Nine people were injured late Tuesday after Turkish and Kurdish protesters clashed on Embassy Row in Washington—and the Turkish president’s private security appears to have been involved.
Demonstrators were outside the Turkish embassy, calling on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end his support for pro-ISIS forces inside Syria and Iraq. Erdogan has been reportedly purchasing oil and other items from ISIS terrorists and their allies, in an effort to help destabilize the government within Syria.
But the mostly Kurdish protesters were met by Erdogan’s supporters on the DC streets, and they claim the Turkish demonstrators broke police lines and began physically assaulting them. Social media users captured the harrowing incident as it happened.
A Facebook video shows a number of bloodied anti-Erdogan protesters pleading with law enforcement.
Another video, captured by a Twitter user seems to show a more serious infraction: Erdogan’s own bodyguards and embassy guards wading into the fray to beat up protesters who, in the US, have every right to speak out and assemble.
— Amerika'nın Sesi (@VOATurkish) May 17, 2017
Turkish reports were able to identify some of those involved in the fray as Erdogan’s guards, beating and kicking protesters carrying a Kurdish flag, associated with anti-ISIS, anti-Assad militias the US has helped in Syria.
Erdogan was in the U.S. on Tuesday for a meeting with President Trump. The meeting was “strained,” according to reports, which said the Turkish president objects to the U.S.’s choice of allies in the region. The reports claimed the militias were terrorist groups.
Trump was also adamant that Turkey answer for jailing a Turkish religious leader from Pennsylvania who has been in custody since, according to Erdogan, he tried to stage a coup in 2016. Turkey refused to play ball on the issue.
And while Trump claimed to want a better relationship with Erdogan, Erdogan has operated less as a democratically elected leader and more as a budding dictator. He has extended his own time in office, moved more of the government under his control, and cracked down on Turkey’s press and, of course, protesters.
Although several people were hurt and taken to Washington-area hospitals, they are expected to recover, and the protesters say they were barely held up by the Turkish guards.
“They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey,” one told CNN. “They stopped us for a few minutes … but we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan’s tyrannical regime.”