ANKARA / ZALIN (QAMISHLI), Syria — Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) announced that it suspended MP Tuma Çelik from the party following accusations of sexual assault against a woman.
Çelik announced his resignation from the party on 18 July, stating that his accuser was “defaming and blackmailing him.”
Despite his resignation, the party moved forward with its disciplinary investigation as stipulated by party policy. Çelik was suspended until the end of the investigation.
“In the last few days, there have been very serious accusations against us in the media, especially in the pro-government media,” said HDP deputy parliamentary group chair Saruhan Oluç on 20 July. “Male violence against women and crimes against women are actually social issues and occur in political parties from time to time, as well as in society.”
“It was the first time that the HDP faced such a situation since it was founded … The HDP as a whole and the HDP Women’s Assembly in particular never compromise regarding the crimes committed against women, they don’t show the slightest hesitation,” Oluç continued. “They immediately take the necessary stance against the smallest crime against women.”
On 21 July, while addressing parliament, HDP Co-Chair Misthat Sancar stated that the HDP Women’s Council began an investigation into the allegations immediately after the party was made aware. Sancar noted that although the woman in question was repeatedly asked during interviews, she made no statement regarding sexual assault or harassment. The woman applied to the prosecutor’s office but did not inform the HDP.
Across the border in North and East Syria, there is skepticism in some quarters about the veracity of the charges.
Co-Chair of the Syriac Union Party (SUP) in Syria Sanharib Barsoum considered that the allegations against Çelik are no more than a plot by Turkish intelligence to remove him from parliament.
Çelik has been a vocal critic of Erdogan’s government and a staunch defender of Syriac rights in the country. This year alone, he has criticized the government’s handling of a missing / murdered Chaldean couple, the arrest of three Syriacs, including a monk, on charges of terrorism, has called for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the Sayfo Genocide of 1915, and has pushed for Syriac schooling rights.
In a Facebook post, Barsoum declared that, “Tuma Çelik is the only Syriac MP in the Turkish Parliament who has proven very courageous in demanding the rights of his people and exposing the practices of the Turkish regime, starting from the Sayfo Genocide until the ruling of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Recently, he has been subjected to a Turkish intelligence plot that could lead to his removal from the parliament.”
Barsoum described the Turkish government as one that seeks to eliminate critical thought and people while claiming to be a proponent of justice and democracy; it seizes the property of the Syriac people and the endowments of churches while claiming to be a guardian of Christians.
Barsoum’s post concluded, “The subservient voices of the Turkish regime will one day disappear, and the voice of Tuma Çelik will remain, because it is the voice of the people and the voice of truth and life.”