Turkish Tumult: No excuse for beatings by Erdogan’s bodyguards

 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


the Editorial Board
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The visit to Washington of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
included a violent confrontation at the Turkish ambassador's residence
between Mr. Erdogan's bodyguards and protesters against his visit.
Some of the protesters ended up in the hospital.

High-level visitors normally bring their own armed bodyguards to
supplement the efforts of various American services. These can include
the U.S. Secret Service, Department of State security and
Washington-area police forces. Protection of the visitors sometimes
becomes complicated, particularly when there are present in the United
States natives of those countries or Americans who are opposed to the
particular foreign leaders or their regimes.

Sometimes it gets really complicated. There was one instance in which
American security services were obliged to disarm the bodyguards of a
visiting African president when what was believed to be an attempted
coup d'etat occurred in his country during the visit and the loyalty
of his bodyguards came into question. One of the worst nightmares of
an American government would be the assassination of a foreign leader
during a visit to America. No one would ever believe that the United
States was not complicit.

The visit of the Turkish president presented particular difficulties
for U.S. security services because Mr. Erdogan and his government are
opposed in Turkey and by some in the United States by Kurds, Armenians
and the adherents of a Turkish opposition figure resident in
Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen. A small group of protesters gathered at
the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington, and were, in a nasty
melee, beaten by Mr. Erdogan's bodyguards.

Visiting VIPs' bodyguards are considered part of the visiting
delegation, with diplomatic immunity. In this case, the Turkish
bodyguards have since left American shores.

The bodyguards were absolutely wrong to behave brutally on American
soil, to the degree that they acted off the Turkish ambassador's
property, which is considered Turkish soil; the question is still
under study. There is also fault to be allocated to the various
American security elements for not keeping the bodyguards and
demonstrators apart. They are, in fact, quite accustomed to do so. Mr.
Erdogan is by no means the only controversial foreign figure to visit

Nonetheless, the Turkish bodyguards did their country and their
government's cause no favor by beating up what were apparently
peaceful demonstrators.


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