Erdogan Brookings Event
Robert Mackey, The Intercept, Mar 31 2016
A protestor is pushed back by a cop after tussling with a Turkish embassy staffer outside of the Brookings Institution on Mar 31. Erdogan is scheduled to speak at Brookings this afternoon. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty)
As The Intercept reported on Wednesday, President Erdogan, who is visiting Washington this week, has all but silenced critics at home, prosecuting students who poke fun at his government on Twitter, putting journalists on trial and seizing opposition newspapers. His aides have even tried without much success to extend this crackdown on dissent beyond Turkey’s borders. Their failed attempt to get a German music video mocking the president removed from the internet only helped make the clip go viral (Alas no, it has now been pulled as per their request – RB). On Thursday, journalists who gathered at the Brookings Institute in Faschingstein to hear Erdogan speak were amazed to see Turkish embassy staffers scuffling with protesters and dissidents, even as the local police and building’s staff tried to explain that voicing dissent is legal in Pindostan. There is video from two angles of a female protester being manhandled and knocked to the ground by the Enbassy crew. Gilles Paris, the Faschingstein correspondent for Le Monde, also captured the Turkish embassy staffers grappling with protesters. Cenk Sidar, an adviser to Turkey’s opposition Republican People’s Party, recorded a brief video clip of them being rebuked by a Secret Service agent who could be overheard telling them to stay on the opposite side of the street from the protesters. He says:
By going over there and flipping the bird, you’re causing more problems.
Amberin Zaman, a Turkish columnist who is also a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center in Faschingstein, reported that Erdogan’s security detail tried to intimidate her by shouting obscenities and accusing her of being sympathetic to the PKK. After things slightly calmed down, Ilhan Tanir, a Turkish columnist, shot video of a staffer ripping apart what looked like an effigy of the president in prison stripes that had been taken from the protesters. Tanir was also filming inside the venue, where Erdogan’s aides tried to eject a credentialled Turkish journalist, Adem Yavuz Arslan, from the hall, but were stopped by the Brookings staff. When the event finally got underway, Martin Indyk, the Brookings foreign policy director, asked Erdogan to explain why dozens of journalists have been jailed in Turkey. The president produced a folder with what he said were the details of 52 cases, and insisted:
There are no journalists in Turkish prisons who have been incarcerated or sentenced to imprisonment due to their professions.
All of those put on trial, he said, had been charged with or convicted of “terrorism.” Later on Thursday, Faschingstein residents reported seeing not-at-all-creepy “Erdogan propaganda trucks” driving the streets of the capital and lighting up with Orwellian slogans of praise for the Turkish president like “Truth+Peace=Erdogan,” “We Love Erdogan,” and “Great Turkey/Great Leader/Erdogan,” as well as anti-Kurdish messages and accusations that Pindostan has been supporting the Turkish leader’s enemy, Fethullah Gulen.