A total of 54 members of the U.S. Senate penned on Feb. 9 a vitriolic letter about Turkey to new President Joe Biden. At first glance, the letter looks like the “respect for human rights” letters previously written by senators to former U.S. presidents. In the letter, the senators ask the president of the United States to press President Tayyip Erdoğan and his administration to “reverse their authoritarian course”, respect human rights, release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and do all these immediately. But the more you read, the more you realize that the letter is full of distortions and it is a terrible text. It has a pretentious claim of helping Turkey, an “ally,” on human rights and democracy but it gives the impression that it does not aim for good.
The letter begins with a congratulatory sentence to Biden. Senators then remind the president of his promise about “strengthening our alliances and promoting democracy as a bulwark against a rising global tide of authoritarianism.”
They point to the “ongoing human rights situation in Turkey” and ask Biden to “press the Turkish government” to fix this situation.
Authoritarianism and freedom of the press
The second paragraph begins with the sentence that says Erdoğan is gradually putting the country on a more authoritative path. Senators line up criticism on the marginalization of domestic opposition, the appointment of partisan judges and the jailing of journalists, issues also raised by the Turkish opposition. They say Turkey ranks above only China in terms of press freedom record, and the anti-terror law threatens the rule of law.
This section is unfortunately like a brief summary of the EU’s recent criticism against Turkey. But the following expressions and allegations are likely to irk not only the government but also most of the opposition circles.
YPG, S-400, Azerbaijan issues
Senators claim that Erdoğan’s foreign policy has also grown more belligerent and combative over time, before shifting to an even harsher language.
1- The senators claim that Erdoğan “brazenly attacked U.S.-backed Kurds fighting ISIS in Syria.” This is one of the most open supports to the YPG, the Syrian arm of the outlawed PKK, and gravest insults against Turkey in this regard so far.
2- The senators accuse Turkey of purchasing the Russian air defense systems despite warnings that they were incompatible with U.S. technology. What they refer to here is the S-400 missiles, and they are no longer talking about NATO-compliance, but openly about U.S.-compliance. They do not use a single word on the U.S.’ seizure of F-35 jets that Turkey has already paid for as a production partner of the project.
3- Erdoğan, they say, “encouraged Azerbaijan to use violence to settle a territorial dispute with Armenia”. So, the Senators name the Armenian invasion of one-fifth of the Azerbaijani soil for 25 years a “territorial dispute,” as they call the Azeri campaign launched to take back its soil a Turkish provocation to use violence.
Enes Kanter as a “human rights advocate”
The paragraph continues with sentences that would anger most people in Turkey: “President Erdoğan 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 Erdoğan 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.“
Naming Kanter, who has never concealed his loyalty to Fetullah Gülen, a “human rights advocate” and praising supporters of Gülen without giving his name moves the senators’ letter to Biden to a new ground. This also reveals the value and importance of Kanter for the Gülenist network in the U.S.
At a time when Turkish ministers can hardly schedule appointments with the U.S. Senate members, some lobbies, including the Gülenists, can have them pen such a letter that slams Turkey, along with Erdoğan, that strongly.
Ministers from Turkey, where there are Fethullahists in the lobby apparently forced to make an appointment in the Senate, as well as Erdoğan’s Turkey is able to publish the text of a shot from place to place. So the U.S. Embassy in Washington would have better be engaged with the U.S. Senate rather than leaving the task to -probably wrong- lobbying firms, just to get involved in a Gülenist hunt in vain instead.
Senators to Biden: “Tell Erdoğan to let go of authoritarianism”
“Turkey remains an important ally in a significant region of the world, and it is precisely for this reason that we write you today,” the senators continue.
They say the U.S. has a responsibility to speak frankly with its allies about issues of human rights and democratic backsliding.
One cannot help thinking that the U.S. has always been the first country to recognize and support the military coup governments in Turkey’s past and have them do what it wants.
On Feb. 9, the day that this letter was written, the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump started in the Senate on charges of inciting the coup attempt and the use of violence during the Jan. 6 Congress raid.
The letter ends with a call to Biden to speak to Erdoğan to stop authoritarianism immediately with the senators telling Biden that they “stand ready to assist your administration on these important issues.”
With friends like that, who needs enemies?
American senators from both Democratic and Republican parties may be using these heavy expressions to help Erdoğan and Ankara understand how serious the United States is and “to bring them into line.” They are unaware that these aggressive expressions will backfire and they will hurt the struggle for democracy and human rights in Turkey. Moreover, they claim to write this letter supposedly for the sake of friendship and alliance. With friends like that, who needs enemies?