WASHINGTON–DC–Armenian–Kurdish–and Greek Americans protested Turkey’s ongoing campaign of genocide denial–human rights abuses–and aggression against its neighbors at an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) lecture featuring visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan–reported the Armenian Youth Federation Washington Ani Chapter (AYF-DC).
Protesters chanted "Erdogan Go Home,"Turkey Guilty of Genocide," and "Shame on AEI," as Prime Minister Erdogan and his entourage arrived–followed by busloads of Turkish Americans and dozens of reporters covering the function.
Erdogan discussed "Conservative Policy and the Globalization of Freedom," and was introduced by former Turkey lobbyist Richard Perle. Perle–who currently serves as an adviser on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Policy Board–was known as the leading advocate for US economic and military assistance to Turkey during his time at the State Department in the 1980s–and later used his influence to ensure billions of dollars of joint military contracts between US and Turkish firms.
Outside the downtown Washington–DC function–AYF-DC members and activists passed out hundreds of leaflets highlighting Turkey’s history of "aggression at home; aggression abroad" and urging people to participate in the ANCA campaign to "help end the cycle of genocide," by urging passage of the Congressional Genocide Resolution (H.Res.193 / S. Res.164). Each member of the AEI audience–including Administration officials–Congressional staff–think tank experts–and corporate representatives–walked by the protesters.
Press coverage of the protest included United Press International (UPI) and Associated Press (AP) reports. The UPI report–which was reprinted in the Washington Times–stated that protesters called special attention to Turkey’s "denial of the Armenian genocide–abuse of human rights–aggression against the Kurds–blockade of US aid to Armenia–restrictions against Christians–and military occupation of Cyprus."
Prime Minister Erdogan was in Washington–DC as part of a five-day trip to the United States–the highlight of which was his meeting with President George W. Bush on Wednesday. Earlier in the week–he was in New York–where he met with a series of Jewish and Turkish American groups. During a speech before Turkish Americans at the "Turk House," Erdogan announced that the Turkish Government would aggressively work against Armenian Genocide recognition efforts. In his speech–the Prime Minister noted:
"We do not plan to pursue a ‘defensive’ policy; rather–we plan to pursue an ‘offensive’ one. If you pursue a defensive policy–you will always try to respond to such claims. . . We want to remove such issues as genocide from our history books. Armenia’s did similar things too. We shall express ourselves. The important thing is being strong. If you are weak–they will cut many dresses for you; but if you are strong–all these claims will disappear."
"The AYF and Armenian American activists were here today to send the clear message that our community will not allow the genocide issue to simply ‘disappear,’ whether Turkey pursues an ?offensive’ or ?defensive’ strategy," said AYF-DC representative Ani Jerikian. "Shame on the American Enterprise Institute for opening its doors to the leader of a country which pursues a brazen policy of Genocide denial."
The Prime Minister is scheduled to attend the annual Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA) conference on January 30–and will then travel to Boston to speak at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government that evening.