We Must Hold Turkish Government Accountable for Attacking Protesters

If I were to tell you that Turkish President Recep Erdogan sent his bodyguards to beat up people who were protesting him, you probably wouldn’t be too surprised to hear about that type of behavior from an authoritarian regime.

What would surprise you, though, is to learn that such a thing could even happen on American soil.

Warning: video of the attack against protesters is graphic.

On Tuesday, a small group of individuals held a protest adjacent to the home of the Turkish ambassador in Washington, D.C. While the demonstrators were peaceful, a group of people who presumably did not agree with political speech suddenly ambushed them.

In total, eleven people were injured with nine people sent to the hospital. D.C. police and members of the Secret Service intervened when the attackers started bloodying the protesters.

Several of the pro-Erdogan attackers were dressed in suits and carrying guns. Turkish state-sponsored media confirmed they were members of Erdogan’s personal security detail. (Erdogan was in D.C. at the time to visit with the U.S. president.)

Nearly as shocking as the attacks themselves is the response to the incident from the Turkish government. They labeled the demonstrators terrorists (with no attempt to support this claim) and put the blame on these demonstrators for being “provocative.”

So far, the State Department has only told the press that, “We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.”

As for President Donald Trump, he’s said nothing about the attacks. On top of that, he’s only paid compliments to Erdogan, a man who much of the international community has criticized recently for trying to consolidate power to become more of a dictator.

Fortunately, other government leaders are picking up the slack and publicly condemning this incident. “This is the United States of America,” said Senator John McCain. “We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this thuggish behavior.”

McCain’s Republican colleague Representative Ed Royce echoed these sentiments, calling on the State Department and DOJ to press charges. “Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior,” Royce said.

Not everyone is optimistic that the attackers will be held accountable. First, the bodyguards likely already went home to Turkey at the time Erdogan departed. Second, as Joseph Giacalone, a criminal justice professor, explained to NBC News, security guards that protect foreign leaders are typically entitled to diplomatic immunity. Unfortunately, international laws do not exist that would hold the guards responsible for disrupting political speech.

Nevertheless, that’s no excuse not to at least try to send a message. Even if we can’t necessarily arrest the attackers, if we want to be a model of free speech to the world, we need to start by protecting the rights of protesters on our own land. Sign this petition to tell the state department to issue consequences to the Turkish government for handling dissenters in such a terrible manner.

Photo Credit: The Kremlin

82 comments

Jaime J
Jaime Jabout an hour ago

Thank you

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Lisa M
Lisa Mabout an hour ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa Mabout an hour ago

Noted.

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Deborah W
Deborah W2 hours ago

ALL SHOULD PUBLICLY CONDEMN THE INCIDENT. Problem is, depending on "sources", where is the blame to ultimately rest? In today's world nothing is presented or seen as it really is, speculation and interpretation outweighing all else -- often depending on the platform featured.

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Margie F
Margie F6 hours ago

Thank you

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Marc P
Marc P15 hours ago

This is an OUTRAGE! And the entire matter has been under-reported and played down by the media! Those guilty of assault should be arrested, and that Fascist scumbag ambassador should be snatched by the scruff of his pencil neck, dragged to the airport, placed in the back of a military transport plane and kicked out at 20,000 feet over the capitol of Turkey. The fact that NOTHING has happened legally regarding this incident makes the U.S. Government COMPLICIT in these crimes!

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Ciaron D
Ciaron D18 hours ago

This is just a typical piece of the thuggish behaviour that ErdoÄŸan uses at home, as he rules with an autocratic style and thinks his majoritarian credentials gives him carte blanche to treat any who opposes him as scum. Basically he is showing Trump like Mr Punch that is the way to do it. So expect Trump to have opponents beaten up and maybe Putin will show how to get rid of pesky journalists too - who knows he may beat up Scooby Doo and his associates too by bringing in Scrappy Doo.

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Lenore K
Lenore K19 hours ago

ok

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Rachel -
Rachel -23 hours ago

I also want to point out that this is terrible for future protesters because the police appeared to be outnumbered and they won't be having that. Trust me, they'll be ready next time with a lot more police, possibly militarization, and orders on what to do about goons attacking American citizens on American soil for no reason. They don't like looking unable to control things. In what world do armed people put hands on American cops and not get shot, or even tased or pepper sprayed??? I think it's obvious things could go really bad...

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Rachel -
Rachel -23 hours ago

The video I saw shows Erdogan appearing to have personally sent his goons to attack the protesters. That's speculation to a degree, but from what I saw, his bodyguard leaned into the car and spoke to Erdogan, said something to other security, and a whole gang of them immediately headed over there and attacked the protesters. Even if Erdogan felt in danger - which I saw no reason why he possibly would, having a huge gang of security surrounding his car - why tf didn't he just tell his driver to go?? There's simply no conceivable excuse for this that I can see.

I agree we should declare everyone involved in this attack persona non grata and kick them out of the country. But before doing that, rethink the decision not to prosecute the goons. They don't have the same diplomatic immunity as Erdogan; they're only covered when performing their official duties. Under what theory is beating up protesters who aren't trying in any way to approach that dirtbag "performing official duties"? Care to answer Mr. genius Giacalone? And I get that there's a concern that our folks in Turkey might be in danger depending on the tack we take, so save it, just answer the question. I'm pretty mad.

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