Turkey slams expulsion of Belgian-Turkish MP over ‘genocide denial’

Turkey slams expulsion of Belgian-Turkish MP over ‘genocide denial’

Turkey slams expulsion of Belgian-Turkish MP over ‘genocide denial’

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Turkey has expressed serious concern that Mahinur Özdemir, a Belgian deputy of Turkish origin, has been expelled from her party for refusing to call the 1915 killings of Ottoman Armenians a “genocide,” calling on all Belgian political parties and institutions to act in common sense.  

“We are stunned by this decision of a political party that is in conflict with democratic values in Belgium, a country which is rooted in a democratic tradition,” Tanju Bilgiç, spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, said in a written statement on May 31. 

The Humanist Democratic Centre (cdH) said in a statement on May 29 that Özdemir, the youngest and first Islamic headscarf-wearing member of Brussels Regional Parliament, had been expelled from the party for acting against the party’s “deontological” by laws, which recognizes the killings as genocide.

Expressing Turkey’s concerns over the decision to expel a democratically elected lawmaker at the expense of ignoring one of Europe’s fundamental values, the freedom of expression, Bilgiç told Belgian authorities that such a move would not aid in the integration of 220,000 Turks living in the country. 

“Exclusionist moves and making mischief within society will not help solving the harmonization problems in Europe but will deepen them. With this understanding, we call the aforementioned political party and all other Belgian institutions to avoid moves that would polarize society and act in common sense,” he said.  

According to sources speaking to daily Hürriyet, one of the reasons for the decision was recent footage from a Belgian television network which showed Özdemir while trying to avoid a journalist when asked about how she described the 1915 killings. cdH Chairman Benoit Lutgen had previously announced that “all genocide deniers” in the party would be immediately expelled.

Before her expulsion from the party, Özdemir, now an independent deputy, had also boycotted a moment of silence in the parliament to mark the 1915 killings, stressing that there was no court decision on the validity of the Armenian claims.