Reps. Schneider and Johnson Lead Bipartisan Letter to President Trump in Advance of Visit by Turkish President
Today, Congressmen Brad Schneider (IL-10) and Bill Johnson (OH-06) led a bipartisan group of 81 members of Congress in a letter to President Trump in advance of his meeting this week with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.
The letter expresses serious concerns about recent democratic backsliding and the erosion of human rights in Turkey, and urges President Trump to prioritize these critical issues during his meeting with President Erdoğan.
“Turkey is a NATO member and an important ally of the United States, especially in the fight against ISIS, which is why as friends, it is necessary we express our concern for the respect of democracy and human rights," said Schneider. “This meeting with Erdogan is a unique opportunity for President Trump to send a clear message that civil liberties and the rule of law are vital to a functioning democracy and critical to the future of Turkey and the region.”
“In the decades following the Second World War, Turkey has historically been a reliable ally for the United States in an extremely volatile region, providing invaluable strategic support to counter threats such as communism and Islamic radicalism,” said Johnson. “However, sweeping human rights abuses and undemocratic practices under President Erdoğan are undermining this partnership, and posing enormous challenges for the United States. It is imperative that the Trump Administration urge the Turkish government to change course, and to abide by their commitments to human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.”
On April 16, 2017 Turkey held a constitutional referendum under a state of emergency in which opposition media and civil society representatives were tightly controlled and even imprisoned. Additionally, election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who were tasked with evaluating the legitimacy of the election, found the election to be imbalanced and democratic freedoms curtailed. The outcome of the referendum resulted in significant expansion of executive powers in Turkey.
Prior to the constitutional referendum, Turkey’s democracy was under threat from restrictions on journalists and intimidation of members of the political opposition and this has continued since April 16, 2017. According to Amnesty International, to date, 120 journalists have been jailed and over 150 media outlets have been shuttered. In addition, the government has imprisoned parliamentarians and opposition party leaders, and cracked down on ethnic minorities.