Biden administration to address human rights in rethinking relations with Turkey

A bipartisan letter addressed to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and signed by more than 170 members of the US House of Representatives is pressuring the Biden Administration to “elevate human rights” in American policy toward Turkey.

The letter, dated February 26 and made public Monday, acknowledges the longstanding political relationship the United States has enjoyed with Turkey but identifies President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s anti-democratic actions as a strain.

Led by Representatives Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), the letter alleges that “President Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party have used their nearly two decades in power to weaken Turkey’s judiciary,” and that the gross violations of human rights and democratic backsliding are of “significant concern.”

“Since 2016, more than 80,000 Turkish citizens have been imprisoned or arrested and more than 1,500 nongovernmental organizations have been closed to suppress political opposition.”

The letter also references a 2017 visit to the US, when peaceful protesters and federal employees were attacked by Erdoğan’s Turkish security personnel and supporters at Washington, DC’s Sheridan Circle. Four of Erdoğan’s guards still face charges in the US for the brutal beatings but remain at large in Turkey.

The Moulton-Gonalez letter furthers an effort led by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), who in early February sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to hold allies like Turkey to a “higher standard and to speak frankly with them about issues of human rights and democratic backsliding.”