PRESS RELEASE – Mahinur Ozdemir’s case in Belgium

Strasbourg, 04/06/2015

How Mrs. Mahinur Ozdemir- a Member of Brussels Parliament – became the target of the current stigmatisation trend against ethnic and cultural minorities and anti-Islam forces in Belgian politics?

In various EU countries, many young men and women of migrant background have joined political parties, won elections and became role models for the Muslim youth. Belgium until recently had a relatively good example of this inclusiveness. It has a large number of minorities with Muslim background that are actively taking part in all walks of life.

The Turkish community in Belgium has more than 220 000 Belgian-Turkish citizens and Mahinur Ozdemir has been one of the role models for exemplary integration and inclusion in the Belgian Society. A high profile woman politician made Belgium a good example for intercultural Europe and mutual acceptance.

Unfortunately on May 29, 2015, Mrs. Mahinur Ozdemir was expelled from her party – CDH (The Humanist Democratic Centre) after some political and media pressure because she refused to take a position when her party demanded that she accept the Armenian allegations of genocide. She was not consulted or asked to explain or defend her position. She learned about the expulsion from Twitter. Freedom of expression, a basic right, was totally ignored.

Yet, Mrs. Mahinur Ozdemir‘s position has always been to recognize all human tragedies and respect the memory of all those who lost their life.

In recent days, Mrs. Mahinur Ozdemir has also become a target of resentment from the current party leader Benoit Lutgen because of her headscarf. After reactions from the ruling party in Turkey, Mrs. Mahinur Ozdemir’s party, CDH accused her of working for that party and tried to make it a Turkish issue. CDH further inflamed the situation by claiming that her expulsion has increased public support for them.

Lots of racist and Islamophobic arguments are being used in the social media where many Belgian people are telling Mrs. Mahinur Ozdemir to go back to her homeland.

A political controversy should not be used to violate the fundamental human rights, freedom of expression and thought of migrants in Europe.

EMISCO urges intergovernmental organisations, civil society organizations working on human rights, rights of women and democracy to speak up for Mrs. Mahinur Ozdemir and make it known to Belgian government that stigmatization of Muslims, Turks or other minority groups is not acceptable.

For further inquiries, please refer to the contacts below.

Bashy Quraishy – Secretary General