(Garo Paylan, Selina Dogan, Markar Esayan)
By Nick Rejebian (@nrejebbs), Assembly Public Affairs Intern
With 86% of Turkey at the ballot box on Sunday, three Christian Armenian candidates, Garo Paylan, Selina Dogan, and Markar Esayan, were elected to the Turkish Parliament.
Garo Paylan, a founding member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was elected in the Istanbul 3rd Region. Born in Malatya in 1972 and raised in Istanbul, Paylan began working humbly as a manager at Armenian schools. Since the HDP’s founding in 2012, Paylan aided its growth as a member of the party’s central executive committee. In Sunday’s election, Paylan competed for one of 31 regional seats; and with HDP receiving 14% of the vote and five seats, Paylan won the 2nd seat.
Selina Dogan, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is the first elected Armenian female deputy Member of Parliament, representing Istanbul’s 2nd Region. Born in Istanbul in 1977, Dogan rose quickly in academia as she pursued her Faculty of Law from Galatasaray University, and completed her graduate studies at the Informations University. With 26 regional seats at stake, the CHP won 27% of the votes. Of these eight seats, Ms. Dogan was elected to the 1st seat garnering the most votes of the CHP in the district.
Finally, Markar Esayan, a member of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) competed in Istanbul’s 2nd region. Born in 1969 in Istanbul, Esayan began writing for the bi-lingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos in 1997, and left the pro-AKP daily newspaper Yeni Safak to run for parliament. Esayan is also a published novelist having written five books since 2005. For the 2015 election, the AKP won 42% of the vote in the Istanbul’s 2nd region thus earning 12 of the 26 seats. Esayan was elected to the 12th seat.
An estimated 70,000 Armenians live in Turkey today, and with the Turkish population around 78 million, Armenians make up less than 0.01%. The Armenian community in Turkey now has three individuals, proud of their heritage, representing them in the Turkish parliament. The question is, will the voices of the suppressed finally be heard in what promises to be the beginning of a new liberal democracy in Turkey?
Nicholas Rejebian is an intern with the Armenian Assembly for America’s Terjenian-Thomas Summer Internship Program in Washington, DC. A native of Evanston, Illinois, Nicholas studies Political Science and Economics at Dickinson College.