Thursday June 15, 2017

Toronto woman beaten at Turkish protest helps D.C. police charge Canadian suspects

Mahmut Ellialti, left, and Ahmet Dereci are two Canadians charged in connection with a protest in Washington D.C. last month where protesters were assaulted outside the Turkish Ambassador's residence. Elif Genc says she was not in an altercation with the Canadian men, but others at the protest.

Mahmut Ellialti, left, and Ahmet Dereci are two Canadians charged in connection with a protest in Washington D.C. last month where protesters were assaulted outside the Turkish Ambassador's residence. Elif Genc says she was not in an altercation with the Canadian men, but others at the protest. (Washington Police)

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Two Canadians were among those charged Thursday by police in connection with a Washington, D.C. protest.

Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in D.C. for an official visit with U.S. President Donald Trump. As protesters demonstrated, video footage appears to show Erdogan's supporters — including the president's own security officers — punching and kicking protesters.

Ahmet Dereci

A screen grab of video footage appears to show Canadian suspect Ahmet Dereci, right, kicking a protester. (Voice of America News)

The two Canadians charged were not part of the Turkish president's security team, but have described themselves as his supporters. They are believed to be from Toronto.

One of the protesters injured in last month's protest was also from Toronto. Elif Genc, an active member of Toronto's Kurdish community, spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about the moment the protest became violent. She says she was not in an altercation with the Canadian men but others outside the ambassador's residence. Here is part of their conversation.

ELIF GENC: The security guards were standing in front of me and he had a mouthpiece … and he had an earpiece in his ear.

The guy I was looking at directly stopped for a second, listened to the earpiece, and after that I couldn't tell you what happened. It was like a wave. All of a sudden I was just on the ground.

You just feel pain. Like, I couldn't tell you where it was coming from or who it was coming from or what. But it was just like, you know, just getting hit sort of from all sides. And then, I heard them say in Turkish, "We're going to kill you, b--ch."

And then I heard another voice saying, above that, "run" — which I'm assuming was the Washington police who were also in this mix. So, that's when I ran away.

CAROL OFF: Can you tell us about the injuries you sustained?

'I was covered in bruises."' - Elif Genc

EG: My knees were very bruised up. I still have some bruises on my knees … I thought I had just fallen. But I realized they actually pushed me on the ground. The reason that I realized that they actually pushed me on the ground is because on my left arm I also had fingerprints, which was very disturbing.

I was covered in bruises — from my side, to my leg ... bumps all over my head, which later I sustained a concussion from.

Elif Genc

Elif Genc is a Kurdish activist from Toronto who was at the Washington D.C. protest last month outside the Turkish Ambassador's residence. She was beaten by pro-Erdogan supporters. (Elif Genc)

CO: So today, police in Washington, D.C. they laid charges against 14 people in connection with that protest. 12 of them are security officers who work for President Erdogan of Turkey. Two others are Canadians. What do you know about those two men?

EG: Honestly, the night of the incident, we have friends here from the Toronto-Kurdish community. They're very active. These friends, that very night, sent me a dossier like … still shots. They recognized them right away. I didn't recognize them.

Like one friend in particular [was] sending me shots of their Facebook, of the guys, comparing them, giving names, saying that they'd seen them before, that they even know people that worked with them, that they knew where they were. 

CO: These two Canadians — one of them named Ahmet Dereci, the other one Mahmut Ellialti — they have been charged. ... Have they been at other protests here in Toronto, do you know?  

EG: I haven't actually encountered them personally … but, I have to tell you, about a week ago I was at dinner with one of these friends of mine and we ran into ... the first accused.

CO: Ahmet Dereci?

EG: Yeah. So that was quite shocking to see him there right behind us having dinner. I just, like, restrained myself and didn't do anything because I knew that this was coming.

We had given all the information that we had. My friend's information was so useful that, like, we gave it to the Washington police.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. For more, listen to the audio above.