Leyla Zana was the first Kurdish woman to win a seat in the Turkish Parliament in 1991. Her decision to give the Parliamentary Oath in Kurdish led to immediate calls for her arrest. This was the first time Kurdish had been spoken in the Turkish Parliament. When the Democracy Party (DEP) was banned by the Turkish government in 1994, her parliamentary impunity was lost and she was arrested, along with five other DEP deputies. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released in 2004 due to international pressure, having suffered through weeks of hunger strikes in protest against her imprisonment. She received the Rafto Prize in 1994 and the Sakharov Prize the following year.
Since her release, Leyla Zana has continued to work for a peaceful political solution to the long and violent conflict, the end to extra-judicial killings, political imprisonment, and detentions without trial, and to protect the rights of the Kurdish People to speak and educate their children in their own language. She was re-elected to parliament in the June 2011 elections and is member of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
Read Leyla Zana’s full biography.
Read Leyla Zana’s address to the first World Kurdish Congress in Rottadam, held in October 2011.