What had started as a peaceful protest outside the Turkish ambassador's home in Washington two years ago devolved into violence. Yasa, a Kurdish-American activist protesting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's human rights record, was beaten by Turkish security officials in an attack caught on video.
They stomped his head again and again, he recalls, kicking it like a soccer ball. They shouted curses in Turkish. They left him bloodied and bruised — broken nose, loose teeth, searing pain across his body — and he was rushed to a local emergency room.
The scars linger.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Yasa told NBC News he struggles with memory loss, and a neurologist told him he has brain tissue damage. The sheer outrage of the May 2017 attack — foreign bodyguards and Erdogan supporters pummeling U.S. citizens in the nation's capital — still infuriates him.
"This is insane. This is not acceptable," Yasa said. "How could [the Trump administration] give the green light to Turkey to commit genocide against your allies?"
He conceded that returning to the scene of the chaotic melee is not without risk, and he said he fears for the safety of his family, including his children. But he nonetheless feels compelled to stand up to the Turkish regime and to Erdogan himself, whom he called "evil."
A total of 19 people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, were indicted by a grand jury in Washington in 2017; charges against 11 people were later dropped, according to The Associated Press.
The security guards, some in dark suits and ties, were caught on video brushing past U.S. law enforcement and attacking a small group of protesters with their fists and feet. They could be seen kicking one woman as she lay on a sidewalk and throwing another woman to the ground.
In one video, Erdogan can be seen looking on as his security guards clashed with the protesters. By the end of the brawl, nine people had been hurt, including Yasa.
Yasa has been politically engaged for much of his life, saying that he was "always protesting" the Turkey government over its treatment of minority groups, including Armenians, and rallied for women's rights in his native country and elsewhere.
He fled Turkey and settled in the United States in 1987, eventually gaining U.S. citizenship in 1992. He started his own flooring and granite company in northern Virginia, where he lives with his family.
Yasa emphasized that he has nothing against the Turkish people, adding that several of his Turkish friends were horrified by the video of the beating. The target of his anger and source of his sorrow is Erdogan, who he believes orders far greater atrocities in his own country.
"If he can do this in [Washington]," Yasa said, "imagine what he can do in Turkey."