On April 5, THO President Ali Cinar participated as a witness in a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats titled “Turkey’s Democracy Under Challenge.”
The other witnesses were Naz Durakoglu (Strategist and Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab), Mehmet Yuksel (Representative to the U.S. of the People’s Democratic Party in Turkey), and David Phillips (Director of the Program on Peace-Building and Rights at Columbia University).
The hearing was presided over by the chairman, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and the ranking member, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY). The other members in attendance for all or part of the hearing were Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Rep. William Keating (D-MA), and Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL).
The witnesses presented testimony on the state of Turkey’s democracy and its impact on U.S.-Turkey relations. The hearing explored a variety of topics, including: the upcoming referendum on the presidential system; the Turkish government’s response following the July 15 coup attempt; the state of human rights, press freedoms, and the rule of law in Turkey; the security situation in Turkey; and Turkey’s relations with the U.S.
In his testimony, Mr. Cinar provided the security context for the state of emergency following the coup attempt and the measures taken under it, which have included investigations against and arrests of public servants, journalists, and members of political parties. He acknowledged that mistakes have been made with regard to government pressure on press freedoms. He noted that Turkey is facing exceptional security threats from organizations like the PKK, ISIS, and FETO, and Turkey’s domestic political developments must be viewed with this in mind. He emphasized that regardless of the outcome of the referendum on the presidential system, it is as important as ever for the U.S. and Turkey to maintain a strong and constructive relationship.
The Subcommittee has been closely monitoring the developments in Turkey and held several hearings last year. Mr. Cinar testified at a February 2016 hearing of the same Subcommittee, where he and the other witnesses examined political trends in Turkey.