ANKARA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reacted angrily after Istanbul-Armenian member of Turkey’s parliament Garo Paylan demanded that Ankara officially recognize the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
Erdogan said that a corresponding parliamentary resolution drafted by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Paylan, amounts to high treason.
The resolution not only calls for a formal recognition of the genocide but also says that the Turkish authorities must rename streets bearing the names of Ottoman masterminds of the genocide and offer Turkish citizenship to Armenian descendants of its survivors.
Paylan circulated the measure ahead of the 107th anniversary of the Armenia Genocide. Speaker Mustafa Sentop refused to include it on the parliament agenda on the grounds that it was contrary to the provisions of the rules of procedure.
Paylan’s initiative provoked a storm of criticism from other senior Turkish officials as well as a spokesman for the ruling AKP party.
“We regard as clear treason the manifestation of such brazenness in this body symbolizing the expression of national will,” Erdogan said after chairing a cabinet meeting in Ankara on Monday.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chair Devlet Bahçeli also criticized Garo Paylan for submitting the bill to the Turkish parliament.
“Unfortunately, there is an agent of the [Armenian] diaspora under the roof of the Turkish parliament. Proposing a bill over Armenian genocide claims is an insult to our ancestors and treason,” Bahçeli told his lawmakers at a weekly address on April 26.
“The fact that such a disgraced, instigator person is a member of the Turkish parliament is a shame for all of us. It’s crystal clear by whom this rotten lawmaker is encouraged and with whom he is in solidarity,” Bahçeli stated.
The Turkish parliament is not a place for those who think Turkey should recognize the Armenian genocide, the MHP leader said while also criticizing the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for not strongly condemning the HDP lawmaker.
Erdogan said that the Turkish authorities will take “appropriate actions” against Paylan. But he did not clarify whether the 49-year-old lawmaker representing the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP will face criminal charges.
The authorities have for years tried to strip Paylan of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Speaking to the CNN-Turk TV channel, Paylan described the furious reaction to his initiative as unprecedented. He said that similar resolutions drafted by him in the past did not cause such a government outcry.
“I haven’t changed, which means that Turkey has,” he said, adding that Erdogan’s government is no longer willing to tolerate public actions challenging the official Turkish version of the events of 1915.
The HDP is the only major Turkish party to have recognized the World War One-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide.