BELGIUM—A member of the Belgian Parliament, Mahinur Özdemir, was expelled from her political party on Fri., May 29, after she refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Özdemir refused to acknowledge the genocide during a Belgian TV program aired by RTL-TVi on May 28. The Humanist Democratic Center (CDH), explaining that Özdemir did not share the party’s values, took action to remove her from its ranks.
Özdemir immediately received support from the Brussels office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party.
A statement by the AKP office in Brussels was released on May 30, and read: “The AKP Brussels supports Deputy Mahinur Özdemir. No one should have to express a specific point of view about an event in history to have the right to serve their fellow countrymen in Parliament. The actions of CDH raise the sufferings of a religious and ethnic group above the sufferings of others and silence the ones who have a different point of view.”
The statement further claimed that the decision was an affront to freedom of expression. “By trying to push Ms. Özdemir to sign a document of recognition of the ‘Genocide,’ and by kicking her out of the party after she refused, the CDH simply shows that it does not respect the freedom of conscience and expression in its ranks.”
The AKP statement also added that “In Turkey, all opinions about 1915 events are free. The AKP believes that all citizens—especially members of Parliament and politicians—should be able to express themselves freely on these historical issues.”
The Turkish European Democratic Union organized a demonstration in support of Özdemir in front of the CDH headquarters in Brussels on May 30. A funeral wreath was placed in front of the CDH office, with the words, “CDH killed freedom of expression and the fundamental rights of Mahinur Özdemir.”
Özdemir reacted by issuing a statement. “My position has always been to recognize all human tragedies and I respect the memory of all persons who lost their lives,” read the statement, which did not use the word “genocide.” She added that even the Belgian government has not recognized the genocide.
In 2009, Özdemir became the first woman wearing a headscarf to be seated at a Belgian Parliamentary Assembly. In 2010, she married a Turkish parliamentary attaché of the AKP. President Erdogan, prime minister at the time, attended the ceremony.