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Not Playing Around

New York Knicks center Enes Kanter in action against the Minnesota Timberwolves (Jesse Johnson / USA TODAY Sports)

On Thursday, the New York Knicks and the Washington Wizards will play each other — but not in New York or Washington. In London. (This is really an away game, you might say.) Enes Kanter, a center on the Knicks, will not be joining his team. Why? Hurt? Suspended? No.

Kanter is a Turk — or former Turk or what have you. His passport has been canceled by the Erdogan regime in Ankara. He is stateless. Kanter is an outspoken opponent of the Erdogan regime. In 2017, he was the target of a kidnapping attempt in Indonesia. (He was on a tour for his charitable foundation, giving basketball clinics and the like.) Tipped off in the middle of the night, he managed to get away. This is an amazing story, which I tell in a piece today, here.

The Erdogan regime has a program of kidnappings. This program targets critics of the regime abroad — Turks in exile.

Kanter has refused to travel with his team to London (and the Knicks are understanding). He says that Turkish agents operate too freely there, and that it would be too dangerous for him. He knows whereof he speaks. So do other Turks living abroad. This is a matter of gravest importance to them.

As he told me in a podcast last September, Kanter is protected by his fame, to a degree — but only to a degree. He is not untouchable (as that episode in 2017 proved), and neither are his family and friends back home in Turkey.

In my piece today, I quote Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey. He says that the Turkish regime is “exporting authoritarian lawlessness.” They do this in various ways. Americans got a glimpse of it — just a glimpse — two years ago when President Erdogan came to town. Came to Washington, that is.

There were protesters outside the home of the Turkish ambassador. And Erdogan’s presidential guard duly beat the hell out of them — as D.C. police, astonished, intervened as best they could.

Senator John McCain said, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior.”

Consider: If Turkish authorities break bones in the American capital in broad daylight, with cameras rolling, what do they do back home, or in the relative backwaters of the world?

The relationship between Turkey and the United States is very important, and Erdogan is rising as a “leader of the multipolar world.” Those were the words of Nicolás Maduro, Erdogan’s fellow strongman in Venezuela, who attended Erdogan’s latest inauguration, along with a handful of other leaders — Russia’s Medvedev, for example, and Hungary’s Orbán (the only EU leader to attend).

Again, my piece is here. An unpleasant topic, but a now-unignorable one.

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