Heard on the Hill

Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter to visit Capitol Hill ahead of Erdogan visit

Boston Celtics center has called the Turkish leader the 'Hitler of our century'

NBA center Enes Kanter meets with Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y. (courtesy of @EnesKanter / Twitter)

As President Donald Trump prepares to receive Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a Wednesday state visit at the White House, NBA player Enes Kanter, an outspoken critic of Erdogan, is scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill.

The Boston Celtics center plans to join Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton in the Capitol Visitor Center for a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon on protecting America’s Syrian Kurdish allies.

Kanter, who is from Turkey, has called Erdogan the “Hitler of our century” and has accused him of numerous human rights abuses, including jailing innocent women and journalists. As retaliation, Erdogan has arrested Kanter’s father and several family friends, labeled him a terrorist and revoked his Turkish passport.

Tuesday’s roundtable follows Trump’s decision to withdraw combat troops from northern Syria, opening the Kurds to attack from Turkish forces.

“Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand,” the president said during an October White House news conference.

Trump’s move has received the rare honor of a bipartisan rebuke. On Oct. 29, the House voted 403-16 to sanction Turkey for the country’s attacks on Syrian Kurds. The bill would allow Trump to waive the sanctions as long as Turkey “has halted attacks against Syrian Democratic Forces, Kurdish and Arab civilians and other religious and ethnic minority communities in northern Syria.”

[Rare, and unapologetic, bipartisan congressional rebuke for Trump on Syria]

By withdrawing American armed forces and using them to guard oil fields, Trump has “drastically shifted U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East” and “paved the way for a large-scale humanitarian crisis,” Moulton said in a statement.

A bipartisan group led by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel had asked Trump to rescind Erdogan’s invitation. Separately, Rep. Liz Cheney called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to deny U.S. entry to members of Erdogan’s security detail who were criminally charged with attacking American protesters during a May 2017 visit.

Kanter, whose Celtics play the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, is no stranger to lawmakers on the Hill. Members frequently interact on Twitter with the 7-footer and have advocated on his behalf.

For instance, when Kanter (who spent two seasons with the New York Knicks) said his free summer camp at the Islamic Center of Long Island had been canceled following threats from the Turkish consulate in New York, Rep. Kathleen Rice, a New York Democrat, stepped in to help him find a new location.

And in July, Kanter visited Capitol Hill to talk human rights with lawmakers, including Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey and Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden.

Moulton said Kanter will deliver opening remarks at the briefing before the panel discusses legislation that would grant special immigrant visa status to Syrian Kurds who assisted American forces on the ground in Syria.

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