Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent human rights advocate, has announced that he will not run in the parliamentary elections in May and will instead pursue civil society work.
Gergerlioğlu announced his decision on Twitter on Tuesday, saying, “I’m not running for a seat in parliament’s 28th [legislative] term. I’m planning to concentrate more on civil society work. I’ve done my best in this session to work for the people who voted for me.”
Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14.
Gergerlioğlu’s decision has come as a surprise to many. Most of his followers on Twitter have called on him to revisit his decision, saying his presence in the Turkish Parliament is important because he is an ardent rights advocate who is honest and does not discriminate among people.
Gergerlioğlu’s rights activism has frequently made him a target of the Turkish government since he harshly criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his officials for widespread rights violations in the country, especially following a failed coup on July 15, 2016.
In July 2021, Gergerlioğlu returned to his seat in parliament, four months after he was stripped of his parliamentary status based on a conviction over a social media post in 2016.
He had been jailed for four months after his conviction was upheld and released from prison later based on a decision from Turkey’s Constitutional Court. The top court ruled that Gergerlioğlu’s right to stand for election and engage in political activities as well as his right to liberty and security were violated through his imprisonment.
The lawmaker’s conviction and the removal of his parliamentary status attracted global outrage at the time, with many calling it a kind of punishment for his activism and politically motivated.
Gergerlioğlu was attacked by Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers after he brought widespread claims of strip-searches and harassment in prisons and detention centers to the attention of legislators in December 2020.
The HDP politician has been outspoken about the rights violations suffered by victims of a crackdown launched by the government in the aftermath of the failed coup under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Gergerlioğlu, a medical doctor by profession, is among the more than 130,000 civil servants who were removed from their jobs in a massive purge following the coup on allegations that they had links to terrorist organizations.