THE STATEMENT issued by the Turkish Embassy trying to justify the actions of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bodyguards at a protest outside the ambassador’s residence is almost as outrageous as the violence that occurred Tuesday. It is replete with half-truths and outright lies. But it serves a perverse purpose: providing unvarnished insight into the mind-set of Turkey’s authoritarian government, where reason and the rule of law have been supplanted by the dictates and propaganda of Mr. Erdogan.
The sickening images of protesters being chased, kicked and bloodied by black-suited members of Mr. Erdogan’s security detail have, by now, been widely circulated and, we hope, implanted in public awareness as a stark example of the kind of oppression people in Turkey suffer on a daily basis. Breaking its silence amid mounting criticism (including the Turkish ambassador being summoned to the State Department for a meeting), the embassy Wednesday night released an unrepentant statement that shamelessly tried to blame the protesters. The release claimed the demonstrators were affiliated with the PKK, a group designated by the United States and Turkey as a terrorist organization, and that, lacking a permit, they had aggressively provoked Turkish Americans who had gathered to greet Mr. Erdogan.
It first should be pointed out that the protesters, their right to dissent protected by the U.S. Constitution, needed no permit and were breaking no rules. Demonstrations on public sidewalks are permitted without a permit as long as they don’t block the walkway and fewer than 100 people are expected. Tuesday’s protesters numbered about two dozen and, according to organizers, had no involvement or affinity with the PKK (and even if they did, that would be a matter for American law enforcement, not Mr. Erdogan’s goons). The group included women, children and elderly people.
It is apparent that the only threat posed by the protesters was their message of dissent against Mr. Erdogan. A video that surfaced on social media Thursday shows the melee breaking out with Mr. Erdogan smugly watching. Audible are chants of “Terrorist Erdogan” and “Baby-killer Erdogan.” Signs carried by some Kurdish activists expressed support for jailed Erdogan opponents: “Free Selahattin Demirtas” and “Free Figen Yuksekdag,” co-leaders of the third-largest political party in Turkey, the HDP. The embassy’s bogus claim that the violence was the result of Erdogan supporters acting in self-defense is refuted by the videos, which show the bodyguards as aggressors as D.C. police try to separate them from protesters, and by the fact that some members of the detail were detained by authorities before being released on grounds of diplomatic immunity.
What occurred Tuesday, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham unequivocally told us, was “an unexpected assault on peaceful protesters.” It is infuriating then that the Turkish government — rather than apologizing for its unlawful behavior — has the temerity to say that it hopes “in the future, appropriate measures” will be taken to prevent violence. Here’s an idea: Mr. Erdogan and his thugs can stay home.
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