Members of President Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail beat up protesters in Washington, DC on May 16, 2017. Eleven people were injured and two hospitalized.
The Sub-committee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats of the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on May 25 to consider “Violence Outside the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence.” Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said at the hearing: “The attack by members of President Erdogan’s security detail on peaceful protesters earlier this month was offensive and showed a deep disrespect for the United States and the values we cherish. Those responsible should be punished as the law allows and I call on our own authorities to make sure such a situation is never again allowed to occur.”
Rohrabacher called Erdogan an “Islamo-fascist” who is an “enemy of the United States and an enemy of his own people.” According to Rohrabacher, “Political violence and suppression came to characterize Turkey at home and abroad.”
Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced H. Res. 354 condemning Turkey’s actions. The Resolution indicted “Turkish officials blatantly suppressed the First Amendment rights of United States citizens, and multiple armed Turkish security officials beat, kicked, and choked unarmed demonstrators.”
Outrage was bipartisan. Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) joined Royce in introducing H. Res. 354, and issued a joint statement: “Last week’s unprovoked attack on peaceful protesters by Turkish security forces on American soil must not go unanswered...those responsible must face justice.” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the violence “indefensible.”
With strong support from Congressman Rohrabacher and others, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H. Res. 354 on June 6, condemning Turkey. It recommends that those who “directed, oversaw, or participated in efforts by Turkish security forces to illegally suppress peaceful protests on May 16, 2017, should be charged and prosecuted under United States law.”
Can we identify the perpetrators? The New York Times published a frame-by-frame analysis of the incident.
It reported, “Ten of the men who attacked the protesters appear to be part of the formal security detail. They are dressed in dark suits, and they wore an in-ear radio receiver, Turkish breast pins and identification cards. At least four of the men carried guns.”
Another man displayed an “identity card showing Turkey’s presidential seal, suggesting he is a member of Erdogan’s delegation.”
Six of the attackers “wore outfits resembling uniforms worn by Turkish guards. Two of these men were carrying guns.”
According to The New York Times, “Three men charged the protesters. One man knocked two women to the ground, and another man repeatedly punched Lucy Usoyan, a protester, as she lay on the ground.”
Video of the incident shows Erdogan arriving at the Turkish ambassador’s residence in his motorcade. Erdogan’s adviser leans into the window of the car and has a conversation with Erdogan. According to a witness, “The order came from Erdogan to his adviser to the head of the security detail ― attack, attack.” During the brutalization, Erdogan steps out of his vehicle and dispassionately surveys the scene.
The United States should demand that Erdogan issue a public apology, as well as a written apology to each of the victims. Turkey should pay reparations to those attacked. The US State Department should request a waiver of immunity of Turkish security officials involved in the incident, enabling their extradition to the United States and prosecution.
If these steps are not taken, the US should take punitive measures.
The movements of Ambassador Serdar Kilic should be restricted to 100 feet of the Turkish ambassador’s residence. If Turkey does not cooperate with the investigation, Kilic should be evicted from the United States.
Investigators should identify and prosecute Turkish-Americans who participated in the melee, in addition to prosecuting members of Erdogan’s security detail.
A Congressional resolution should prohibit the sale of debt by the Turkish government to American banks. The resolution should also call on US banks holding Turkish debt to accelerate demands for repayment.
US agencies should find out where Erdogan keeps his money outside of Turkey and take steps to freeze his assets, pending civil suits by the victims.
The US should suspend the sale of small arms and other weapons to Turkey.
The Congress should expand assistance to civil society and independent media within Turkey.
The American people have a right to know the full details of what happened. The DC Metropolitan Police should publish the results of its investigation, and release intercepted communications of Turkish security involved in the assault.
I know Lucy and some of the other victims personally. While attacking protesters is routine in Turkey, impunity for Turkish security officers must not be tolerated in the United States. The incident is a repeat of what happened last year outside the Brookings Institution.
The victims of violence outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence welcome bipartisan support for H. Res. 354. Now they demand action and accountability.
David L. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a Senior Adviser and Foreign Affairs Expert at the US Department of State. His recent book is An Uncertain Ally: Turkey Under Erdogan’s Dictatorship.