Resolution Condemns Turkish Violence Against Peaceful Protesters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, The House Foreign Affairs Committee, unanimously adopted House Resolution 354, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). H. Res. 354 condemns the violence against peaceful protesters outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence on May 16, 2017, and calls for measures to be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) was joined by Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) in introducing H.Res. 354, requesting “the perpetrators to be brought to justice.”

On the passage of H.Res. 354, Chairman Royce said: “Armed members of President Erdogan’s security detail savagely beat, choked and kicked protesters in an unprovoked assault aimed at silencing these American citizens’ right to free speech and assembly. This timely resolution sends a clear signal to the Turkish government that we will not allow any foreign government to stifle the rights of our citizens.”

H.Res. 354 says that “any Turkish security officials who directed, oversaw, or participated in efforts by Turkish security forces to illegally suppress peaceful protests on May 16, 2017, should be charged and prosecuted under United States law.” The Resolution continues: “the United States should take steps to strengthen freedoms for the press and civil society in countries such as Turkey, and combat efforts by foreign leaders to suppress free and peaceful protest in their own countries.”

Shocked to see Erdogan’s thugs attacking peaceful protesters, Ranking Member Engel stated: “I had been invited, actually, to go to that meeting at the Turkish Embassy. I didn’t go, and I’m glad I didn’t go because I was just horrified when I heard what happened…This Resolution calls for those responsible to face justice. This is a much bigger issue. We’ve seen a troubling pattern from Turkey in recent years, but if Turkish government officials come to our country and try to stifle American democracy and freedom of speech, there must be consequences.”

During the markup, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) announced that she will send a bipartisan letter with Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) to the Department of Justice and Department of State, asking for “immediate accountability from the Turkish government for these disgraceful attacks.” Rep. Ros-Lehtinen added: “This behavior is intolerable. The letter asks those involved to be brought to justice immediately with the participating Turkish personnel in the U.S. expelled and those abroad barred for future entry.”

Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) commented on Turkish President Erdogan watching his security detail while they brutally beat Americans and “bloodied these people who have every right to be there protesting as U.S. citizens.” He continued: “I hope he gets the message through this legislation. He is not welcome in the United States if he is going to think he can attack Americans who are expressing their opinion and are in opposition to his policies.”

Subcommittee Chairman Rohrabacher also said President Erdogan is turning Turkey into “the worst type Islamic terrorist dictatorship that exists in the world…This is not the person we should be kissing up to. He made the situation even worse when he called the American Ambassador a few days ago, and in an arrogant insult to the American people suggested that we should in some way apologize for the brutal attack of American citizens by his own bodyguards. If he thinks this way, he is not welcome in our country.” Subcommittee Chairman Rohrabacher also scheduled a hearing on this matter entitled: “Violence Outside the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence: The Right to Peaceful Protest.”

“Turkey has been on a downward spiral under the aspiring dictator[ship] of Erdogan. Erdogan has spared no effort to undermine Turkey’s democratic institutions, and he attacks civil liberties in Turkey. Now Erdogan thinks he can bring his crackdown on basic rights to the United States to Washington D.C., the seat of democracy in the world,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) said. “This kind of vicious behavior is unacceptable anywhere in the world, but especially here in America, in Washington, D.C. That’s why I strongly support this resolution that condemns this violence and calls on our government to raise the issue with Turkey. Freedom of expression is essential to the foundation of America, and it’s clear that Erdogan does not honor this most basic right.”

Rep. Poe concluded: “This attack by a foreign dictator on our constitutional basic right of speech is most disturbing. So while Erdogan continues his path of dictatorship in Turkey by violently quashing all opposition, this resolution sends – I hope – a message we will have no foreign tyrant violate our sacred rights on American soil. Justice demands that something occur and that he be held accountable and Turkey be held accountable because justice is what we do in this country.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) added that “whether you agree or disagree, you’re supposed to have the freedom, especially here in the United States…What took place was horrific and we all need to speak out against that.”

Along with other Members’ statements, Rep. Chris Smith (D-NJ) stated that the Turkish bodyguards’ violence was “especially egregious” and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said those actions were “absolutely appalling and will not be tolerated.”

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