Thanos Davelis, Director of Public Affairs, HALC
Earlier this year, the White House notified Congress of its intent to sell $1.2 million in semiautomatic handguns to the Turkish President Erdogan’s security forces in May. Then, Erdogan unleashed those same thugs onto the streets of Washington, DC, where they beat peaceful protesters in what was described by DC police as a “brutal” attack.
HALC members across the country immediately sprang to action, calling and writing their representatives to condemn Turkey and block the sale of guns to Erdogan’s security guards. Thanks to their efforts, Congress took action.
As a result of HALC’s advocacy, Congress, with a unanimous vote, condemned Turkey and called on the White House to cancel the sale of guns. Meanwhile, the State Department issued protests to Turkish officials over the attacks, and 19 people — 15 of them Turkish security guards — were handed indictments by US courts.
Crucially, Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a long-time member of the Hellenic Caucus, advocated for an amendment “prohibiting US tax dollars from facilitating or supporting the sale of weapons to Turkey’s Presidential Protection Directorate — Erdogan’s personal security forces” which was adopted by committee.
Senators Van Hollen, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also agreed to take further steps to ensure that the Turkish government is held accountable for its actions. In a joint statement, they said, “We should also stop selling weapons to units of the Turkish National Police that have been arbitrarily arresting and abusing Turkish citizens who peacefully criticize the government.”
Pressure from Congress and grassroots organizations like HALC paid off. On Monday, the White House reversed course on its decision to allow President Erdogan’s security guards buy U.S.-made weapons.
Senator Van Hollen said the move to cancel the sale was “too little, too late,” but nevertheless welcome. “It should never have been something that we were considering.”
Since the failed coup attempt last July, Erdogan has assumed almost dictatorial powers, he’s made a mockery of human rights and international law, and his security forces have clamped down on all opponents — whether they are critical journalists doing their jobs or political opponents.
The continued engagement of the Hellenic-American community has played a decisive role in getting congressional action on this issue and continues to shed light on Turkey’s many violations of international law.