WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) supports the bipartisan congressional effort to revoke Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s invitation to the White House scheduled for Wednesday, November 13.
Earlier today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) led House members in pressing President Donald Trump to rescind his invitation to President Erdogan, underscoring that “Erdogan’s bloody campaign in Syria has destabilized the region and endangered U.S. national security.”
“President Erdogan’s decision to invade northern Syria on October 9 has had disastrous consequences for U.S. national security, has led to deep divisions in the NATO alliance, and caused a humanitarian crisis on the ground. Turkish forces have killed civilians and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a critical U.S. partner in the fight against ISIS, and displaced over one hundred thousand people from their homes in northern Syria,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Given this situation, we believe that now is a particularly inappropriate time for President Erdogan to visit the United States, and we urge you to rescind this invitation.”
The bipartisan letter was also signed by Representatives Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), William R. Keating (D-MA), Peter T. King (R-NY), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Susan Wild (D-PA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Colin Allred (D-TX), Jim Costa (D-CA), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MD), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
In addition, House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) called on the State Department to not allow into the United States anyone who travelled with President Erdogan in 2017 and participated in the attack on American citizens peacefully protesting outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
“The 2017 clashes were not the first time Erdogan’s thugs have used authoritarian tactics against American citizens while visiting the United States. This behavior is sadly routine for President Erdogan on Turkish soil. It is wrong and disturbing there, and it is an affront to American values and entirely unwelcome here. The Erdogan regime’s use of violence against innocent civilians anywhere is inhumane, uncivilized, and unacceptable,” Chairwoman Cheney said. “It is critical that we honor and protect the First Amendment rights of these and all Americans, and that we thank in advance the law enforcement officials who risk their own safety to bravely defend and protect Americans’ right to free speech,” she concluded.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) is also planning to send a letter to the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) ensuring the safety of peaceful protesters from the violence of pro-Erdogan demonstrators, and to the Department of State Office of the Chief of Protocol and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to guarantee that Erdogan and his bodyguards respect America’s First Amendment rights to assembly and speech.
According to recent court documents, additional details about Erdogan’s 2017 visit to Washington include more assaults by Turkish security personnel, reported The Washington Post. State Department memos written by U.S. security officers reported that Turkish security officers attacked both civilians and U.S. security agents in multiple instances, sometimes simultaneously, over the course of the afternoon of May 16, 2017, including the attack near the ambassador’s residence and then fighting outside the Turkish Embassy. Two Diplomatic Security special agents, six U.S. Secret Service officers, and one MPD officer sustained multiple injuries, with at least one taken to the hospital.
“The Armenian Assembly of America commends the Members of Congress for speaking up against President Erdogan’s anti-democratic practices and for urging President Trump to withdraw his invitation to the White House. As David L. Phillips stated earlier today on a Washington panel, President Trump should instead send the Turkish President home with a one-way ticket to The Hague, especially given Turkey’s violence in the Middle East that goes unchecked and Erdogan’s support of ISIS. It is important that the United States stands up for minorities at risk, especially considering the Trump Administration’s extensive work towards defending Christians in the Middle East,” Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian said.
Turkey has been a lifeline for ISIS, and has continued the genocidal policies of the Ottoman Empire by openly supporting jihadist terrorism. Some of the Christians targeted in northern Syria include Armenians and Assyrians whose ancestors survived the Armenian Genocide at the beginning of the 20th century, and are themselves experiencing the same type of ethnic cleansing today by Turkey and ISIS.
In 2014, Al-Qaida affiliated terrorists easily crossed the Turkish-Syrian border and attacked the Armenian village of Kessab in the Latakia region of Syria – all done with Turkey’s support.
During his presidential campaign, President Trump called out Turkey for conducting business with ISIS. President Trump stated that the Turkish government “looks like they’re on the side of ISIS more or less based on the oil.”
“Turkey’s support of ISIS and its attacks on ethnic and religious minorities are unforgivable. Just this morning, ISIS militants took pride in killing an Armenian priest traveling to Deir el-Zor in northern Syria to visit the Armenian Catholic Church. Turkey needs to stop supporting terrorism and should be immediately removed from NATO,” the Co-Chairs added.
Two weeks ago, Assembly Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan met with Elizabeth Gawryie, Vice President of the Syriac Union Party and Member of the Northeastern Syria Governance Executive Committee, to discuss the crisis of Christian villages on the border of Syria and Turkey. Gawryie was in Washington, D.C. to alert the United States on the displacement of Christian villages in Qamishli.
“The Armenian Assembly of America grieves with the Christian community in Syria, as this terrorist attack against Armenian clergy is another example of the criminal behavior of the jihadists sponsored by Turkey. We call for the United States to stand up for the religious minorities in the region and to take immediate action,” Khaloyan said.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.