By Mary Elizabeth Margolis

Top Items

Turkish President to Visit the White House

President Trump is scheduled to welcome Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House tomorrow for talks focusing on military operations in Syria. The Trump Administration appears poised to begin arming Syrian Kurdish fighters prior to an assault on the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa, a move opposed by the Turkish government. Trump is far less likely to raise with Erdogan concern over the Turkish leader’s increasingly draconian rollback of rights and centralization of power, continuing a disturbing trend of the administration ignoring the abuses of authoritarian regimes. Erdogan’s visit follows a recent referendum marred by irregularities that gave him unprecedented new powers, as well as a crackdown on journalists, judges, and civil society in the wake of an attempted coup in the summer of 2016. Human Rights First is urging President Trump to publicly raise human rights concerns with Erdogan, and to advance ongoing cooperation with Turkey to mitigate the global refugee crisis.

Sham Investigation in Chechnya

On Friday the Russian Embassy in Israel issued a letter claiming that the Russian government has concluded its investigation of human rights abuses in Chechnya and found no evidence of mass detention and torture of gay and bisexual men despite well-documented reports of these human rights abuses. Following these alarming reports, Human Rights First called on the Trump Administration to press Russia to instigate a legitimate investigation. This comes as members of Congress continue to express concern for the situation in Chechnya. Last week Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) called on the Departments of State and Homeland Security to explore “possible avenues for urgently admitting these persecuted LGBT individuals to the United States, preferably via humanitarian parole or expedited refugee processing.”

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

Wednesday marks International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT), an annual day celebrated around the world by LGBT activists, allies, and human rights organizations, commemorating the anniversary of the the World Health Organization’s removal of homosexuality from its list of officially recognized mental illnesses. Human Rights First will host a Tuesday reception on Capitol Hill to celebrate the work of human rights activists around the world who promote and protect equality for some of the most marginalized and persecuted LGBT communities. The event, featuring Co-President of the Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association Lyosha Gorshkov, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), Congressman David Cicilline (RI-1), Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), and Human Rights First’s Elisa Massimino, will highlight the alarming situation facing gay men in Chechnya and call for U.S. leadership in urging the Russian government to halt these abuses and ensure accountability.

Quote of the Week

“Leading with our values, including prioritizing human rights in our diplomacy, is a critical part of promoting our national security.”

—Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) during confirmation hearings for John Sullivan, nominee for deputy secretary of state

We’re Reading

Business Insider reports that refugee processing under the Trump Administration has ground to a halt.

PRI’s The World reports that asylum seekers are still marching to the U.S. southern border, even though they will likely be turned away.

Village Voice shares the stories of refugees who are building new lives in New York after fleeing violence and war.

The Dallas Morning News writes that U.S. border agents are illegally turning away asylum seekers.

The Washington Blade covers a recent rally in Washington, D.C. for the gay and bisexual men who are victims of violence and persecution in Chechnya.

On The Hill

Monday, May 15, 2017

Commemoration of the International Day of Families: The Protection of Refugee Families in the United States. The event will feature Larry Yungk, Senior Resettlement Officer with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees; US Senator Cory Gardner; Annie Sovcik, Director of the Center for Victims of Torture Washington Office; Farjam Behnam, Refugee Congress Delegate from Virginia; Jessi Calzado, Founder and CEO of Cuba Inspires; Rana Jaafar Yaseen, Founder and President of Power of Life Now; Elizabeth marks, Director for Community Engagement with USA for UNHCR; Jennifer Quigley, Refugee Protection Advocacy Strategist with Human Rights First; Lacy Broemel, Refugee and Immigration Policy Analyst with The Episcopal Church; Sarah Ibrahim, Advocacy Officer with the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; Rev. Robin Tanner, Minister of Worship and Outreach with the Beacon Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Summit; Imam Yahya Hendi, Georgetown University Muslim Community; Rev. Jason Carson Wilson, Justice and Witness Ministries with the United Church of Christ; Rev. Noel Andersen, National Grassroots Coordinator with Church World Service; Catherine Orsborn, Director of Shoulder to Shoulder – Standing with American Muslims; Ana Gimena Sanchez, Senior Associate with WOLA; Avideh Moussavian, Senior Policy Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center; Suzanne Akhras Sahloul, Founder and Executive Director of the Syrian Community Network; Hans Van De Weerd, Chair of Refugee Council USA and Vice President for US Programs with the International Rescue Committee. 2:00 PM, Hart Senate Office Building, Room 902.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Reception: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The reception will feature Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13); Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI-1); Lyosha Gorshkov, Co-President of the Russian-Speaking American LGBT Association; and Elisa Massimino, President & CEO of Human Rights First. 6:00 PM, 2060 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

CSIS will hold an event entitled, “The Economic and Security Dimensions of Protecting LGBT Rights.” The event will feature Eric Gitari, Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Kenya; Nicole Santamaria, Founder of Asociacion Colectivo Alejandria in El Salvador; Ambassador Michael Guest, Senior Advisor at the Council for Global Equality; Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post; Alex Wagner, Former Chief of Staff to the Secretary of the US Army; Maninder Gill, Director of Social Development at the World Bank; Jake Sullivan, Former Director of Policy Planning at the US State Department; James Thomas Kolbe, Former Representative from Arizona; Masha Gessen, Journalist; Ambassador Hendrick Schuwer, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States. 9:30 AM, CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The Helsinki Commission will hold a hearing to examine the growing Russian military threat in Europe, focusing on assessing and addressing the challenge. 9:30 AM, SVC-208.

The House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations will hold a hearing entitled, “Challenges Facing Law Enforcement in the 21st Century.” The hearing will feature Sheriff Jim McDonnell, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; Chief Alonzo Thompson, Spartanburg Police Department; Chuck Canterbury, President of the Fraternal Order of Police; Chief Art Acevedo, City of Houston Chief of Police. 10:00 AM. Rayburn House Offfice Building, Room 2141.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a Business Meeting in which they will markup S. 951, The Regulatory and Accountability Act of 2017. 10:00 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building 342.

Around Town

Monday, May 15, 2017

New America will hold an event entitled, “A New Era for Immigration.” The event will feature Jude Joffe-Block, New Arizona Fellow at New America; Michael Franc, Director of DC Programs at the Hoover Institution; Ali Noorani, Executive Director at the National Immigration Forum; Adam Hunter, Former Acting Chief of Staff at USCIS. 5:00 PM, New America, 740 15th Street NW #900, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Wilson Center’s Global Europe Program will hold an event entitled, “The EU Confronts the Contradictions of France’s New Deal and BREXIT.” The event will feature Caroline Vicini, Deputy Head of Delegation of the EU Delegation to the United States; Riccardo Perissich, Coordinator for Institutional Relations at Pirelli & C. and former EU Director General for Industry; Diana Villiers Negroponte, Professor at The George Washington University. 2:00 PM, Woodrow Wilson Center, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

Friday, May 19, 2017

CSIS will hold an event entitled, “Why Should the United States Care about Ukraine?” The event will feature Samuel Charap, Senior Political Scientist at RAND Corporation; Steven Pifer, Director of the Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative at the Brookings Institution; Greg Huger, Former Mission Director as USAID. 1:00 PM, CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.