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Kurdish deputy claims Turkish Parliament impeding oversight through censorship

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The Turkish Parliament Speaker’s Office has returned several parliamentary questions from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) dealing with human rights, prison conditions, censorship and an ongoing economic crisis since the beginning of the new legislative session because the questions included such words as Kurdistan, torture and rentier economy.

According to parliament’s bylaws, the Speaker’s Office has the authority to return questions from deputies addressed to the relevant government institutions.

However, HDP official Ayhan Bilgen implied it was censorship of a specific type of word.

“[Rentier economy] is an economic term. If we can’t use this, how can we fulfill our duty to oversee the government? Should we all use the same language?” Bilgen said during a speech in parliament last week.

Some questions that were returned included:

“What is the reason for the ill-treatment and human rights abuses of prisoners?”

“When will your ministry put on the agenda work to prevent human rights abuses and protect the basic rights of the prisoners?” (A question to the Justice Ministry)

“Were the law enforcement [officers] who threatened or ill treated civilians detected? Will there be legal action against them?”

“Why was a fine imposed on Zarok TV for the word ‘Kurdistan’ appearing in songs?”

HDP deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mahmut Tanal had previously complained about government bodies not answering parliamentary questions. In September, Gergerlioğlu said among 405 questions, only 20 were answered.

“Parliament is the institution tasked with oversight of the government. Not answering parliamentary questions not only renders deputies ineffective, it does the same to the public,” Tanal told reporters in September.

Ever since Turkey introduced an executive presidency as its system of governance in a narrowly backed referendum in 2017, the role of the parliament has been highly debated.

Even though parliament holds legislative authority, many observers argue that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could easily run the country with executive decrees without the help of parliament.

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