"As long as I breathe, as long as I live, I am not going to give up to the dictators," the Kurdish-American activist said.
Murat Yasa was sure he was going to die.
What had started as a peaceful protest outside the Turkish ambassador's home in Washington two years ago devolved into violence. Yasa, a Kurdish-American activist protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's human rights record, was beaten by Turkish security officials in an attack caught on video.
They stomped his head again and again, he recalls, kicking it like a soccer ball. They shouted curses in Turkish. They left him bloodied and bruised — broken nose, loose teeth, searing pain across his body — and he was rushed to a local emergency room.
The scars linger.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Yasa told NBC News he struggles with memory loss, and a neurologist told him he has brain tissue damage. The sheer outrage of the May 2017 attack — foreign bodyguards and Erdogan supporters pummeling U.S. citizens in the nation's capital — still infuriates him.
But he will not be deterred. That is why Yasa, 62, plans to return to Washington next month when Erdogan is scheduled to pay another visit to the U.S. on Nov. 13.
"I feel terrible," Yasa said when asked for his thoughts on Erdogan's visit. "I feel like a truck crashed [into] me, and then an 18-wheeler is going to crash into me again."
"But as long as I breathe, as long as I live, I am not going to give up to the dictators," Yasa later added. "I will always stand up for the innocent people against tyranny."
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Cohen Milstein is honored to represent Mr. Yasa and other plaintiffs injured in the May 2017 attack in their lawsuit against The Republic of Turkey in Kasim Kurd, et al. v. The Republic of Turkey, Case No. 1:18-cv-01117-CKK, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia