Sarbanes Urges State Department to Hold Erdogan Regime Accountable for Human Rights Abuses in Turkey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 1, 2021
CONTACT: Daniel Jacobs
(202) 225-4016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman John Sarbanes (D-Md.) today joined more than 170 Members of Congress in calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to hold Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accountable for his regime’s alarming human rights abuses.

[T]he gross violation of human rights and democratic backsliding taking place in Turkey are … of significant concern,” the lawmakers wrote. “President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party have used their nearly two decades in power to weaken Turkey’s judiciary, install political allies in key military and intelligence positions, crack down on free speech and free press and wrongfully imprison political opponents, journalists and minorities.”

The lawmakers continued: “President Erdogan’s government even brought its style to the streets of our nation’s capital, when during Erdogan’s 2017 visit to the United States, Turkish security personnel assaulted peaceful protestors and federal employees. Four of Erdogan’s guards still face charges in the United States for the incident. They remain at large in Turkey.”

The lawmakers concluded: “We hope that State Department under your leadership and the Biden administration more broadly will elevate human rights and democratic backsliding concerns in our bilateral relations [with Turkey].”

See below for a full copy of the letter.

* * *
March 1, 2021
 

The Honorable Antony Blinken
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
 

Dear Secretary Blinken,

As the Biden administration formulates its foreign policy in regard to Turkey, we ask that you aim to address the troubling human rights abuses taking place under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey has long been a key United States ally. Unfortunately, President Erdogan has strained the relationship between our nations. Strategic issues have rightfully received significant attention in our bilateral relationship, but the gross violation of human rights and democratic backsliding taking place in Turkey are also of significant concern.

President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party have used their nearly two decades in power to weaken Turkey’s judiciary, install political allies in key military and intelligence positions, crack down on free speech and free press and wrongfully imprison political opponents, journalists and minorities. Since 2016, more than 80,000 Turkish citizens have been imprisoned or arrested and more than 1,500 nongovernmental organizations have been closed to suppress political opposition. Among those arrested on dubious criminal charges include three Turkish staff employed by the U.S. State Department. We urge you to prioritize their cases, including their immediate release and dismissal of all charges, in your engagements with Turkey.

President Erdogan’s government even brought its style to the streets of our nation’s capital, when during Erdogan’s 2017 visit to the United States, Turkish security personnel assaulted peaceful protestors and federal employees. Four of Erdogan’s guards still face charges in the United States for the incident. They remain at large in Turkey.

While it is in our mutual interest for the United States and Turkey to remain strategic allies and repair the rifts between us, we believe changes to President Erdogan and his party’s behavior are vital to seeing that relationship restored. We hope that the State Department under your leadership and the Biden administration more broadly will elevate human rights and democratic backsliding concerns in our bilateral relations. To that end, we pledge to work with you so that we can not only advance our nation’s national security interests, but also uphold our commitments to supporting human rights, the rule of law and democratic values.
 

 Sincerely,

/signatures/

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