Squad Member Was Guest of Honor at Fundraiser Hosted By Pro-Erdogan Group

Jamaal Bowman has formed close ties to controversial Turkish group

September 1, 2021

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.) attended a fundraiser hosted last month by a Turkish-American advocacy group with close ties to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose members were on hand in 2017 when the Turkish leader's bodyguards beat peaceful protesters in Washington, D.C.

Two officials with the Turkish American National Steering Committee, a nonprofit cofounded by a relative of Erdogan’s, hosted the "meet and greet" fundraiser for Bowman at a restaurant in New Jersey on Aug. 7. Bowman, an acolyte of the "Squad," appeared at two of the committee’s events in May, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

The committee has been accused of working as an influence group for the Erdogan regime. Founded in 2016, the Steering Committee has hosted Erdogan at multiple events in the United States and frequently holds protests supporting Erdogan-backed causes. It lobbied aggressively against the U.S. government’s recognition of the Ottoman Empire’s genocide of Armenians. Officials with the Steering Committee, including Erdogan relative Halil Mutlu, accompanied Erdogan’s delegation in May 2017 when his bodyguards attacked peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington.

"[The Steering Committee] operates as an Erdogan front, one of many astroturf groups advancing this dictator's anti-American agenda in Washington, D.C.," Aram Suren Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, told the Free Beacon in June.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who has been targeted by the Erdogan regime, said Bowman was "siding with the most dictatorial elements in Turkey" by appearing at Steering Committee events.

Rubin said Bowman was "symbolically spitting on Turkish journalists and progressives imprisoned by the Erdogan regime, and giving solace to a group on the wrong side of the attack on Americans in the heart of Washington, D.C."

Bowman’s blind eye to Erdogan’s crackdown in Turkey is a stark contrast to his support for left-wing causes at home. Bowman supports the movement to defund police departments and has said he wants to "disarm the police."

Bowman posed for photographs with Mutlu at the recent fundraiser and at a previous event held by the committee. Mutlu and other officials with the committee contributed more than $6,750 to Bowman’s congressional campaign last year. The group supported Bowman’s primary challenge against former representative Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.), who was a staunch critic of the Erdogan regime.

Relations between the United States and Turkey have deteriorated in recent years as Erdogan has purged Turkish media companies, schools, and the military of his critics. Turkey has become one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists.

The Steering Committee’s close ties to the Turkish government were on display days before the group hosted the Bowman fundraiser. Mutlu, who is Erdogan’s cousin, met in Ankara on July 26 with Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his deputy.

According to a post on the Steering Committee’s Facebook page, Mutlu told the Turkish officials that the group would "reach out to the U.S. political leaders, media, and public" regarding U.S.-Turkey relations. The Steering Committee also boasted that it has representatives throughout the United States "who communicate and educate the local leaders on issues related to Turkey and the Turkish community."

Bowman’s office and the Turkish American National Steering Committee did not respond to requests for comment.