Turkey Program Coordinator Merve Tahiroğlu co-wrote a commentary, “In Meeting With Erdogan, Biden Holds the Power,” with former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman, that appeared in Foreign Policy on Tuesday. In their analysis, Tahiroğlu and Edelman discussed the tension-filled context of the upcoming conversation between the two presidents and urged Biden to press Erdoğan on three human rights issues in Turkey—namely, the unjust detentions of U.S. consular employees; the continued imprisonment of prominent civil society leader Osman Kavala; and the repression targeting the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey’s largest Kurdish opposition party.

Already, Biden’s frostiness has helped create leverage over Erdogan, who appears to be seeking a fresh start with the U.S. leader in Brussels. Biden must now make clear to Erdogan that an authoritarian Turkey is a threat not just to core U.S. values but also to U.S. security. More than paying lip service to democracy and the rule of law, Biden should use this meeting to press Erdogan on some specific human rights concerns that speak to Turkey’s democratic malaise and increasing disdain for civilized international behavior.


Although Erdogan, his top officials, and their media handmaidens continue to use the United States as a punching bag to shore up votes, the Turkish leader also appears to understand a positive relationship with the United States is crucial for keeping the Turkish economy afloat. When Biden meets with Erdogan next week, he should make it clear that maintaining a working relationship with Washington requires respecting human rights and the rule of law. Ending the unjust imprisonment of U.S. employees, Kavala, and Kurdish politicians would be a good place to start.

Read the full piece here.

Photo Credit: Presidency of the Republic of Turkey