Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s White House visit Tuesday was overshadowed by dramatic scenes of violence as his bodyguards clashed with protesters at the Turkish ambassador’s residence in the U.S. capital shortly afterwards.According to reports from witnesses, the brawl erupted when members of Erdoğan’s security detail attacked protesters outside the residence who were carrying the flag of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party, which Turkey views as a terrorist group affiliated with banned Kurdish separatists in Turkey. Local media reported that Erdoğan was in the building at the time.
Footage of the wild altercation showed one suited man kicking a protester in the face, and another aiming a kick at a woman lying on the ground, before being shoved away by D.C. police who appeared overwhelmed by the melee. Pro-Turkish demonstrators were also present.
Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said two people were arrested, including one who was charged with assaulting a police officer, and nine people were injured. It is unclear whether any of Erdoğan’s entourage were arrested. A D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman said two of the victims suffered serious injuries.The violent clash was soon a trending topic on Twitter, prompting outrage at the flagrant display of abuse by the entourage of a visiting foreign head of state.“It is a remarkable (and) alarming act of boldness that the thugs and their Turkish backers believe they can get away with this in the U.S. capital,” tweeted Jim Sciutto, CNN’s chief national security correspondent.It’s not the first time Erdoğan’s security detail has been involved in violence in the U.S. capital. Last March, as Erdoğan was giving a speech at D.C. think tank the Brookings Institution, Turkish journalists accused his bodyguards of attacking them as they tried to enter the building.
The clash occurred just hours after Trump and Erdoğan met at the White House amid heightened tensions between the NATO allies, key partners in the fight against ISIS. Erdoğan is furious at the U.S.’s decision this month to directly arm Kurdish militias in Syria.
Washington views the YPG, the military arm of the PYD, as a critical asset in the fight to retake Raqqa, the capital of ISIS’s self-declared caliphate. Ankara sees the group as terrorists, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has been fighting for decades for an independent state for Kurds in Turkey’s southeast.“There is no place for the terrorist organization in the future of our region, taking YPG and PYD into consideration in the region will never be accepted, and it’s going to be against a global agreement that we have reached,” Erdoğan said in remarks to the press as he stood beside Trump following their meeting.Fadi Hakura, a Turkey analyst at the Chatham House think tank, told VICE News there was unlikely to be any fallout from the violent clashes for the U.S.-Turkey relationship.“I don’t think Erdoğan really cares. He may be slightly embarrassed, but at the end of the day he’s dealing with President Trump, who was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate him on his controversial referendum victory,” he said, referring to a Turkish vote in April that significantly expanded the powers of the authoritarian leader.“Given his counterpart in Washington, I doubt this altercation will have any major repercussions.”
“Given his counterpart in Washington, I doubt this altercation will have any major repercussions.”