A fistfight broke out between the Turkish President Recep Erdogan's bodyguards and demonstrators protesting his visit to the United States, with the head of states' security personnel also attacking two prominent journalists.
Amberin Zaman, a journalist at The Economist, said the Turkish president's bodyguards insulted her, calling her a "PKK whore," referring to the Kurdish guerrilla group. Erdogan ended a cease-fire with the PKK last year, starting a war that has killed hundreds of civilians.
Other protesters were also attacked by the security personnel, and journalists were kept from entering a press event being held at the Brookings Institution. Journalist Ilhan Tanir said his colleague, Adem Yavuz Arslan, was also attacked by bodyguards, and videos of fistfights circulated social media.
Here: Erdoğan's bodyguards come at journalist Amberin Zaman in front of Brookings. pic.twitter.com/QCX7LCu8q4– ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) March 31, 2016
This should be fine. Erdogan bodyguards try to kick out journalist from inside, Brookings guards stopped. pic.twitter.com/03C2RJBizf– ilhan tanir (@WashingtonPoint) March 31, 2016
The centrist Brookings Institute said that it invited Erdogan to discuss security and the "democratic values of the trans-Atlantic community." He began his speech – delayed more than 20 minutes by disruptions – by paying tribute to the six police officers killed in a bomb blast on Thursday in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish city in Turkey's southeast.
A car bomb went off as a police special operations car was passing by, according to state media. No civilians were killed, but 14 were reportedly injured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
After affirming his commitment to his fight against Kurdish "terrorists," Erdogan denied that Turkey is violating human rights. No country fighting terrorism has human rights standards as high as Turkey, he said. Though he opened talking about the PKK and domestic anti-terror efforts, he spoke more at length about Syria, Russia and Israel.
Erdogan, who has been criticized for limiting freedom of the press in his country, was insulated from tough questioning at the event, with Tanir complaining that questions were in fact being screened by the Brookings Institution.
Erdogan, in the U.S. for a summit on nuclear security, held talks with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden prior to his address. White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest said Wednesday it was probable that U.S. President Barack Obama would "make at least a little time" to meet with Erdogan as well.