Reps. Bilirakis & Ros-Lehtinen Lead Latest Congressional Rebuke of Erdogan-Ordered Beatings in Washington
WASHINGTON–House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) called the May 16 brutal beatings of peaceful protesters by Turkish President Erdogan’s bodyguards “indefensible,” praising the leadership of Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY) in securing unanimous committee passage of H.Res.354 condemning this attack, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“The violent crackdown on peaceful protesters by Turkish security forces was completely indefensible, and the Erdogan government’s response was wholly inadequate,” said Speaker Ryan in a statement issued on May 25th. “Turkey is an important NATO ally, but its leaders must fully condemn and apologize for this brutal behavior against innocent civilians exercising their First Amendment rights. In the meantime, we stand fully committed to helping bring all those responsible to justice.”
Speaker Ryan’s comments come following two blistering Congressional events Thursday – the first, the full House Foreign Affairs Committee markup of H.Res.354 and the second, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe hearing on the May 16th violence – during which Members of Congress shared their outrage over Turkey’s efforts to trample on U.S. First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
These Congressional meetings were accompanied by a second U.S. House sign-on letter on the attack this week, this latest one led by Congressional Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and House Foreign Affairs Committee senior member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and signed by 38 of their colleagues.
“This is unacceptable in any situation, but even more so when Turkish leaders come and claim to be faithful allies to the United States,” read the Congressional letter, which called for the perpetrators to be sought out and brought to justice. “Turkish personnel based in the U.S. who were involved in the attacks should be declared persona non grata and expelled from the U.S. immediately. Turkish personnel not based in the United States who were involved in the attacks should be barred from entry into the U.S. in the future. Foreign nationals who cannot respect the rule of law of this great country should not be allowed to enjoy the rights and privileges it affords.”
The ANCA’s Aram Hamparian, who testified at the House Foreign Affairs Europe Subcommittee hearing on the topic earlier today, praised Speaker Ryan and the efforts of Representatives Bilirakis and Ros-Lehtinen and all Congressional leaders who have taken a strong stand condemning Turkey’s latest assault on protesters. “This is the now third time that Erdogan’s security forces have attacked Americans on U.S. soil,” said Hamparian. “This time – with viral video, robust social networking, major media attention, and a strong Congressional focus – we are pressing for concrete action – starting with the expulsion of the Turkish Ambassador, the lifting of diplomatic immunity, and action on each of the points in H.Res.354.”
Joining Representatives Bilirakis and Ros-Lehtinen in cosigning the Congressional letter were Representatives: Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Jim Banks (R-IN), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Charlie Crist (D-FL), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Rodney Davis (R-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Bill Foster (D-IL), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Peter King (R-NY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Leonard Lance (D-MA), James McGovern (D-MA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ted Poe (R-TX), Mike Quigley (R-IL), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Carol Shea Porter (D-NH), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Dina Titus (D-NV), Norma Torres (D-CA), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Ann Wagner (R-MO), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Ted Yoho (R-FL), Lee Zeldin (R-NY).
The complete text of the letter is provided below.
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 think tank leaders. 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. Voice of America Turkish division, in their video coverage shot from the vantage point of the Turkish Ambassador’s house, showed President Erdogan ordering his security detail to attack the protesters, then watching calmly as the beatings were carried out.
The U.S. State Department called the Turkish Ambassador in for a discussion last week regarding the incident, officially expressing their dismay, calling the actions of President Erdogan’s body guards “unacceptable.” President Trump has yet to comment on the matter.
In a highly incendiary move, on Monday, May 22nd, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry called in the U.S. Ambassador John Bass for a diplomatic discussion, accusing U.S. police and security personnel of “aggressive and unprofessional actions.”
The protest in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence was 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 obstruction of justice for the Armenian Genocide.
Text of Bilirakis – Ros-Lehtinen Congressional Letter to Attorney General Sessions and Secretary of State Tillerson
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Tillerson:
We write today to express our outrage over the remorseless acts of violence inflicted upon individuals exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment right to free speech outside the Washington, D.C. residence of the Turkish Ambassador on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Widely circulated video evidence shows and subsequent reports confirm that several members of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail physically assaulted multiple individuals leaving them bloodied and bruised with some having to be hospitalized due to the severity of their injuries.
This behavior is the second time in two years that Turkish security forces have threatened and assaulted U.S. citizens and legal residents on American soil. This is unacceptable in any situation, but even more so when Turkish leaders come and claim to be faithful allies to the United States. This clear disrespect for our laws and those who enforce them, especially during National Police Week, is intolerable.
The individuals involved in Tuesday’s attacks on Americans on U.S. soil must be identified and brought to justice. Turkish personnel based in the U.S. who were involved in the attacks should be declared persona non grata and expelled from the U.S. immediately. Turkish personnel not based in the United States who were involved in the attacks should be barred from entry into the U.S. in the future. Foreign nationals who cannot respect the rule of law of this great country should not be allowed to enjoy the rights and privileges it affords.
Allies do not threaten U.S. troops and allies do not attack U.S. citizens on American soil. We ask you to uphold law and order and demand accountability from the Erdogan government.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.