Social Networks, Congressional Condemnations, Criminal Investigations, and Major Media Interest Drive Unprecedented American Criticism of Turkish Government
“We welcome the strong protests by members of the U.S. Senate and House against Erdogan’s efforts to export his government’s brutality to Washington, D.C.,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “As Senator McCain and others have said, Turkey’s Ambassador needs to be expelled at once. We would add that Ankara must immediately issue a blanket waiver of diplomatic immunity, allowing the thugs who attacked American citizens – our friends and allies – to be brought to justice. And Erdogan himself needs to offer a full and formal apology to those injured in this assault, to the City of Washington, the government of the United States, and the American people.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been outspoken on ABC Nightly News and MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe,’ where he stated, in no uncertain terms, “We should throw [Turkey’s] Ambassador the hell out of the United States of America. This isn’t Turkey or a third world country. This kind of thing cannot go unresponded to diplomatically,” he added.
Sen. McCain joined Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) in sending a letter to President Erdogan stating “The actions of your staff violate the constitutional protections of freedom of the press and freedom of assembly enjoyed by all Americans. […] Your staff’s blatant violation of these rights on American soil is an affront to those freedoms and reflects poorly on your government.”
Senate leaders—Republicans and Democrats alike—issued statements and took to social media condemning the attacks.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted, “This is the kind of thing Pres Erdogan lets happen to the Turkish people. It’s wrong there and it’s wrong here.”
Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D) referenced the Turkish government’s gag-rule on U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, noting, “Turk thugs assault U.S. diplomatic security and flee country—for these people we won’t say Armenian Genocide?” His colleague, Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Democrat Jack Reed (R.I.) demanded “Those members of the security detail involved in the attacks should be disciplined and the Trump Administration must make it clear to all embassies in the United States that our laws protect protesters and their right to peaceful assembly and free speech.”
The Senior Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (Md.) tweeted that “The Turkish government owes an apology; perhaps they forgot we have unalienable rights in this country,” calling the foreign security forces attack on American citizens “unacceptable.”
The Senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) told MSNBC that “We should say, very strongly, that is not the way we do things in America.”
Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a statement calling for an immediate apology from the Turkish Government. “Reports indicate that some Turkish officials were involved in assaulting protesters, which violates the most basic rules of democracy and is an affront to the United States and the value we place on the right to free speech, as embodied in our Constitution,” wrote the Senators. “We call upon the Turkish government to apologize immediately for the involvement of any officials.”
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse (R) said, “President Erdogan, you would do well to remember that this country is built on free speech, free religion, free press, & freedom to protest.”
Members of the House of Representatives were equally strident in condemning the attacks by Erdogan’s security detail.
House Foreign Relations Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), in a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, called for an immediate investigation, noting, “Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior. Above all else, they should never be permitted to violate the protection afforded by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee member Don Beyer (D-Va.) called on President Trump to “immediately expel the Turkish Ambassador to the United States. President Erdogan’s attacks on human rights and democratic institutions in Turkey are disgraceful, but condoning such attacks on American soil betrays our deepest values.” Rep. Beyer, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Lichtenstein from 2009-2103, went on to note that “As someone who has represented my country abroad as an ambassador, I have a special appreciation for the vital role that envoys play and the expectations for honorable behavior that come with responsibility. These actions fall grievously short of that standard, and the U.S. must take a stand.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), stated “Erdogan is busy turning his own country into an authoritarian state, but he needs to know that his thugs are not welcome here and that there will be consequences for this attack.”
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), decried the White House silence on the attacks, stating, “it cannot go unanswered. There must be consequences for the individuals who attacked protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, and they should be identified and questioned before they leave the country.”
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) concurred, tweeting, “There must be consequences.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus founder and co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), in a letter to President Trump, explained, “It needs to be made explicitly clear, from the highest level of our government, that bullying and brutality towards peaceful protesters will not be tolerated in this country – even from visiting heads of state. It also needs to be assured that your White House staff will comply fully with efforts to identify Turkish security forces who violated U.S. law, and allow justice to be pursued unfettered.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Republican Co-Chair Dave Trott (R-Mich.) called the attacks “unacceptable,” noting “while this incident is reflective of the Turkish government’s broad suppression of democracy, this is the United States and these overt acts of violence against those expressing their First Amendment right will not be tolerated.”
Similarly, fellow Republican Co-Chair David Valadao (R-Calif.) explained, “Our Constitution guarantees our citizens the right to free speech and it’s important for those in our country to respect our laws. These violent attacks not only broke our law, but violated our shared American values.”
Senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) tweeted to Turkey’s President Erdogan, “your common practice of violence against peaceful protesters must stop. It is unacceptable anywhere, especially, in the U.S.”
Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, tweeted, “Cozying up to dictators is shameful & now it’s put Americans in danger.”
Central Valley California Congressman Jim Costa (D) called the attacks “outrageous” and condemned them, and called for immediate action. “Our American President should take appropriate diplomatic and legal action against these Turkish thugs for their violence towards the Armenian, Kurdish, Yezidi, and other human rights demonstrators. If he does so, I believe he will find overwhelming bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress,” said Rep. Costa.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) called President Erdogan “an authoritarian and an oppressor,” an went on to note, “It was unwise for President Trump to meet with him. Now the United States needs to send a strong message that we will not stand by as Erdogan brings the same thuggish tactics to our nation’s capital.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) demanded “The Erdogan government must be held to account immediately and apologize for their anti-democratic violence. The men responsible for this brutality should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. At the very least, this good squad should be declared persona non grata and removed from the country forever.”
Hawaii Democrat, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard tweeted, “Erdogan is so accustomed to beating up protestors in Turkey, evidently he thinks he can get away with such tactics here too – Outrageous.” She went on to call on President Trump to take action. “President Trump, are you really going to allow Erdogan’s goons to beat up American citizens on American soil?”
District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton called on Secretary of State Tillerson to “bar any Turkish official who committed, encouraged, facilitated or otherwise participated in the assaults from reentering the United States if they have already left the country and expel any that remain in the country.”
Earlier in the week, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called the attacks, “an affront to D.C. values and our rights as Americans.” D.C. Chief of Police Peter Newsham condemned the attacks and announced, “we have every intention to pursue charges against the other individual involved.”
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian was videotaping live at the scene of the May 16th attack, which took place in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence where President Erdogan was scheduled to have a closed door meeting with representatives of The Atlantic Council, a leading think tank in Washington D.C., which receives funding from Turkey.
Hamparian’s video showed pro-Erdogan forces crossing a police line and beating peaceful protesters—elderly men and several women—who were on the ground bleeding during most of the attack.
Hamparian’s video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Voice of America Turkish division, in their video coverage shot from the vantage point of the Turkish Ambassador’s house, reported that the attackers belonged to President Erdogan’s security detail and were responsible for escalating the violence.
“The fights flared up after President Erdogan’s arrival at the Embassy residence,” reported Voice of America. “After the first bout of fights died down, Erdogan’s special security forces joined the second stage of fights. Fisticuffs and kicks ensued. The Washington Police Forces had great difficulty in preventing the fights. They had to use batons against Erdogan’s security forces.”
The Turkish language news item is available at:
The protests in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s house were a continuation of a demonstration held earlier in the day in front of the White House, co-hosted by the ANCA, as President Trump met with President Erdogan. Human rights and religious rights groups were joined by representatives of the Kurdish, Yezidi and Armenian communities to call attention to the Erdogan regime’s escalating repression against free press, the Kurdish and other ethnic communities, as well as, Turkey’s ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide.