This article originally appeared in the print version of the California Courier.
Minority communities in the United States are uniting to oppose an increasingly authoritarian and aggressive Turkey, an effort that has taken on new urgency as the Turkish government grows increasingly belligerent overseas and seeks to expand its influence through alliances with U.S.-based Islamist groups in the United States.
Local Kurdish-Americans in Los Angeles have pushed back on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s domestic allies and are reaching out to other community members to join the fight.
At the Council on American-Islamic Relations Los Angeles’ annual fundraising banquet in November, Kurdish human rights activists and others organized a group of approximately 50 protesters to oppose Turkish Airlines’ sponsorship of CAIR. Turkish Airlines’ participation is a reflection of Turkey’s partnership with CAIR, a group which the United Arab Emirates classified as a terrorist organization due to its longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Amir Sharifi, a human rights activist who helped organize the event emphasized the importance of working with other minorities, “I have also been active in that area since I know Turkey has even gloomier and darker past when it comes to other ethnicities, other religious minorities. The world basically knows what they did to Armenians.”
Sharifi described Erdoğan’s regime as “a combination of Turkish jingoism and Jihadism.”
River Hagg, an American Navy veteran and documentary filmmaker who had served as a combat medic in Syria, said he felt compelled to “come out and support the Kurds in Northern Syria and the Christians and the Jews and Alawites and Armenians, and the Yazidi. You know, there’s so many people in Northern Syria.” Recording social media videos during the protest, Hagg said many Kurds follow him and “I need them to see that we do care.”
Kurdish activist Sereke Welat agreed with the need to build support among minority groups, “I am keeping my line of activity to support minorities,” and explained how history informed his activism, “Those governments have been doing that for many, many years. And as you know the Armenian Genocide was committed one hundred years.”
The activists emphasized plans to pursue more multicultural activism against Erdoğan’s fascism and hopes to build new alliances to counter Turkish influence.Similar plans seem to be afoot at the national level. At a December 8th conference put on by the Middle East Forum in Washington, D.C., representatives for Kurdish, Greek, and Armenian Americans discussed prospects for a national coalition to combine the resources of affected communities responding to Turkish belligerence.
As Erdoğan will likely only expand his belligerence abroad and further empower his Islamist activist domestic allies here in America it will only become more difficult to obscure how this authoritarian ruler and his antisemitic, misogynist ideology threaten other minorities and oppressed groups too, including women, Jews, the LGBTQ community, and Muslim apostates. Clearly this is only the beginning, both of this fight and the coming alliances of those with the moral clarity to oppose it.
David M. Swindle is the Southern California associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid and a fellow for Islamist Watch. He also works as the Director of Research for The Israel Group. Follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle