The Turkish Consul General in Chicago issued a blistering rebuke to a Michigan congressman today, for his continued support of a Chicago-area restauranteur accused by Turkey of a terrorist past.
Ibrahim Parlak runs a Kurdish restaurant in Harbert, a popular destination on the Michigan shore. The government has repeatedly tried to deport Parlak as a potential terrorist, but this week he won a new round in his efforts to stay in the United States. The United States Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that the situation in Parlak’s native Turkey had changed since those deportation proceedings began more than a decade ago.
Parlak denies any terrorism connections, and contends he would face torture if returned to Turkey. His congressman, Republican Fred Upton who has been a vocal supporter, called the decision a victory.
“The dangers Ibrahim would face should he be deported to Turkey are unthinkable,” he said, “as the tensions between the Turkish government and the Kurdish community have grown increasingly worse.”
But Thursday, the Turkish Consul General, Umut Acar, called the congressman’s statement “troubling”.
“If Mr. Upton somehow insinuates that an individual may face danger in Turkey because of his/her ethnic background, then that is delusional and downright falsehood,” he said. “Turkish citizens with Kurdish origin are good, productive citizens of my country.”
Parlak came to the United States in 1992, but was accused of lying on immigration documents about alleged past associations in Turkey with the Kurdish separatist group PKK. He was arrested and served 10 months in custody before eventually being released in June of 2005. Since that time, he has fought repeated efforts to deport him. Parlak is a popular figure in the vacation community of Harbert where he has enjoyed vocal support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
But in Chicago Thursday, Acar repeated his government’s contention that Parlak has a verifiable past with PKK, which he said is comparable to Isil in his homeland.
“PKK does not represent the Kurdish community,” Acar said, “just like Isil does not represent Arabs or Muslims. And Parlak was a member of that terrorist organization. So Mr. Upton supports an individual who was a member of an organization long designated as terrorist in the U.S.”
“The reason Mr. Upton can do that so enthusiastically, is the fact that Parlak did not harm Mr. Upton’s loved ones,” he said. “He harmed the loved ones of some others Mr. Upton will probably never see.”
This week’s decision on Parlak is far from final, but will allow him to stay in the United States for the foreseeable future. His case now goes back to an immigration judge in Detroit, where his attorney Robert Carpenter said he hopes to get a hearing sometime after the first of the year.
“It’s a big deal,” Carpenter said. “It is a rare result to get. It’s a job half done at this point, because we still have to win in front of the immigration judge.”