“Welcome to Washington. Your visit comes at a critical moment in U.S.-Turkish relations.
“Within the past decade, many of Turkey’s friends here were optimistic about your country’s potential to become a vibrant and stable democracy as well as an increasingly strong and capable U.S. ally. The salutary role Turkey can play, regionally and globally, has been demonstrated by the hospitality your country has extended to millions of refugees. Recent developments in Turkey, however, are deeply troubling. Today we would like to air the concerns of Turkey’s many friends in the United States.
- Over the past year, more than a thousand people have been charged with the crime of insulting you. Hundreds of academics have been investigated or faced disciplinary proceedings for questioning your government’s anti-terror policies. Last year, the offices of Hurriyet, an independent paper, were attacked and set on fire by a mob led by a member of your former Justice and Development Party, a well-known columnist was attacked by thugs outside his home, and two editors of Cumhuriyet were arrested. More recently, your government has orchestrated the takeover of the popular daily Zaman. Why shouldn’t people in the European Union and the United States be concerned about the prospects for a free media in Turkey?
- Along with this erosion of freedom of speech and media, we have watched as you seek to further enhance your personal power by changing the constitution to create an executive presidency. All of Turkey’s opposition parties oppose the creation of an executive presidency, and polls reveal the majority of Turkish voters do as well. Even members of your own party have voiced their reservations about excessive concentration of power in your hands. Is it worth pursuing an executive presidency if it risks dividing the nation?
“We hope that you use the opportunity of your visit to address these troubling issues and, in the process, strengthen the U.S-Turkey relationship.”