Friday, May 19, 2017

'I could have died': how Erdoğan's bodyguards turned protest into brawl by Amanda Holpuch

The first sign things could turn violent outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington came when a group of men in trim suits and slick ties approached the small group of demonstrators who had gathered nearby to protest the visit by president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“They curse us, they curse my wife, my mother, my sister, my grandma,” Seyid Riza Dersimi told the Guardian. Then, suddenly, more men – some in suits and some in matching khaki outfits – surrounded and attacked Dersimi and his fellow demonstrators. Dersimi, 61, saw one of these men grab a woman around the neck and start punching her in the face. As he moved to help her, he was attacked by three to four men, who pushed him down then kicked him repeatedly. “I couldn’t get up, I tried to cover my head with my arms, I don’t know how long they were kicking me,” Dersimi said. “Then I get up and I’m bleeding”.

Footage from Tuesday’s protest shows extraordinary scenes of violence in the Washington sunshine. The attackers – who included members of Erdoğan’s security detail – run amok, beating and kicking protesters. The demonstrators – including older men and young women – were left bloodied, battered and bruised, while Washington police officers attempted ineffectually to stop the violence. Video released on Thursday by Voice of America’s Turkish service appeared to show Erdoğan watching the melee stone-faced from the embassy driveway. He had just returned from a meeting at the White House with Donald Trump, who rebuffed his attempts to get the US to stop backing Kurdish forces in Syria.

But Erdoğan’s trip has caused him further pain as senior US politicians call on him, and the US government, to discipline the members of his security detail involved with the altercation – which has created a lasting, violent image of peaceful protesters beaten on American soil by people tied to a foreign regime. “We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America,” US senator John McCain said, unprompted, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday morning. “These are not just average people that did this beating, this is Erdoğan’s security detail, somebody told them to go and beat up on these peaceful demonstrators and I think it should have repercussions, including identifying these people and bringing charges against them,” McCain said. “After all, they violated American laws in the United States of America, so you cannot have that happen in the United States of America”… read more: