A diverse group of Armenians, Kurds, Greeks, Cypriots, Yezidis, human rights groups and even various opposition Turkish political factions protested Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repression at home and aggression abroad in a heated demonstration which forced the closure of one of Washington, DC’s busiest streets for over an hour, reported the Armenian National Committee of Greater Washington.
Holding banners calling out Turkey’s ongoing Armenian genocide denial, crackdown on the country’s Kurdish community, and support for ISIS forces in Syria – protesters spotlighted Turkey’s democratic decline under President Erdogan’s rule, a view gaining increased support in Washington’s political circles in the days leading up to his U.S. visit. Among the protesters’ chants was: “Long live Kurdistan; long live Armenia.”
Pro-Turkish government counter-protesters wearing “We love Erdogan” T-shirts and holding “We Heart Erdogan” signs chanted their praise for the dictator. Erdogan security personnel were seen attacking protesters and needed to be subdued by Washington DC police. At least one Turkish reporter was pushed and another forced to the ground and beaten by Erdogan’s security team. Another reporter was forced out of Brookings Institution venue, prior to Erdogan’s arrival. Turkish journalists tweeted the surreal circumstances of the protest throughout.
The National Press Club (NPC) was quick to condemn the press crackdown, with NPC President Thomas Burr stating that the Turkish leader’s team “have no right to lay their hands on reporters or protesters or anyone else for that matter, when the people they were apparently roughing up seemed to be merely doing their jobs or exercising the rights they have in this country.”
The ANCA Eastern Region’s Armen Sahakyan commented that “We were pleased that so many Washington area Armenians joined today with our Kurdish and Greek friends and our allies in the human rights community in a strong show of solidarity against Recep Erdogan’s repression at home and aggression abroad. While it was encouraging to see such powerful American civil society opposition to Turkey’s increasingly violent rule, it was, at the same, deeply troubling to witness Erdogan’s security detail attacking journalists, effectively exporting Turkey’s intolerance to the U.S. capital.”
President Erdogan is one of 50 world leaders in Washington, DC this week, attending the nuclear energy summit. President Obama refused a one-on-one meeting with Erdogan, a fact which apparently prompted a three-hour rant by the Turkish leader at a Foreign Policy Association dinner on the eve of today’s speech at the Brookings Institution. Vice-President Biden was scheduled to meet with the Turkish leader today.