May 10, 2018


President Erdogan’s Security Force, Others Accused of Human Rights Violations in Federal Lawsuit Stemming from 2017 Washington, D.C. Attack


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Fifteen victims of the vicious 2017 attack against peaceful protestors outside of the Turkish Chief of Mission Residence in Washington D.C. filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Republic of Turkey as well two Americans and three Canadians who participated in the assault. As documented in video footage and news coverage last May, the peaceful protestors were brutally assaulted by the security officials of Turkish President Recep Tayyiip Erdogan and his U.S.-based sympathizers as they gathered to speak out against human rights violations against the Kurdish people. Many of the protestors suffered severe blows to the face and body, as well as seizures, concussions and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuit details the wanton and repeated brutality with which Erdogan’s security officials pushed past U.S. law enforcement officers to attack the protestors both prior to the Turkish President’s arrival at the Embassy and again upon his arrival and instruction. The counts set forth in the complaint include violations of international law and hate crimes, as well as assault, battery and false imprisonment.

“Our clients include parents with young children and local business owners who were peacefully protesting human rights abuses by Turkey when they were kicked, punched and stomped by Turkish security officials – right here on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington D.C.,” said Agnieszka M. Fryszman, Chair of the Human Rights Practice at national law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll and co-counsel for the victims. “This is an open and shut case because the brutal attempt to silence the demonstrators was captured on video. There is no immunity for this conduct and we look forward to proving our claims in court.

“It’s tragic that the Turkish government can get away with attacking protestors in Turkey, but when Turkish security personnel engage in a coordinated attack against a small group of peaceful demonstrators in our nation’s capital, the Turkish government and those that assisted it must be held accountable,” said Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, Of Counsel with Dorsey & Whitney LLP.

As detailed in the complaint, on May 16, 2017, approximately 20 people gathered in front of the Turkish Chief of Mission Residence in Sheridan Circle on Embassy Row. Hoping  to call attention to Turkey’s mistreatment of the Kurdish people – an ethnic minority population long subjected to persecution and human rights violations in that country, as detailed in a U.S. State Department report. Many of the demonstrators – who included young children and the elderly – were of Kurdish descent.

The Turkish security personnel and their civilian sympathizers taunted the peaceful demonstrators and ultimately charged past the U.S. law enforcement personnel on the scene to attack the peaceful protestors, viciously kicking and beating the group.

The attack left many of the protesters badly injured. As detailed in the complaint, Murat Yasa, a 62-year-old man, was violently thrown to the ground and repeatedly kicked in the face and head. Mr. Yasa suffered a concussion, had teeth knocked out and still suffers recurring symptoms including memory loss. Another protestor, Elif Genc, was brutally assaulted by Turkish security agents and civilians, who continued to hit her despite the efforts of U.S. police officers to stop them. Other protestors faced similar brutality at the hands of the Turkish forces and their sympathizers, including a woman who was beaten to the point of having multiple seizures. Much of the violence was videotaped and footage was used in countless news reports to help analyze exactly what happened that day, like this New York Times account.

“I came to this country thirty years ago to escape the persecution faced by Kurds in Turkey but the brutal attack at Sheridan Circle brought these injustices to America’s doorstep,” said Mr. Yasa. “While exercising my rights as a U.S. citizen, I was left bloodied and beaten to the point where I feared for my life and suffered injuries that continue to affect me to this day. We cannot allow our fundamental freedoms to be undermined by those who use violence and intimidation to silence our voices, and the Turkish government and its sympathizers must be held accountable for their actions.”

The victims are being represented by Agnieszka Fryszman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, Mark Sullivan and Joshua Colangelo-Bryan of Dorsey & Whitney LLP and Michael Tigar, Professor Emeritus of American University Washington College of Law. The case was filed in United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

About Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC

Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is recognized as one of the premier law firms in the country handling major, complex plaintiff-side litigation. With more than 90 attorneys, Cohen Milstein has offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Ill., New York, N.Y., Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Philadelphia, Pa., and Raleigh, N.C. For additional information, please call 202.408.4600 or visit our website at


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