Ecuador is sending mixed messages to Turkey – summoning its ambassador in Quito in protest, while also formally apologizing – after Turkish security attacked female protesters and a socialist lawmaker attending a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the South American capital.
Erdogan delivered a speech as part of a tour of Latin America in Quito on Thursday. A group of three women interrupted the protest with shouts of “murderer,” demanding Turkey change its policy towards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a U.S.-designated Marxist terrorist group. Turkey has been engaged in combat operations against the PKK for the past year, targeting Kurdish regions of Turkey like the city of Diyarbakir. The fighting has internally displaced tens of thousands of Kurdish civilians.
Turkish security swiftly removed the women interrupting Erdogan’s speech, forcibly pulling them out of the crowd in images that have travelled the world since Thursday.
Witnesses say at least one cameraman attending the speech was also attacked in an attempt to prevent him from recording the attack on the women.
Diego Vintimilla, a legislator who is a member of the ruling socialist PAIS Alliance party, attempted to intervene and prevent Turkish security from physically hurting the women. In the process, he alleges, Turkish security beat him. He posted photos of his injuries on his Twitter account, stating, “Turkish security beat me for demanding that they stop hurting the comrade at the National Institute of Higher Studies [where the speech took place]. I expect the state to act.”
Seguridad turca me golpeó por exigir que dejen de agredir a compañera en el IAEN.
Espero acciones del Estado. pic.twitter.com/WC8ObZLuOJ
— Diego Vintimilla (@diego_vintimill) February 5, 2016
Vintimilla has since called the attack an “aggression against national sovereignty.”
Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Fernando Yepez summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Quito, and Hurriyet reports Ecuador will express its “unease” over the incident. The Turkish newspaper notes, however, that Ecuadorian officials deny that they have lodged a “diplomatic note of protest.” Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Saturday that Ecuador will “send a strong note of protest” to Turkey.
Hurriyet notes that Turkish officials appear incensed at the lack of security at the speech.
“We are of course respectful of the freedom of expression and assembly, but those demonstrators should not have been able to approach Mr. President so closely, within just a few meters. Would any demonstrator in any country have been able to approach either Ms. [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel or Mr. [U.S. President Barack] Obama that close?” one official told Hurriyet, adding that it was “natural” for Turkish security to attack.
Ecuador’s La Republica reported Sunday that, far from summoning Ankara’s ambassador, President Rafael Correa has formally apologized to Erdogan. “What were they looking for, for us to cut relations with Turkey?” Correa said of the protesters, who he called “brats.”
The PKK formally ended a years-long truce with the Turkish government in November, following the resurgence of violence in Kurdish regions of Turkey in July. President Erdogan announced a new offensive against “terrorism” in Turkey that month, following a suicide bombing in the border town of Suruç that killed 31 people and was attributed to the Islamic State. While nominally an offensive against the Islamic State, by October 2015, Erdogan’s forces had arrested 1,000 more PKK members than suspected ISIS members.