“We need to block this arms sale and once and for all point a finger in Erdogan’s chest and tell him that a strategic location does not place Turkey above the law.” – Rep. Dave Trott (R-MI)
WASHINGTON—The House Committee on Rules has cleared Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Dave Trott’s (R-MI) Turkey sanctions amendment for vote this week by the full House of Representatives, with three more measures, presented by Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), David Cicilline (D-RI) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) set for consideration by the panel, reported the Armenian National Committee of America .
The Trott Amendment opposes the $1.2 million sale of U.S. semi-automatic handguns to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s security detail, in response to their May 16th attack on peaceful protesters in Washington, DC.
“Over the past few months, we’ve seen our NATO allies take extraordinary steps against Turkey, and it’s time for the State Department to do the same,” said Rep. Trott. “We need to block this arms sale and once and for all point a finger in Erdogan’s chest and tell him that a strategic location does not place Turkey above the law.”
Rep. Trott went on to note that, “just two months ago, Erdogan’s henchmen, with him complacently observing just feet away, launched a brutal attack on peaceful protesters exercising their first amendment rights. A notorious oppressor of basic human rights and freedom, Erdogan imported his nefarious attitudes to our nation’s capital. While Erdogan’s thugs may run unchecked in Ankara, this is the United States of America and this is totally unacceptable.”
The ANCA welcomed the House Rules Committee decision. “We are pleased to see the Trott Amendment approved for U.S. House consideration this week and look forward to the Rules Committee providing all of their House colleagues with the opportunity for an up or down vote on additional Turkey sanctions proposed by Reps. Cicilline, Rohrabacher, and Beyer,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.”
“Up on Capitol Hill, across the Washington, DC foreign policy community, and even among career Department of State and Pentagon officials, it’s increasingly clear that May 16th marked a watershed moment in U.S.-Turkey relations – a defining, clarifying, deeply troubling anti-American episode that will, in the months and years to come, continue to inform key areas of engagement by U.S. policymakers with their Turkish counterparts.”
The House Rules Committee is set to convene at 3:00pm today (July 12th) to consider the other Turkey sanctions measures as part of the over 300 amendments submitted to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA – H.R.2810). The full House will be considering and voting on the measure on July 13th and 14th.
Rep. Beyer’s amendment would ban Erdogan’s security forces who took part in the May 16th attack from securing U.S. visas for future travel to the United States. Rep. Beyer has been outspoken in condemning the brutal beatings, calling for the expulsion of the Turkish Ambassador to the U.S. and signing multiple Congressional letters condemning the attacks.
Rep. Cicilline’s proposal would block a pending sale of F-35 jets to Turkey “until the President of the United States certifies that the Government of Turkey is cooperating with the criminal investigation and prosecution of Turkish Government employees involved in the assault on civilians in Washington, DC.” Rep. Cicilline has been outspoken in condemning the attacks, noting that “this was a particularly brazen act, on the heels of a highly publicized meeting with our President, and one has to wonder why President Erdogan felt so emboldened, that in the bright D.C. sunshine, in front of cameras and hundreds of people, he sent his attack dogs out. As Secretary Tillerson said, this is simply unacceptable.”
Rep. Rohrabacher’s amendment would prohibit the transfer of U.S. defense articles to Turkey and, instead, make them available to Kurdish Peshmerga forces, who have played an instrumental role in the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Rep. Rohrabacher, who serves as Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, presided over the hearings spotlighting the Erdogan-ordered attacks in May.
The ANCA has launched an online campaign calling on Rules Committee members and the broader House membership to support passage of the measures. As part of that campaign ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship team members reached out to constituents of House Rules Committee members encouraging them to share their concerns with their legislators. To take action, visit anca.org/sanctions.
The ANCA’s Hamparian captured live videotape at the scene of the May 16th attack, which took place in front of the Turkish Ambassador’s residence, where President Erdogan was scheduled to have a closed-door meeting with representatives of The Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, DC which receives Turkish funding. Hamparian’s video served as source footage for CNN, AP and other news outlets, transforming a violent incident into a global spotlight on Turkey’s violence, intolerance, and aggression.
Hamparian testified before a May 25th Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on this matter. Joining him at the hearing were Ms. Lusik Usoyan, Founder and President of the Ezidi Relief Fund; Mr. Murat Yusa, a local businessman and protest organizer; and Ms. Ruth Wedgwood, Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy, at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Usoyan and Yusa were victims of the brutal assault on May 16th by President Erdogan’s bodyguards.
On June 6th, with a vote of 397 to 0, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously condemned Turkey’s attack, taking a powerful stand against Ankara’s attempts to export its violence and intolerance to America’s shores. H.Res.354, spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), has received the public backing of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). A companion measure has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).
The House vote followed broad-based Congressional outrage expressed by over 100 Senate and House members through public statements, social media, and a series of Congressional letters.
On June 16th, US law enforcement issued 18 arrest warrants – including a dozen against Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s bodyguards – in connection to the May 16th attacks. Two Turkish-Americans have already been arrested for assault, and two Turkish Canadians have also been charged. During a June 15th press conference, Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Peter Newsham detailed the exhaustive investigation carried out by the Metropolitan Police Department and other law enforcement agencies leading to the arrest warrants.
Mayor Bowser condemned the attacks, calling them an “affront to our values as Washingtonians and as Americans and it was a clear assault on the first amendment.”
Chief Newsham explained, “We have dignitaries that are in and out of this city on a daily basis. Rarely have I seen, in my almost 28 years of policing, the type of thing that I saw on Sheridan Circle on that particular day. You had peaceful demonstrators that were physically assaulted and the message to folks who are going to come to our city either from another state or from another country is that’s not going to be tolerated in Washington, DC.”
In response to a question from The Armenian Weekly, Chief Newsham acknowledged that investigators are looking into the role of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the May 16th attack, but indicated that, despite the available video and other evidence, there is not yet sufficient probable cause to seek his arrest.