Syria (Rojava) to be part of Greater Kurdistan, which was divided up by Western powers a century ago when they redrew the map of the Middle East.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended the usage of the word “Kurdistan” in September 2013 while he was prime minister, during the early months of a historic but short-lasting peace process between Ankara and the PKK.

Erdogan has told journalists that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, had used the word Kurdistan around a century ago. “Is Hero Mustafa Kemal a separatist for using this word?” he asked. “These are facts in our history. If we take the matter all the way to the Ottoman Empire, it is already very clear there.”

 

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