In a November 13, 2019 op-ed for Newsweek, “If Trump Won’t Step Up to Turkey’s Tyrannical Leader, Congress Must” POMED’s Turkey Program Coordinator Merve Tahiroglu and Executive Director Stephen McInerney argue that “if Trump won’t take Erdogan to task for his authoritarian moves, then congressional leaders must step up and make clear that a strong Turkish democracy is vital to U.S. interests.”

With Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visiting Washington Wednesday, he should expect a cool reception. While President Donald Trump seems poised to welcome the Turkish strongman with open arms, Erdogan has few other friends left in the capital.

Congress, in particular, is furious with Erdogan for his purchase of a missile system from Russia this summer and for his incursion into Syria last month. In recent weeks, legislators have proposed a slew of bills to punish Turkey for these moves. Anger has swelled beyond traditional critics to include key allies of Trump, like Senator Lindsey Graham, as well as longtime supporters of Turkey, like Representative Steve Cohen. And the House of Representatives even passed a resolution condemning Turkey’s 1915 genocide of Armenians, a major step it had long avoided out of deference to Ankara.

Lawmakers are right to oppose Erdogan’s offensive in Syria and his turn toward Russia. But they should also speak out about Turkey’s democratic backsliding.

Over the past decade, Erdogan has transformed Turkey from an imperfect democracy into something closer to an authoritarian state, including through his successful 2017 campaign to rewrite the Constitution, turning parliament into a rubber stamp for his rule. Turkey’s once relatively independent judiciary now functions as a tool of presidential power, wielded against Erdogan’s opponents and critics. In the past four years, Turkish authorities have detained more than 100,000 under trumped-up terrorism charges. Those behind bars include lawmakers, journalists, artists, academics and civil society leaders—the very people who had been instrumental to Turkey’s important progress in democratization. The independent media has also been crushed. Today, nearly all media outlets in the country are owned by conglomerates beholden to Erdogan, and more journalists are in jail than in any other country…

Read the full piece here.

Photo: Official Turkish Press Office