Protests serve as backdrop to Erdoğan’s visit to White House

Protesters gathered outside the White House on Wednesday in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s visit with President Trump.

The protests, which were led by the American Rojava Center for Democracy (ARCDEM), began at noon in Lafayette Square but moved to the west side of the Treasury Building by late afternoon.

Protestors waved flags of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The protestors shouted phrases such as “baby-killer Erdoğan” and “Erdoğan is ISIS.”

Erdoğan’s visit to the White House comes on the heels of his military campaign into Syria to push the YPG, which he views as a terrorist group, away from Turkey-Syria border. His goal was to create a “safe zone” inside Syria.

The Turkish president’s campaign came after Trump decided to withdraw remaining U.S. troops from Syria’s northeastern border, a move that drew heavy bipartisan pushback.

Trump eventually announced that U.S. troops would remain to defend the nation’s oil interests in Syria; however, the expansive oil fields are located in east-central Syria, away from the contested northeastern border.

At the protest, ARCDEM Vice President Stephen Arthur called Trump’s decision “horribly exploitative,” adding that “it makes no sense to send a bunch of farmers to live in a stretch of desert with oil fields.”

Arthur also described Erdoğan’s offensive as “ethnic cleansing.”

The only way that Erdoğan’s White House trip could be seen as successful, Arthur continued, was if the meeting produced a “actual” cease-fire deal. 

“If they come back saying that it’s going to be a great trade deal but there’s no peace for the Kurds and northern Syria, it just feels like he’s selling the Kurds,” Arthur said.

While Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were able to put in place a temporary cease-fire, which Trump eventually announced as permanent, reports of fighting between SDF and Turkish forces along the new “safe zone” border continue to permeate.

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