Ceren Borazan, a 26-year-old student in New Jersey, told BuzzFeed News that one of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's bodyguards held her neck and threatened to kill her during Tuesday's clash outside the Turkish Embassy in DC.
At least 12 people were injured, including one police officer, when the peaceful protest turned into a brawl involving Turkish security personnel, the State Department confirmed.
Two people were arrested at the scene of the altercation, which erupted after Erdogan met with President Trump at the White House. Pro- and anti-Erdogan protesters were gathered outside the embassy, where men in black suits were seen attacking demonstrators.
Authorities, including the mayor, police, and State Department, condemned the violent attack against the peaceful protesters. The State Department also said it was "communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms."
The Turkish Embassy, meanwhile, released a statement blaming the violence on demonstrators who "began aggressively provoking" Turkish-American citizens who had assembled to greet Erdogan.
Borazan said that she was the woman in the photo, widely shared on social media, that showed a man in a black suit grabbing her by the neck.
Borazan — a Kurd from Turkey who came to the US in 2013 — told BuzzFeed News that she and the others were at the protest "to make our voices heard."
"But suddenly Erdogan's bodyguards — I'm pretty sure it was them — attacked all of us," she said.
Borazan added that she saw some of the men in the suits with guns in their jackets. Police also said that some of the people involved in the altercation were carrying firearms.
Borazan also described the altercation in a Facebook post, adding that she was afraid for her life.
"My Kurdish friends and allies were protesting peacefully against Erdogan being in Washington when were suddenly attacked by a group of Erdogan's official bodyguards and secret police."
"They attacked women, children and elderly with reckless abandon," she wrote.
Borazan told BuzzFeed News that the man called her a "bitch" in Turkish and told her, "I'm going to kill you, you're dead, you are gone." A video clip of the attack was shared on social media.
Borazan said that the man put her in a headlock "to the point where he popped a blood vessel in my eye."
She said that she managed to escape the guard's grip and get inside a helpful stranger's car.
Borazan said she could not report the assault to police at the time as she did not see the man's face. However, she did report another man who kicked her and other protesters during the attack.
Police said they arrested Ayten Necemi, 49, of Woodside, New York, for aggravated assault. Jalal Kheirabaoi of Fairfax, Virginia, was arrested on suspicion of assault on a police officer.
DC Police did not respond to questions about the identity of the attacker in the photo, saying that it was an "active and ongoing investigation."
"I came here to this country for freedom of speech and demonstration," Borazan said. "It's hard to believe this happened in America. I just want justice."
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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