November 12, 2019

Senators Wyden and Markey Joined by Former Portland Trail Blazer Enes Kanter to Introduce Legislation Denouncing Turkish Human Rights Violations

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to visit the White House Wednesday

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden joined today with U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey and former Portland Trail Blazer Enes Kanter to introduce legislation denouncing the abuses of the Turkish government, including the targeting of journalists, political opponents, dissidents and minorities, including Kurds.

By the end of 2018, Turkish counterterrorism forces have arrested or imprisoned more than 80,000 Turkish citizens, closed more than 1,500 nongovernmental organizations on terrorism-related grounds and dismissed or suspended more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs. Just today, Turkish police rearrested journalist and novelist Ahmet Altan.

Enes Kanter, who has family still in Turkey, has been a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As a result of that criticism, Erdogan revoked Kanter’s passport in 2017 and issued an arrest warrant for Kanter, who now plays for the Boston Celtics. Kanter has not traveled outside of the United States for fear of international arrest. Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Donald Trump in the White House this Wednesday.

“The United States cannot and must not sit on the sidelines when governments restrict the rights and freedoms of their people,” Wyden said. “Trump isn’t only silent when it comes to Erdogan’s repression of human rights, he’s welcoming Erdogan with open arms this week. In that absence of leadership, Congress must stand up for freedom and call out President Erdogan’s attacks on Turkish democracy and hold him accountable.” 

“President Trump has shown time and time again that he will cozy up to authoritarian rulers. He should rescind the invitation for President Erdogan to visit the White House and make it clear that Turkey’s record on human rights is unacceptable,” said Markey, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “With this legislation, we want to tell Enes Kanter, his family, and all Turkish people – as well as those suffering under authoritarian regimes elsewhere around the world – that the United States hears you. That there are allies here who believe in the fight for freedom. We will not rest until you have the fundamental rights to which you are entitled.”

Specifically, the Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act calls on the United States to provide assistance to civil society organizations in Turkey that work to secure the release of prisoners of conscience. It states that the State Department should prioritize demands to release unfairly detained journalists and media workers. Additionally, it calls for the U.S. government to pressure the Government of Turkey to halt its requests that social media companies block accounts and content of journalists and media outlets, including ending its blocking of Wikipedia.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

Video available here