Bigger than Basketball: NBA star Enes Kanter’s fight for human rights in Turkey
Enes Kanter is a center in the National Basketball Association. He was the third overall draft pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Originally drafted by the Utah Jazz, Kanter has since played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Portland Trailblazers and, most recently, the Boston Celtics.
Enes Kanter is not only trying to bring home a championship for the Celtics, but is also speaking up against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his repression of free speech of the Turkish people. According to a December 2017 Washington Post article, Kanter is being sought out by Turkish prosecutors to serve a lengthy prison sentence for insulting the Turkish President on Twitter in 2016 ın a series of tweets that spoke about how President Erdogan is suppressing freedom of speech in Turkey. Because of this, Kanter’s passport has been revoked and he was arrested in Romania while on a worldwide tour for the Enes Kanter Foundation, which supplied clothing and meals to people in need worldwide. In addition to that, according to a June 18th 2018 NBA article, the Turkish court is charging Kanter’s father with terrorism just because he supports people that exposed Erodgan’s regime.
Since being indicted, Katner’s father, Dr. Mehmet Kanter, was fired from his job as a genetics professor at a Turkish university, has been arrested and is currently awaiting trial in 2020. In addition to that, Kanter’s sister, who is a medical student, is also having a hard time finding work. In a statement to The Washington Post, Kanter said, “Right now, even if I try to communicate with my parents, my mom or dad or brother or sister, they will probably listen to their phones and as soon as they are in contact with me, they will put them in a jail — and the jails are not fun.” All of this is still happening to his family even though for their own protection they publicly disowned him in the summer of 2016, according to an August 2016 CBS Sports article. In a handwritten letter to the Turkish media, Kanter’s father posted a statement apologizing to the Turkish President for Kanter’s action: “with a feeling of shame I apologize to our president and the Turkish people for having such a son.” Kanter responded on social media saying that “Today I lost those who for 24 years I called ... my family … My own father wanted me to change my surname. The mother who gave birth to me rejected me.” Even though all of this is happening to him and his family, he still pushed on and speaks for the millions of people that are suffering.
According to The Washington Post, Kanter has been making his rounds on Capitol Hill, most recently introducing human rights legislation aimed at Turkey with Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. In addition to that legislation, he delivered opening remarks at a congressional briefing on legislation to grant immigrant visas to Syrian Kurds that are displaced by Erdogan’s ground campaign in the region against the Islamic State. In a news conference on Capitol Hill, he stated, “You guys know my story because I play in the NBA, but there are thousands and thousands of stories out there that are worse than mine. That’s why I’m trying to use my platform to be the voice of all of those innocent people that don’t have one.” Enes Kanter is not only one of the faces of the Boston Celtics but he has also “become the face of showing the American people how Erdogan is a terrible, autocratic violator of human rights,” according to Sen. Markey in an interview with The Washington Post.