In Video, Erdogan Watches as His Guards Clash With Protesters

New York Times
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — New video surfaced on Thursday that shows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey looking on as armed members of his security team violently charge a group of protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence here.

The Voice of America’s Turkish Service posted the video on its Twitter account with a brief description in Turkish.

The confrontation on Tuesday came after President Trump had welcomed Mr. Erdogan to the White House and praised him as a stalwart ally in the battle against Islamic extremism. Mr. Trump did not speak of Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian crackdown on his own people.

It is unclear if Mr. Erdogan, who is seen in the video sitting in a black Mercedes sedan, communicated with the would-be assailants. An aide can be seen leaning into the car, then speaking to another aide who walks toward the group of supporters and out of the range of the camera.

Seconds later, members of the group run toward and confront the protesters. The second aide then returns to the president’s car as Mr. Erdogan exits and enters the residence.


Nine people were hospitalized after the skirmish, and the State Department issued a stern statement condemning the attack.

The video was one of several new details that emerged about the episode on Thursday, as the State Department and the police here continued to investigate and American lawmakers escalated their criticism of the Turkish guards’ behavior and put pressure on the Trump administration to respond forcefully.

Investigators were paying particular attention to two members of the Turkish security detail who assaulted American Diplomatic Security officers assigned to protect the visiting delegation.

The men were briefly detained on the scene Tuesday and their guns confiscated. But when it was determined that they held diplomatic status, they were promptly released, according to a congressional aide briefed on the State Department’s investigation. By the time video of what had happened outside the ambassador’s residence shot across the internet Tuesday night, stoking outrage in the United States, the two men were on their way out of the country with Mr. Erdogan and the rest of his entourage.

The two men remain the subject of an active criminal investigation and will not be allowed to re-enter the United States, the aide said.

The congressional aide and others who shared details about the case spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation. They declined to identify the two members of the Turkish security forces who were detained, but said their immunity was no longer in place.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington and officials in Turkey did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday. The embassy issued a statement on Wednesday contradicting much of the American officials account and laying blame for the episode on protesters who they said had incited the violence.

The exchange between Turkish security personnel and American diplomatic officers sheds light on just how far the Turks strayed outside the bounds of typical diplomatic behavior on Tuesday. It also highlights the challenge facing American officials who must navigate potential diplomatic immunity claims, not to mention political repercussions, even as they pledge to hold those involved accountable.


Supporters and opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fought outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington on Tuesday.

By VOA TURKISH on Publish Date . Photo by Dave Clark/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Watch in Times Video »


The police arrested two people on Tuesday evening after the confrontation outside the embassy. Ayten Necmi, 49, of Woodside, N.Y., was charged with aggravated assault, and Jalal Kheirabaoi, 42, of Fairfax, Va., was charged with assault on a police officer.

The White House has been silent on the episode, which took place after a warm reception for Mr. Erdogan at the Executive Mansion on Tuesday. And after issuing a short public statement on Wednesday, the State Department has mostly been working behind the scenes.

The Turkish ambassador, Serdar Kilic, was summoned to the State Department on Wednesday by Thomas A. Shannon Jr., the under secretary of state for political affairs, according to a State Department official. The official declined to characterize the conversation.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill showed less restraint. In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Thursday, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said the United States “should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America.”

“This kind of thing cannot go unresponded to diplomatically,” Mr. McCain said. “And maybe in other ways. Maybe bring lawsuits against so we can identify these people.”

Later in the day, Mr. McCain and Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, sent a letter to Mr. Erdogan demanding that he hold members of his staff implicated in the attack responsible. Their actions, the senators wrote, constituted “an affront” to the nation’s legal rights “and reflects poorly on your government.”

The episode Tuesday was not the first in which Turkish security forces have incited violence in Washington. The police and members of Mr. Erdogan’s security team clashed with demonstrators last year outside the Brookings Institution, where Mr. Erdogan was delivering a speech.