Turkish members of the delegation have attempted to interrupt a speech by Emre Çelik due to his dissident remarks during a conference organized by the Middle East Forum (MEF) for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA).
According to a MEF report on Tuesday, Çelik, who was removed from the conference program on Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s request, was still invited to address the gathering in Philadelphia on Sep. 18 and 19.
As Çelik started his speech, the Turkish delegation stormed out and tried to interrupt him loudly.
Turkish representatives walked out of the event in protest of Çelik, who is the president of the Rumi Forum, an association linked with Gülen movement.
“NATO exists ‘to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization’ of member states. But the Republic of Turkey has betrayed those principles. President Erdoğan’s attempt to stifle free speech at a Middle East Forum event today was despicable. We did not accept it,” said MEF President Daniel Pipes in response to agitated reactions from Turkish delegation.
Calling Erdoğan’s demands “autocratic,” MEF Director Gregg Roman has also said: “We were honored to host the impressive delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Its staff should not have acquiesced to an egregious demand from an autocrat. I hope the parliamentarians appreciate our stand for freedom of speech.”
Turkey has been at the center of criticism among its Western allies due to violations of human rights, freedom of expression and a government crackdown on critics, especially after a failed coup last year.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup. (SCF with turkishminute.com)