Bipartisan Letter Cites Portland Trail Blazer Enes Kanter Among the Critics Erdogan has Tried to Silence
WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) urged the Biden Administration to press the Turkish government to improve its human rights record, which includes an increasingly authoritarian crackdown on dissent both domestically and abroad.
The bipartisan letter signed by more than 50 other senators cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for marginalizing domestic opposition, silencing or coopting critical media outlets, purging independent judges and replacing them with party loyalists, and jailing scores of journalists.
“President Erdogan’s foreign policy has also grown more belligerent and combative over time. In recent years, he brazenly attacked U.S.-backed Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria, he purchased Russian air defense systems despite warnings that they were incompatible with U.S. technology, and he encouraged Azerbaijan to use violence to settle a territorial dispute with Armenia,” the senators wrote.
“President Erdogan has also attempted to pressure the U.S. and other countries into extraditing Turkish nationals, whom he blames for the failed coup in 2016. The Erdogan government has sought to silence critics in the United States like Enes Kanter, an NBA player and human rights advocate, by going after his family in Turkey and placing an INTERPOL red notice on him.”
The senators note that the United States has a significant opportunity to influence Turkey’s troubling human rights record because it’s an important ally in a key region of the world.
“We believe that the United States must hold allies and partners to a higher standard and speak frankly with them about issues of human rights and democratic backsliding,” the senators continued. “We urge you to emphasize to President Erdogan and his administration that they should immediately end their crackdown on dissent at home and abroad, release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and reverse their authoritarian course.”
In addition to Rubio and Wyden, the letter was also signed by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John Thune (R-SD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), John Boozman (R-AR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), James Lankford (R-OK), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Susan Collins (R-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mike Braun (R-IN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), John Kennedy (R-LA), Robert Casey (D-PA), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
The full text of the letter is available here.
NEW YORK, NY – In the wake of President Biden’s inauguration as America’s 46th chief executive, Armenian Church of America (Eastern) Diocesan Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan sent a letter to the White House conveying pressing concerns of the Armenian-American community.
Among these concerns, he said, are ensuring security for Armenia and Armenian communities in the Middle East; the health of our homeland in the aftermath of war and in the midst of the ongoing pandemic crisis; official recognition for Artsakh; and protection of Armenian and Christian heritage sites.
His appeal concludes: “Mr. President, as a man of faith yourself, I know that these concerns of an ancient Apostolic Christian nation are deeply meaningful to you. Please know that in pursuing the above objectives, the Armenian Church of America and its people are eager to support and assist your administration in any way we can.”
Read Bishop Daniel’s letter to President Biden below:
January 27, 2021
President Joseph R. Biden
The White House
Dear President Biden:
On behalf of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Orthodox Church of America, I wish to extend my warm congratulations to you, on your inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America.
Today, the Armenian-American citizens of the United States look forward to your national leadership with great anticipation. In your tenure as a senator, Vice President, and public servant, we have admired your strong advocacy for official U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and your unwavering support for the Republic of Armenia.
Security—of Armenia and of Armenian communities throughout the Middle East—remains a pressing concern among our people in America. We are heartened by your determination to promote a balanced international order, respectful of human rights, and strengthened by intercultural dialogue.
In this time of worldwide affliction, the good people of Armenia bore unique hardships. They were subjected not only to the pandemic, but also to a vicious, unprovoked war by their neighboring country of Azerbaijan. The outcome of the war has placed new burdens on the Armenian people. So it was heartening, in these early days of the Biden administration, to hear incoming Secretary of State Blinken strongly endorse the importance of the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh) peace process, and confirm your pledge to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Hand-in-hand with these matters is the issue of official recognition for Artsakh, and the protection of Armenian religious monuments in that region, as well as the preservation of Armenian and other Christian heritage sites in Turkey.
Mr. President, as a man of faith yourself, I know that these concerns of an ancient Apostolic Christian nation are deeply meaningful to you. Please know that in pursuing the above objectives, the Armenian Church of America and its people are eager to support and assist your administration in any way we can.
I should add that we would be honored to welcome you to the institutional center of America’s Armenian community: St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York City, located a few blocks away from the United Nations. Please be assured that the cathedral will always be a spiritual home for you and your loved ones.
It is my prayer that you will remain healthy and safe in these still-trying times, President Biden. I pray that under your leadership the American people—and the world that looks to us for guidance—will emerge from this painful period, and progress towards greater peace and prosperity. And I pray that God will always keep you and our country under his watchful gaze. May God be with you, and with all of our fellow citizens.
With my prayers,
By Taniel Koushakjian
On April 24, 2020 President Donald J. Trump issued the official White House statement on Armenian Genocide remembrance day “memorializing the lives lost during the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century. Beginning in 1915, 1 and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. On this day of remembrance, we pay respect to those who suffered and lost their lives, while also renewing our commitment to fostering a more humane and peaceful world,” the White House statement read.
Hours after President Trump’s statement, former Vice President Joe Biden issued his April 24 statement. Like Trump, and Obama before him, Biden invoked the phrase Meds Yeghern which what Armenians call the Armenian Genocide. However, Biden’s statement went all the way, using the Armenian and English versions.
“Today we remember the atrocities faced by the Armenian people in the Metz Yeghern — the Armenian Genocide,” Biden said. “From 1915 to 1923, almost 2 million Armenians were deported en mass, and 1.5 million men, women, and children were killed. Greeks, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Arameans, Maronites, and other Christians were also targeted. We must never forget or remain silent about this horrific and systematic campaign of extermination. And we will forever respect the perseverance of the Armenian people in the wake of such tragedy,” the former Vice President said.
Biden served as Vice President to President Barack Obama from 2008-2016. Biden and Obama pledged to recognize the Armenian Genocide as President once they reached the White House in 2008. However, the Obama-Biden Administration broke it’s promise to the Armenian American community and stopped short of using the “g” word.
Biden’s statement today seems to be the only step left for the Democratic Party to win over Armenian American voters, in terms of a campaign pledge and an actual policy correction in the Executive Brach of the U.S. government.
Campaigning for President in 2016, Donald Trump did not issue a campaign statement to the Armenian American community. Since taking office, the Trump White House has continued to refer to the Ottoman Turkish murder of 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 as “mass atrocities” but has stoped short of applying the proper legal name for what historians overwhelming acknowledge as the first genocide of the 20th century.