June 7, 2017 - Issue: Vol. 163, No. 97 — Daily Edition115th Congress (2017 - 2018) - 1st Session
TURKISH CRACKDOWN ON PEACEFUL PROTESTERS; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 97
(House of Representatives - June 07, 2017)
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[Pages H4651-H4652] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] TURKISH CRACKDOWN ON PEACEFUL PROTESTERS The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) for 5 minutes. Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, on May 16, a group of peaceful protesters gathered at a public park outside the Turkish Ambassador's residence in northwest Washington, D.C. They came from a variety of backgrounds-- Armenian, Kurdish, Yazidi, and more--but they shared a common concern about developments in Turkey, including the crackdown on political opposition and free speech in that country and Turkey's continued denial of the Armenian genocide. About a mile away, Turkey's President, Tayyip Erdogan was received warmly by President Trump at the White House, with no mention of Turkey's human rights abuses and growing authoritarianism. The protesters felt, and rightly so, that they had to exercise their First Amendment rights and raise their voices in dissent, the very dissent which has been violently squelched by Erdogan in his own country. What happened next was a chaotic and violent confrontation that left 11 people injured, 2 of whom required hospitalization. Tensions were already high, with pro-Turkish counter-protesters outside the residence scuffling with protesters. When Erdogan and his entourage arrived, the situation quickly spiraled out of control. As he exited his car, observing the protests, Erdogan can be seen on video speaking briefly to his security detail, and soon thereafter, several of these men, some of them armed with handguns, rushed past D.C. police officers to violently confront protesters, causing several injuries. The images that you see to my right are indelible and bloody. A Kurdish woman was put in a choke hold and told by the dark-suited man who attacked her that he was going to kill her. Protesters, men and women alike, were knocked to the ground and assaulted with kicks to the face and torso. This was not a scuffle. It was a full-fledged assault by professional thugs on a peaceful protest. Such scenes have become common in Turkey, where state-sponsored violence and repression have become the chief instrument to cement Erdogan's power. Selahattin Demirtas was, until recently, the leader of the Kurdish HDP party and someone I had the honor to meet 2 years ago, and now he sits in prison as prosecutors seek to sentence him to 143 years of confinement. Turkey has become the world's leading jailer of journalists, most recently adding French photojournalist Mathias Depardon, held in solitary confinement and without charge, to the ranks of 81 journalists currently imprisoned. Mr. Speaker, Erdogan cannot export the violent repression he visits on his own citizens to our streets. The violence of May 16 can't go unanswered or forgotten. Yesterday the House unanimously passed H. Res. 354, condemning the attacks and calling on the administration to pursue justice and hold those who carried out these attacks responsible, whether they be Turkish or not. This is a good start, but it cannot be the end. The D.C. police department is carrying out an investigation into the attacks, and ultimately they will require cooperation from Turkish authorities in identifying those responsible. Nothing that Turkey has done so far indicates that that cooperation will be forthcoming, and indeed, rather than show even the slightest contrition after their security forces assaulted Americans, authorities in Ankara instead summoned the U.S. Ambassador to lodge a complaint against the United States and police officers who sought to keep the peace. The message from Turkey is as clear as day: We can do as we please whether at home to our own citizens or on your own American soil. Mr. Speaker, I stand here today to affirm that we will not allow Turkey to beat innocent protesters on the streets of our Nation's capital. We will continue to pursue justice and to make clear that America will always stand up for the right of peaceful and free expression. [[Page H4652]] ____________________