By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
Armenians and non-Armenians alike were saddened and outraged seeing videos of the attack on 11 protesters who were injured after being hit, kicked and choked by Pres. Erdogan’s security guards in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., on May 16. Regrettably, several thousand Turks shamelessly sent tweets expressing their joy that Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Greeks and Yezidis were bloodied by Turkish thugs!
This vicious brawl has done more damage to the image of Turkey in the United States and around the world than any other brutality recently committed by Turkish soldiers, police or security guards inside Turkey. Turkish denialists constantly complain that Armenian ‘propaganda’ on the Armenian Genocide has stained the reputation of Turks worldwide, ignoring the fact that Turks have tarnished their own image by committing a heinous mass crime.
In fact, the May 16 nasty attack by Turkish goons on peaceful protesters has done more to reinforce the ‘Terrible Turk’ image than anything Armenians or others could have done. The Turkish government spends millions of dollars each year to pay public relations firms to present Turkey in the best possible light. However, the latest incident, which was condemned by many Members of Congress and covered widely by the mass media, has blackened the reputation of Turkey and its autocratic President Erdogan to such an extent that even $100 million spent on public relations cannot undo the damage inflicted on their image.
Here are some of the critical comments made by Members of Congress:
Sen. John McCain (Rep.-AZ), Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, told ABC Nightly News and MSNBC: “We should throw [Turkey’s] Ambassador the hell out of the United States of America!”
In addition, Sen. McCain and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Dem.-CA), Ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a joint letter to Pres. Erdogan asking for an apology.
Four Republican Senators: Marco Rubio (FL), Tom Cotton (AR), Mike Lee (UT), and Ted Cruz (TX) issued a joint statement demanding an immediate apology from the Turkish government.
Condemnatory statements were also issued by: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (Dem.-NY), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (Dem.-RI), Sen. Jack Reed (Dem.-RI), Sen. Ben Cardin (Dem.-MD), Sen. Patrick Leahy (Dem.-VT), and Sen. Ben Sasse (Rep.-NEB).
House Foreign Relations Committee chairman Ed Royce sent a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions stating: “Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior.”
Several other House members also issued statements condemning the Turkish attack: Don Breyer (Dem.-VA), Devin Nunes (Rep.-CA), Adam Schiff (Dem.-CA), Steny Hoyer (Dem.-MD), Frank Pallone (Dem.-NJ), Dave Trott (Rep.-MI), David Valadao (Rep.-CA), Brad Sherman (Dem.-CA), James McGovern (Dem.-MA), Jim Costa (Dem.-CA), Zoe Lofgren (Dem.-CA), Ron DeSantis (Rep.-FL), Tulsi Gabbard (Dem.-HI), Ted Deutch (Dem.-FL), and District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, tweeted: “Clearly Erdogan’s guards feel complete impunity, drawing on tools of repression they use at home and knowing he has their back, no matter what.”
In addition, both the Mayor and Police Chief of Washington, D.C., condemned the brutal attack in the nation’s Capital, shortly after Pres. Erdogan met with Pres. Trump in the White House.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told FOX news that the Turkish attack is “simply unacceptable” and is under investigation. Turkey’s Ambassador to Washington, Serdar Kilic, was summoned to the State Department by Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon. The State Department issued a statement condemning the Turkish government “in the strongest possible terms.” The Wall Street Journal reported that the State Department “is exploring ways to block members of Erdogan’s security detail from re-entering the United States.” This is the least the U.S. government should do! Amazingly, Amb. Kilic was quoted as telling a police officer who was trying to break up the fight, “you cannot touch us,” referring to the possible diplomatic immunity granted to some of the Turkish guards. Incredibly, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. Ambassador in Ankara to complain about the behavior of Washington, D.C., police.
The most serious aspect of this attack was the fact that Pres. Erdogan was video-taped by Voice of America (Turkish news service) directing his security detail to attack the protesters, according to the Washington Post. Regrettably, this is not the first time Pres. Erdogan’s bodyguards have gotten involved in beating or threatening individuals during his overseas trips.
In 2009, then-Prime Minister Erdogan’s security members were involved in a brawl with Pres. Obama’s Secret Service agents.
In 2011, Erdogan’s bodyguards broke the ribs of a United Nations security guard, during an attack at the U.N. headquarters in New York City.
In 2014, Turkish security in New York threatened and pushed around journalists working for a newspaper unfriendly to Erdogan.
In 2015, during a visit to Brussels, Pres. Erdogan’s security guard attacked a Belgian government bodyguard.
In February 2016, Pres. Erdogan’s bodyguards assaulted three women who were protesting his speech at the National Institute of Higher Studies in Quito, Ecuador. The Turkish security members also broke the nose of an Ecuadorian Parliament member who was trying to intervene. Erdogan arrogantly justified the attack: “Appropriate responses will always be taken to handle these disrespectful people.” Rosana Alvarado, deputy speaker of Ecuador’s Parliament, responded: “We don’t want to see Erdogan in our country again!”
In March 2016, Pres. Erdogan’s security attacked journalists and protesters outside the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., where the Turkish leader was invited to give a speech.
After listing some of the aforementioned attacks, National Review Online columnist Tom Rogan concluded: “As Erdogan centralizes power and attacks his opponents, the TPPD [Turkish Presidential Protection Department] has morphed from law enforcement into suited thuggery.”
It will take a long time for Turkey to recover the flood of negative publicity in hundreds of U.S. newspapers, TV stations, and websites, including a devastating editorial in the Washington Post. Anders Corr writing in Forbes magazine suggested that “next time Turkey comes to town, mobilize the riot police to corral Erdogan’s thuggish security if they get out of hand.” In an editorial, The New York Times aptly described the May 16 attack: “The enduring image of Mr. Erdogan’s visit will not be the pomp at the White House but that of his security guards and other supporters beating up protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.”
Erdogan’s security exhibited their typical criminal behavior in front of the whole world. They behaved in the United States the way they behave routinely in Turkey!
Two Turkish journalists, writing in the independent Al-Monitor website, correctly characterized the recent ugly incidents with Erdogan’s bodyguards: “The Washington visit ended with scenes making a mockery of Turkey’s image,” wrote Fehim Tastekin. Pinar Tremblay added: “Erdogan’s security personnel are notorious for attacking protesters all around the globe, thus presenting a brutal face of Turkey that no anti-Turkey lobby could accomplish in one day.”