ANCA urges Trump to bring up the killing of Armenian priest

The ANCA has called on President Trump to put the ISIS killing of the Armenian Catholic cleric Fr. Hovsep Petoian and his father on the agenda during the Erdogan meeting on Wednesday.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has teamed up with Hellenic, Kurdish, Assyrian, Christian human rights, and religious freedom groups to protest Turkey’s President Erdogan at his White House meeting with President Trump, scheduled for today.

Groups including the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC), American Hellenic Educational and Progressive Association (AHEPA), American Hellenic Institute, In Defense of Christians, Armenian Youth Federation and American Rojava Center for Democracy are calling attention to a wide array of Turkish transgressions from its recent invasion of northern Syria to its ongoing crackdown against Kurdish communities, occupation of Cyprus, oppression of Christian and other minority communities, crushing of dissent, jailing of journalists, blockading of Armenia, and denial of the Genocide committed against the Armenian, Greek, Assyrian/Syriac/Chaldean and Maronite nations.

“Turkey long ago walked away from NATO, turned its back on the US and yet still expects to have a veto over US policy on issues, and that needs to end,” ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian told the Jerusalem Post earlier today. “Erdogan is extremely open about the direction he’s taking his country. And I think every aspect of our political system here in America, especially here in Washington, has woken up to this fact. But the last holdout is the White House. We’re protesting to help bring that to an end,” continued Hamparian.

The protest is set to begin Wednesday, November 13th at 12:00 noon at Lafayette Park, across from the White House. The timing of the White House protest is subject to change based on the Trump-Erdogan White House meeting schedule. Following the meeting, protesters will go to Sheridan Circle, the site of the May 16, 2017 protest where video evidence showed that President Erdogan ordered his security detail and supporters to attack peaceful protesters, sending multiple protesters, police and secret service to the hospital.

Two days ago, the ANCA called on the White House to bring up the latest ISIS killing of Armenian Catholic Priest Hovsep Petoian and his father, who were traveling from the Syrian town of Qamishli to Der-Zor to review the rebuilding of an Armenian Catholic Church there. According to news reports, Turkey’s attacks on Kurdish led anti-ISIS defense groups in Syria last month created a vacuum allowing ISIS sleeper cells to reactivate in the region.

“We look to President Trump to publicly press Turkish President Erdogan this Wednesday for answers regarding the murder by ISIS militants of a Catholic Armenian priest and his father, in a region of Syria that has fallen increasingly under the control of Ankara’s allies,” the ANCA’s Aram Hamparian stated following news of the murder.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) was joined by over 20 U.S. House colleagues in co-signing a bi-partisan letter to President Trump urging him to call off the meeting with President Erdogan. “President Erdogan’s decision to invade northern Syria on October 9 has had disastrous consequences for U.S. national security, has led to deep divisions in the NATO alliance, and caused a humanitarian crisis on the ground. Turkish forces have killed civilians and members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a critical U.S. partner in the fight against ISIS, and displaced over one hundred thousand people from their homes in northern Syria,” noted Chairman Engel and his colleagues. Co-signers included Representatives Gus M. Bilirakis (R-FL), William R. Keating (D-MA), Peter T. King (R-NY), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Susan Wild (D-PA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Colin Allred (D-TX), Jim Costa (D-CA), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) defended the First Amendment rights of Armenians, Greeks, and Yezidis and others to protest the Erdogan visit, calling on Secretary of State Pompeo to immediately expel members of President Erdogan’s security detail who attacked peaceful protesters in 2017. “This behavior is sadly routine for President Erdogan on Turkish soil. It is wrong and disturbing there, and it is an affront to American values and entirely unwelcome here. The Erdogan regime’s use of violence against civilians anywhere is inhumane, uncivilized, and unacceptable,” wrote Rep. Cheney, who is the third-highest GOP leader in the House.

In October, Cheney introduced legislation sanctioning Turkey for its invasion into northern Syria and the purchase of Russian-made S-400 missiles (H.R.4692), which received over 115 cosponsors. On October 29th, a similar sanctions measure (H.R.4695), introduced by Chairman Engel, was adopted by the House by a vote of 403 to 16.