The Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C. has responded to reports that they attacked protesters, saying that bodyguards for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan were acting in “self-defense” when they fought with demonstrators outside of the ambassador’s residence. This is in contradiction with the report presented by District of Columbia Police Chief Peter Newsham, who confirmed initial accusations that the violence was unprovoked. It appears that the protesters had been demonstrating peacefully for hours before the incident occurred, primarily in protest of Erdogan’s regime and his attempts to undermine democracy.
Turkish officials went as far as to claim that the protesters belonged to “groups affiliated with the PKK”, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a terrorist group. According to the Turkish embassy, they required a permit to protest that close to the embassy and this group did not obtain one. However, all protesters who have been interviewed denied any connection to the terrorist group.
The videos that circulated of the event showed men in suits, assumed to be Erdogan’s bodyguards, punching protesters and bodyslamming a woman. Other men in the group were seen kicking protesters already on the ground. However, some of the bodyguards were also seen bloodied. Nine people had to be taken to the hospital for medical treatment, and all were released. Two people were arrested, but diplomatic immunity makes it unclear if any of the employees for the Turkish embassy will be charged for this incident. All Newsham could say was that this “was not something we will tolerate here in Washington.”
Turkey has dealt with situations like this in the past in at home and in Washington. After a failed military coup last year, Erdogan’s administration detained over 100,000 people presumed to be dissidents, including judges, journalists, government employees and military personnel. Last year, Erdogan’s security attacked protesters outside a Washington hall who were holding signs calling Erdogan a “fascist murderer”.