COVENTRY, RI – As an Hellenic-American legislator, Rhode Island State Senator Leonidas (Lou) Raptakis (D-33) annually introduces a resolution recognizing Greek Independence Day, March 25, and celebrating the strong relationship between Greece and the United States. But this year, his work has attracted the attention of the Turkish Consul General in Boston, Ceylan Özen Erişen, who wrote to the Senate President asking to block the measure.
“This is a play right out of the authoritarian playbook of the Erdoğan regime, which is quite comfortable engaging in purges and attacks on freedom of the press,” said Sen. Raptakis. “In the past, the Consul General has attacked Brown’s Greek program and criticized American media outlets for reporting on the anti-democratic actions of the Turkish government, but this displays a fundamental contempt for our democracy and the notion of freedom of speech.”
In a letter to the Consul General, Raptakis noted that just last week, President Erdoğan shocked the world by withdrawing from the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Turkey was the first country to sign onto this important effort and it was named the Istanbul Convention.
“It seems to me the Consul General’s time might be better spent fighting for the freedom of her own people rather than trying to undermine the rights and freedoms American citizens enjoy,” said Raptakis. “While the Consulate was sending out tweets highlighting the presence of Turkish women in the Consulate’s office, the Turkish ruler was rejecting a cooperative, global effort to prevent domestic violence and protect the rights of women. It’s a shocking act of bad faith for the Consul General to lecture the Senate President about peace and harmony while her own government is again turning its back on basic human rights measures.”
Raptakis’ letter concluded, “We’ve seen the damage done by the thuggish tactics of the Erdoğan regime and I would respectfully suggest trying to get the elected officials in this country to silence your critics, seeking to shut down academic programs that rightfully question the tactics of your government and using strong-arm tactics to challenge American media outlets is not an effective strategy in our country. And it is certainly not reflective of ‘a vision for a world in peace, cooperation and harmony’ you claimed to be interested in promoting.”