US politicians criticize Turkish PM in letter to Obama

US politicians criticize Turkish PM in letter to Obama

US politicians criticize Turkish PM in letter to Obama

US President Barack Obama signs an order in this file photo. AP photo

More than 80 top foreign policy figures in the U.S. have penned a letter to President Barack Obama to urge him to change his silent stance against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government’s “damaging of democracy” in Turkey.

“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is increasingly undermining a central pillar of the decades-long, strategic U.S.-Turkish partnership: Turkey’s growing democracy. We are writing because of our deep dismay at this development and to urge you to make clear to the Turkish public America’s concern about Turkey’s current path. Silence will only encourage Prime Minister Erdoğan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further,” the letter read.

The letter was signed by several former Obama administration officials, including White House senior director Dennis Ross, State Department policy planning director Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Julianne Smith, an advisor to Vice President Joe Biden.

In the letter sent Feb. 20, the top figures described Erdoğan’s actions as “autocratic,” adding that the government’s reactions to the challenges they faced “threaten to take Turkey from an imperfect democracy to an autocracy.” The letter referenced the response to the Gezi Park protests, the corruption operations, and its controversial bills on the judiciary and the Internet as particulary points of concern.

“He and many in his party have abused their positions and compromised the rule of law by shutting down the investigations, dismissing or reassigning hundreds of prosecutors and thousands of police officers, muzzling the media, demonizing critics, and incriminating imagined foreign conspirators, including the U.S. ambassador. Worse, the ruling [Justice and Development Party] AKP has pushed through institutional changes - such as bringing the judiciary under executive control and expanding state authority to censor the Internet - that would eliminate the hallmarks of democracy: separation of powers, checks and balances, and civil liberties,” the letter stated.

These developments have already roiled Turkey’s economy, polarized its society, and endangered its political stability, the letter added, expressing concern that the U.S.’s silence may reflect approval and support for Erdoğan to the Turkish public. 

“In the meantime, the damage to Turkey’s democracy keeps worsening. We believe it is important now to make it clear, privately and publicly, that Prime Minister Erdoğan’s autocratic actions and demagoguery are subverting Turkey’s political institutions and values and endangering the U.S.-Turkey relationship,” the letter read.