Trump’s connections with a large number of dictatorships has raised several questions about his morality and political convictions. Since he became president, numerous human rights organizations have protested against him for welcoming human rights violators onto US soil. However, Trump has always denied those accusations, claiming that classic tyrants such as Al-Sisi (Egypt) and Erdogan (Turkey) are US allies who lead free countries.
Despite Trump’s efforts to manipulate public opinion, the recent visit of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan caused a political earthquake. During his visit to the Turkish embassy in Washington DC on Monday, Erdogan ordered his bodyguards to attack people who were peacefully protesting against him. As result, a number of protesters were injured and needed medical assistance. A few hours before that regrettable incident, Trump said:
“We have had a great relationship and we will make it even better.”
“Today, we face a new enemy in the fight against terrorism, and again we seek to face this threat together.”
Amnesty International said the meeting was, “an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the way that President Trump and President Erdogan are contributing to a global climate of toxic and dehumanizing politics.”
President Trump recently praised President Erdogan for winning a referendum in which dissenting opinions were ruthlessly suppressed, yet President Trump has been silent on Turkey’s alarming crackdown on the media,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
“The world will be watching, hoping that both presidents will reaffirm their commitments to protecting human rights.”
Despite Erdogan’s criminal act onto US soil, Trump said,
“it was a great honor to welcome the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House today.”
Numerous Republicans and Democrats have come together to condemn Erdogan’s crime. Senator John McCain said,
“We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America. This is the United States of America. This isn’t Turkey; this isn’t a third-world country, and this kind of thing cannot go un-responded to diplomatically.”
McCain added: “It should have repercussions, including identifying these people and bringing charges against them.After all, they violated American laws.”
Later in the day Wednesday, McCain and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent a joint letter to Erdogan to express their “grave concern” with the behavior of his security detail.
“The actions of your staff violate the constitutional protections of freedom of the press and freedom of assembly enjoyed by all Americans. Your staff’s blatant violation of these rights on American soil is an affront to those freedoms, and reflects poorly on your government,” the letter said. “We have long supported Turkey as a member of NATO and a key US ally in the region, and we expect conduct more appropriate to our decades-long partnership.”
Also on Wednesday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., called for the arrest and prosecution of members of Erdogan’s security detail.
“If Erdogan’s bodyguards who participated in this attack have entered the country on diplomatic visas, those visas should be revoked right away,” Lofgren said, slamming Erdogan as “authoritarian” and “an oppressor” and said that it was “unwise” for Trump to meet with him.
“The United States needs to send a strong message that we will not stand by,” as Erdogan brings “thuggish tactics to our nation’s capital,” Lofgren said
Despite the demands presented by Republicans and Democrats, the government said it will not take further actions against Turkey. The Department of Justice added that it will further investigate the facts and will notify Erdogan of its concerns about the incident.
Days after the incident, the Trump administration announced its intentions to strengthen its ties with Erdogan because according to them, he is an ally and represents a free country.
Two months ago, Turkey held a rigged constitutional referendum which gave Erdogan super powers. The international observers concluded that the referendum did not comply with international standards. Under the new constitution, Erdogan can approve his policies without the previous approval of the parliament.
Before the referendum, Erdogan was already abolishing human rights in Turkey. Since July 15, Erdogan’s regime has sacked 138,147 citizens, detained 102,247, arrested 50,987, shut down 2,099 schools, dormitories, and universities, fired 8271 teachers, dismissed 4,424 judges, shut down 149 media outlets, and arrested 231 journalists. Furthermore, detainees are repressed, oppressed and in numerous cases executed without any trial.
Looking at these numbers, it is clear that Erdogan is a cruel dictator who has Trump’s approval. Erdogan’s has not been the only visit of a dictator to the US.
On April 3, Trump welcomed the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to the White House (Obama always refused meeting him as long as he was a human rights violator.) During his meeting, Trump said,
“we agree on so many things.” He said Egypt’s leader has “done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”
He added: “We will fight terrorism and other things. We’re going to be friends for a long long period of time. We have a great bond with the people of Egypt.”
In a later press conference, Sean Spicer said,
“Trump made clear that this is a new day in the relationship between Egypt and the United States and the president affirmed his strong support of the Egyptian people,” “It was a candid dialogue during which they discussed both areas of cooperation and of concern.”
Numerous human rights organizations protested against Al-Sisi’s visit:
“Inviting al-Sisi for an official visit to Washington as tens of thousands of Egyptians rot in jail and when torture is again the order of the day is a strange way to build a stable strategic relationship,” said Sarah Margon, Washington director at Human Rights Watch.
