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Ocalan niece's swearing-in ceremony marks milestone for Kurds

The niece of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan made her debut in parliament last week in a striking illustration of how the Kurdish struggle has progressed and transformed Turkey over the years.
Lawmaker of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Dilek Ocalan, niece of jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan, returns to her seat after taking her oath at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, June 23, 2015. For many Turks, the name Ocalan is indelibly linked to the man they revile as leader of a Kurdish insurgency in which 40,000 people died. But on Tuesday, an Ocalan became one of the country's youngest parliamentarians. Dilek, the 28-year-old niece of jailed militan
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In 1991, iconic Kurdish activist Leyla Zana became the first Kurdish woman elected to Turkey’s parliament. While taking the oath, she uttered a few Kurdish words that were to alter her life. In the ensuing chain of events, Zana and several fellow Kurdish lawmakers were expelled from the legislature. She had her parliamentary immunity revoked and found herself in prison for a decade.

The nationalistic uproar Zana caused in parliament was frequently evoked last week, when another remarkable Kurdish woman took her parliamentary oath. Dilek Ocalan — the niece of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — was among 80 members of the Kurdish-dominated Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who assumed their seats in the new parliament. Ocalan’s sheer presence in the legislature comes as a striking illustration of how far the Kurdish struggle has progressed and transformed Turkey since the days Zana was booed for simply speaking in Kurdish.

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