Secretary of State Antony Blinken should declare Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kilic persona non grata.
That action is necessary following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s directive to declare U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield persona non grata. Erdogan took that action Saturday after a joint human rights statement by various Western nations. That statement on Monday called for the release of Osman Kavala. A civil society activist, Kavala has been imprisoned since 2017. But while Erdogan’s government accuses Kavala of being a criminal extremist, his actual sin is activism against authoritarianism. Kavala was first tried as an instigator of criminal conduct during the summer 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. Although he was tried twice, Kavala was acquitted both times. This has upset Erdogan, who has used his politicization of the courts to keep Kavala imprisoned.
Calling for Kavala’s release, the U.S. Embassy was joined by Canada, France, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand (which cares about human rights unless China is involved ), Norway, and Sweden.
Regardless, Erdogan’s conduct toward Kavala is simply one example of his broader governance. A narcissist with possible mental health issues , Erdogan sees himself as a new Ottoman sultan (he even built himself a 1,000-room palace — unlikely sufficient to fit his ego). In the process, the president has broken Turkey’s democratic structures, blown up his economy, threatened war with NATO allies in the Mediterranean, and turned himself into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pet poodle . Oh, and Erdogan is now threatening to launch a new war against Syrian Kurdistan.
If Erdogan wants to expel foreign ambassadors for pointing out his injustices, that is his prerogative. But so must the United States also take a stand for what is right.
It’s time for Kilic to be sent home.
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