“Giving more money to the Sisi government is to the detriment of US and Egyptian interests,” Margon said. “Neither side in this relationship seems interested in promoting human rights, but the gross abuses being committed by Egyptian authorities should compel Congress to keep limiting support.”
As Defense Minister, Al-Sisi overthrew the country’s first freely elected president in 2013. He also killed 1150 protesters in the following weeks. Since then, his security forces have arrested tens of thousands of Egyptians, committed abuses, tortures, enforced disappearances, and extra-judicial executions. According to several human rights organizations, Al-Sisi has arrested 60.000 innocent citizens and accused them of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 2014, Al-Sisi arrested an American citizen who founded the “Belady Foundation For Street Children.” Last February, Al-Sisi shut down several human rights organizations, including a center for rehabilitating people who have been tortured by the government. Al-Sisi alleged that these organizations were funded by foreign countries. As a result, numerous human rights defenders are now liable to face a 25-year sentence. This decision contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR.)
Despite all these facts, the Trump administration contends that Egypt is a free democratic country that is fighting Islamist terrorism. However, the above-mentioned violations of human rights indicate that Egypt is actually, the harshest dictatorship in the Middle East.
Since 1987, the US has provided 1.3 billion of dollars in annual military aid to Egypt in the form of equipment, training, etc. Obama suspended the program when Al-Sisi became “president” in 2013. However, two years later, he reinstated military aid although now limited to training. When Trump became president, he announced that he would resume military aid to Egypt again.
If that were not enough, Trump visited Saudi Arabia to sign a 100 million dollar arms deal on Friday. On Sunday, he gave a speech on Islam and peace. When asked if Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship, a government spokesperson said,
“Saudi Arabia is a democratic country and our most important ally in the fight against ISIS in the Middle East.”
On Saturday, Trump scandalized his supporters when he bowed to the Saudi King while receiving a medal. Until then, Trump had always been one of the most prominent anti-Muslim speakers in US politics. However, it appears from the fact that Trump went there to sign a massive contract that he has changed his mind. By bowing to the Saudi King, Trump has supported one of the worst human rights violators in the world.
In the past, Saudi Arabia has curtailed the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly by detaining and imprisoning critics, human rights defenders and minority rights activists on vaguely worded charges.
Coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia have committed serious violations of international law, including war crimes, in Yemen. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition bombed thousands of Yemenis, including children. It also caused a permanent shortage of basic supplies, water, and electricity across the country, leading to outbreaks of diseases and starvation.
Security officials continued to torture detainees with impunity, and imposing and administering corporal punishments, particularly floggings. In February, the Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to 800 lashes and eight years imprisonment.
Women remain legally subordinate to men with respect to marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. They cannot access higher education, take paid employment or travel abroad without the approval of their male guardian. Women also remain banned from driving.
Courts have continued to impose death sentences including for non-violent crimes. Many defendants are sentenced to death after unfair trials by courts that convict them without adequately investigating allegations that their “confessions” were coerced, including with torture. On January 2 authorities reportedly carried out 47 executions, 43 by beheading and four by shooting, in 12 locations around the country.
With this record, it appears that not even Trump could deny that Saudi Arabia is a dictatorship. He is not the first president to have good relations with the Saudi Kingdom: Obama and Clinton also had strong ties with the dictatorship, but never at the current high level.
Trump’s motivations to strengthen his relationships with dictators are unclear. Moreover, he criticized this style of politics until he became president. Perhaps Trump has realized that dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia are more powerful than the US.
What is clear is that by strengthening his ties to dictators, Trumps is indirectly endorsing their violations of human rights. For that reason, there is increasing concern that Trump may try to install a new dictatorship in the US. It is important to remember that the US system was created to prevent these scenarios. But if most republicans support his mental gymnastics, he may soon turn the US system into a “Banana republic.”
So far, Trump has appointed a republican as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. This greatly strengthens his position with respect to the judiciary, increasing the likelihood of ultimate success for any laws passed by his Republican allies in Congress. However, US citizens will be crucial in stopping Trump’s plans. Bad results for Republicans in the mid-term Congress and Senate elections in 2018 would open the door for an internal rebellion, leading to Trump’s impeachment. Given what we have seen so far, the words “IMPEACHMENT” and “DICTATORSHIP” will be the most popular words of the coming year.