(AP/Ivan Sekretarev)

Rex Tillerson praises Turkish "courage" after coup attempt

Roughly 40,000 people have been jailed in the post-coup government crackdown


Matthew Rozsa
July 10, 2017 6:59PM (UTC)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made some unintentionally awkward comments about Turkey over the weekend.

During a speech in Istanbul on Sunday, Tillerson praised the Turkish citizens who came to the defense of President Tayyip Erdogan during a 2016 coup attempt, according to a report by Reuters.

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"We're all here in Istanbul at a momentous time. Nearly a year ago, the Turkish people — brave men and women — stood up against coup plotters and defended their democracy," Tillerson proclaimed.

He added, "I take this moment to recognize their courage and honor the victims of the events of July 15, 2016."

Although Tillerson is correct in recalling that thousands of Turks rose up to resist an attempted coup d'etat by rogue soldiers last year, he ignores the fact that Turkey has implemented a brutal crackdown in the aftermath of that incident. Roughly 40,000 people have been jailed on the grounds of national security since the attempted revolt, while more than 100,000 more have been fired or suspended from jobs in law enforcement, the military, civil service and the private sector.

Tillerson also told American diplomats in Istanbul that "I think our relationship here in Turkey which has been under some stress for some time; I hope we are beginning to put it on the mend."

He added, "I think we're beginning to rebuild some of that trust that we lost in one another, they lost our trust to a certain extent, we lost theirs, so I think we are working very hard to rebuild that level of trust and that is the basis for any relationship."

This isn't the first time that the Trump administration's relationship with Turkey has become uncomfortable. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has had to retroactively register as a paid Turkish lobbyist, and after Erdogan met with Trump in May, controversy ensued over Erdogan's presidential bodyguards becoming violent in their response to anti-Turkey protesters.

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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