The shocking beating of Kurdish and Armenian demonstrators by the Turkish president's bodyguards in Washington

House Resolution Condemning Turkish Violence against Protesters Passes Unanimously; ANCA Director Offers Eyewitness Testimony

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WASHINGTON — The House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 25 unanimously adopted House Resolution 354 condemning 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, Royce said: “Armed members of President Erdogan’s security detail savagely beat, choked and kicked protesters in a 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, 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.”

Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian offered powerful testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, calling for a clear and decisive US response to the May 16th brutal beatings of peaceful American protesters.

Hamparian, whose live videotape footage from the attack was shown during the hearing, explained “What [Erdogan] ordered on the streets of our capital provides a small insight — a chilling insight — into the types of violence visited every day upon the citizens of Turkey, far from our city, away from our cameras. Those are the facts. That’s where we are.”

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Hamparian continued asking, “This hearing, Mr. Chairman, is about foreign policy, to be sure, but — at a more fundamental level — it’s about our shared American commitment to our First Amendment and our freedoms. The question before us is: How will we respond to Ankara exporting its intolerance and violence to our shores, his unapologetic attempts to bully Americans, as he has his own citizens?
How will we answer his arrogance?”

Among the remedies suggested by Hamparian included:

— President Trump should break his silence and condemn this attack on peaceful protesters in our nation’s capital.

— The US government – including our Department of Justice – should fully investigate and criminally prosecute the attackers, demanding that Turkey issue a blanket waiver of diplomatic immunity for all involved in this assault.

— The Administration should, as Senator McCain has recommended, exercise our right to immediately expel Turkey’s Ambassador from the United States – as both an expression of our outrage and a reaffirmation of our American devotion to freedom of expression.
Hamparian welcomed the full Committee’s unanimous adoption of H.Res.354, introduced by Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), with the support of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), condemning the attacks and “calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and measures to be taken to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

He also encouraged the adoption of H.Res.220 —  a bipartisan measure seeking to apply the lessons of Turkey’s genocide against Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, and other Christians in order to prevent future atrocities.

Also testifying at the hearing were Lusik Usoyan, founder and president of the Ezidi Relief Fund; Murat Yusa, a local businessman and protest organizer; and Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Usoyan and Yusa were victims of the brutal assault on May 16th by President Erdogan’s bodyguards.

“I believe that the individuals like Mr. Erdogan who systematically abuse his authority, by violating human right, pressing press, imprisoning second largest party’s [HDP] co-chairs and its members, committing war crimes, and strongly supporting a terrorist group like ISIS has no space in the White House of the United States of America,” explained Usoyan, who went on to outline the beating she received at the hands of pro-Erdogan henchmen. A Ezidi Kurd who grew up in Armenia, Usoyan cited Erdogan’s collusion with Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev as among reasons for the April, 2016, Azerbaijani attack against Armenia. A tearful Usoyan explained, “In the aftermath of the 4-day attack around 80 Armenian soldiers were killed and one Ezidi origin soldier was beheaded by Azeri solders. That soldier happens to be my cousin.”

“As somebody that takes pride in the fundamental American values, it was hard for me to explain to my children why I was attacked, and why Erdogan’s goons were able to escape the US without any justice,” Murat Musa told Members of Congress in his moving testimony. “To ensure justice is served is not for my benefit. It is for our children and the unpredictable future that lays ahead. To hold the perpetrators accountable for their unjustifiable and brutal attacks is not for my benefit. It is to reflect the values that is engraved in the hearts of all Americans.”

Ruth Wedgwood called the attacks “a dreadful episode of violence in which protesters assembled at Sheridan Circle, in front of the residence of the Turkish ambassador, were subjected to gratuitous and outrageous beatings by persons who were apparently part of the security detail of President Erdogan. There is no excuse for this.”

Wedgwood, who has survived a terrorist attack in the past, sympathized with the victims of the Erdogan ordered beatings, stated that “to send a message now to Turkey, there needs to be fairly demonstrative, dramatic measures taken.” Describing President Erdogan as a “thug” and a “bully,” Wedgwood explained that “One can surmise that if he bullies individual people, he will bully the region. Would he be a reliable ally? No.”

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 US 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 US 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.”  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.”

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.”

“The Armenian Assembly applauds the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, under the leadership of Chairman Ed Royce along with Ranking Member Eliot Engel, for its swift consideration and passage of this bipartisan resolution in response to Turkey’s assault against our most cherished and fundamental values. We urge the Senate to follow suit as well,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.