“The relations between Turkey and the United States have been erected upon common democratic values and common interests.”
That’s what Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a White House press conference with US president Donald Trump on Tuesday (May 16). But shortly after the event, Erdogan’s bodyguards proceeded to beat and kick people outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington DC.
The altercation was captured on camera, and resulted in nine people being hurt, Voice of America said. A photojournalist at the site said it seemed to be a pro-Turkey gathering at first, while some witnesses said the group outside the residence included a person carrying a flag of a Kurdish party in Syria allied with a militia the US plans to aid, over Turkey’s objections.
The strained meeting between the two leaders came after the US last week said it would arm a Kurdish militia to help it fight in Raqqa, the Syrian city that is a stronghold of militant group ISIL. Turkey considers the militia a terrorist group and said it was wrong to work with them. “It will never be accepted, and it is going to be against a global agreement that we have reached,” said Erdogan at the press conference.
Another sore point between the two nations is the fact that the US is home to a cleric that Turkey believes was behind a failed coup against Erdogan last year. A harsh crackdown on the press and dissent has followed in the wake of the coup.
Despite these differences, Trump called Erdogan a strong ally in the fight against terrorism and said he was making sure military equipment ordered by Turkey was being dispatched quickly. Erdogan meanwhile praised Trump for “the legendary triumph that he has garnered in the aftermath of the elections,” despite arriving in the country in the midst of a growing uproar about Trump’s handling of sensitive information on national security.
It’s not the first time Erdogan’s security has roughed up protesters on American soil. In 2016, the Washington Post reported clashes between protesters and the Turkish leader’s security detail. And in 2014, in New York, Turkish security threatened and pushed around journalists working for a newspaper perceived to be critical of Erdogan.
On Twitter, Mahir Zeynalov, a Washington-based journalist for a Turkey-focused website, offered Americans expressing shock over the sight of the men in suits and ties kicking a man this perspective: