A bipartisan group of 183 US lawmakers sent a letter on February 26 to Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling on the United States government to elevate human rights in the US-Turkey relationship to address the troubling human rights abuses taking place under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to a press release on Congressman Seth Moulton’s official website.
“Unfortunately, President Erdogan has strained the relationship between our nations,” the letter said. “Strategic issues have rightfully received significant attention in our bilateral relationship, but the gross violation of human rights and democratic backsliding taking place in Turkey are also of significant concern.”
The signatories include Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Gregory Meeks, a Democrat from New York, and Ranking Member Michael McCaul, a Republican from Texas.
The letter underlined that during his term in office Erdoğan had weakened Turkey’s judiciary, installed political allies in key military and intelligence positions, cracked down on free speech and the free press and wrongfully imprisoned political opponents, journalists and minorities. According to the letter in order to restore US-Turkey relations, it is vital to see changes in the behavior of President Erdoğan and his party.
“Since 2016, more than 80,000 Turkish citizens have been imprisoned or arrested and more than 1,500 nongovernmental organizations have been closed to suppress political opposition,” the letter said. “Among those arrested on dubious criminal charges include three Turkish staff employed by the U.S. State Department.”
The members of Congress urged Secretary Blinken to prioritize their cases, including their immediate release and the dismissal of all charges, in his engagements with Turkey.
The letter also made reference to the assault of Erdoğan’s bodyguards on protestors during his visit to the US capital back in 2017. “Four of Erdogan’s guards still face charges in the United States for the incident. They remain at large in Turkey,” the letter said.
In a similar move a bipartisan group of 54 US senators sent a letter to President Joe Biden on February 9 asking him to press the Turkish government to improve its human rights record.