The U.S. State Department has criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for branding Armenians as well as independent media and religious and sexual minorities as “representatives of sedition” in Turkey.
Erdogan launched the broadside at “the Armenian lobby, homosexuals and those who believe in Alevism without Ali” during an election campaign rally on Wednesday. He said they are secretly helping a pro-Kurdish party to prevent his AK Party from scoring a landslide victory in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.
Erdogan had earlier voiced similar allegations against Turkish media critical of his government and international media organizations such “The New York Times,” the BBC and CNN.
“When it comes to journalists, certainly, the U.S. supports freedom of expression, and we remain concerned about government interference in freedom of expression in Turkey,” Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman told a news briefing in Washington on Thursday. “We’ve said that for a long time.”
“As Turkey’s friend and as their NATO ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold democratic values, including due process, judicial independence, and freedom of expression, including access to media and information,” she said.
Asked by a reporter whether Washington deplores Erdogan’s references to Armenians, journalists and homosexuals, Harf replied: “Absolutely.”
Erdogan has resorted to anti-Armenian rhetoric throughout the Turkish parliamentary race. On May 27, for example, he listed “the Armenian Diaspora” among forces which he said oppose Turkey’s transformation into a presidential republic headed by him. Three days later, he claimed that “The New York Times,” which has repeatedly criticized his human rights record, is “close to the Armenian lobby.”
Erdogan also came under fire from his domestic and foreign critics last August after what was widely construed as a racist slur against Armenians. In a TV interview aired just days before a Turkish presidential election, Erdogan complained that the Turkish opposition is carrying out a smear campaign against him by claiming that he is of Armenian descent.
Armenia condemned those remarks as “racist.” Nevertheless, President Serzh Sarkisian subsequently congratulated Erdogan on winning the ballot and sent Foreign Minister Edward to his inauguration ceremony in Ankara.