Turkish American Steering Committee Twitter account suspended for harassing Enes Kanter

One of Turkey’s largest diaspora groups in the United States has been suspended from Twitter for its targeting of basketball player Enes Kanter. 

The Turkish-American National Steering Committee (TASC)’s Twitter account was suspended yesterday for allegedly coordinating a campaign of harassment against Kanter, who is accused by the Turkish government of being a follower of exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen. 

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“Erdogan's propaganda machine in the U.S @ourtasc and a few of their members have been suspended on Twitter for trying to promote lies and slander,” Kanter’s manager Hank Fetic tweeted. “Must hurt when you cannot spew your lies in a free society.” 

While regularly targeted on Twitter by users for his opposition to the Turkish government, the suspension followed a series of seemingly coordinated tweets by pro-TASC accounts on the platform. Several of them repeated hashtags and language used in a recent video posted by TASC TV, the online channel belonging to the organisation, that tied Kanter to the July 2016 coup against Erdogan. 

“Enes Kanter is an NBA player popularized by a certain audience. Cult Leader Self-declared Priest Fethullah Gulen uses the NBA platform with the apostle Basketballer Enes Kanter. Why are they so uncomfortable with a platform,” read a post on TASC’s official Instagram account. “See who Enes Kanter serves. Protect your children from this conman.” 

Suspended alongside TASC was the account of its vice-chairman Israfil Demir. TASC TV responded angrily to the suspension and Fetic over Twitter while threatening legal action. 

“Your attack may suspend our organization account but we will take legal action against your lies and slander,” an account belonging to TASC wrote in response to Fetic’s initial tweet. “@ourtasc proved @EnesKanter is a terrorist lover and now it is confirmed.” 

Kanter has been targeted by many pro-government organisations in the past for his criticism of President Erdogan as well as being a member of the Gulen movement that Ankara accuses of being behind the failed July 2016 coup attempt. 

Two weeks ago, Kanter posted an image of Erdogan on Instagram that depicted him on a mock cover of TIME Magazine under the caption “Terrorist of the Year.” Kanter wrote “DIKTATOR” next to the image on his account. In recent days, the NBA player has been speaking to members of the United States Congress about human rights, including the number two Senate Republican John Thune (R-SD). 

TASC describes itself as a Turkish-American advocacy and educational organisation that only looks to promote the community’s voice in the U.S. The group is known to have a number of connections to the Turkish state and has disseminated pro-government messages in its work. 

Halil Mutlu is President Erdogan’s cousin and a co-chair of TASC who is well known for having staged a protest in front of Gulen’s Pennsylvania residence following the attempted coup in 2016. He is a registered physician in the U.S and was previously the head of the Turken Foundation, another group accused of close ties to the Turkish government.

Gunay Evinch serves as a co-founder with Mutlu and as a partner at the law firm Saltzman and Evinch in Washington. His firm was accused in the past of spying on the Turkish government’s foes in the U.S, and both it as well as Evinch were made to register as foreign agents with the Justice Department over the summer. He is also remembered as one of the lawyers hired to defend one of the men accused of attacking protestors outside the Turkish Ambassador’s residence in Washington in May 2017.