Turkish parliament passes 10 articles of security bill amid protests from opposition
DHA PhotoParliament’s General Assembly has passed 10 of the 132 articles in a controversial homeland security bill thanks to votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) despite activist-style demonstrations by opposition parties in the chamber.
On the early morning of Feb. 22, parliament passed the first 10 articles of “The Draft Law Changing Various Articles of the Law on the Powers and Duties of the Police, the Law on the Gendarmerie Organization, Duties and Authorities, the Law on Population Services; and Some Laws and Some Statutory Decrees” which would grant police wider powers to search people and vehicles without appropriate oversight when they stop vehicles for identity checks. General Assembly-level debates on the bill will continue this week, with the ruling AKP planning to stage debates in five parts, beginning with the 11th article.
According to some of the adopted articles, the law enforcement officer chief will be permitted to authorize searches verbally, while police will also be able to use a firearm against an individual who “attacks or attempts to attack workplaces, residences, public buildings, schools, hostels, places of worship, vehicles or against open or confined places where there are individuals or crowds with Molotov cocktails, explosives, incendiaries, combustibles, [devices that cause] suffocation or injurious or similar weapons.”
Unprecedented delaying tactics
Opposition party deputies resorted to different tactics in order to delay debate on the bill.
On Feb. 21, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Ayşenur Bahçekapılı opened a procedural debate in order to clarify objections filed by opposition parties.
When Bahçekapılı noticed she was being dragged into a battle of words on purpose in order to delay the debates, she refused to give the floor to opposition deputies.
The delay sparked a reaction from the AKP, prompting Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ to approach Bahçekapılı and request passing onto debates on the draft by ending the procedural debate. Still, Bahçekapılı became involved in arguments and ordered a break to the session, leading some AKP deputies to grumble loudly.
With the tension continuing until 10 p.m., Bahçekapılı changed her mind, opening the way to a debate on the entirety of the draft. With intervention from the AKP, the debate was completed in 10 minutes, sparking reaction from the opposition deputies who shouted slogans.
Consecutively, female deputies of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) began a sit-in demonstration and were soon joined by deputies of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). During the sit-in, they shouted slogans, saying, “This is a police coup, this is a police state.”
Some also said, “Parliament didn’t witness such a thing even during coup eras.”
‘Congratulations for saying fascism 237 times in five minutes’
CHP deputy Süleyman Çelebi, who took the rostrum to deliver his opinion on an amendment motion filed in regards to one of the articles, used his five-minute-long speech time to repeat the words “Damn fascism.” While he was doing so, HDP deputies shouted slogans as CHP deputies displayed their support by applauding him and shouting saying, “No pasarán to fascism.”
After Çelebi’s speech time ran out, Deputy Parliament Speaker Sadık Yakut, who took over the administration of the session from Bahçekapılı, told him: “Mr. Çelebi, congratulations. You said fascism 237 times.”
Some of the HDP deputies, meanwhile, covered their faces – women with their foulards and men with their neckties. The move was an apparent protest against a particular article that was passed under which a three to five-year prison sentence will be meted out to anyone “who conceals or partially conceals his or her face during a demonstration or public assembly that turns into propaganda for a terrorist organization.”