Enes Kanter is one of the best Turkish basketball players in history. However, he is not only a basketball player, but he is also a prominent political activist for fundamental human rights and respect for democracy. In recent years, he has become one of the loudest critics of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It would be difficult for the Turkish president to be considered a true democrat. Criticism of an increasingly repressive regime, therefore, seems to be entirely appropriate. Kanter addresses the Turkish president as dictator Erdoğan, who replied to Kanter’s criticism with a set of countermeasures.
Kanter moved to the United States in 2009 at the age of 17. There he got closer to the Turkish diaspora, especially the preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom Kanter still visits at least once a month. As early as 2013, Kanter began to criticize in the interviews the worsening state of democracy and the gradual limitation of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey. After a failed coup attempt in July 2016, Erdoğan showed his true face. Güllen and his followers were accused of organizing the coup.
In the aftermath of the failed coup, Turkish regime tried to silence critical media outlets; many journalists were arrested. During the state of emergency, over 50.000 people were arrested, and more than 160.000 were fired who were supposed to have ties with Güllen’s movement. Among those who were dismissed from their jobs and arrested was the father of Enes Kanter, who had previously held the post of a university professor. Initially, he was detained for five days last year and later was sentenced to 15 years in prison for alleged involvement with the terrorist group.
Erdoğan also wants Enes Kanter, who is threatened with four-year imprisonment for allegedly offending the president and suspicion of co-operation with the terrorist organization, Gülen’s movement. Only real dictators can persecute people just because of the criticisms made on account of the authoritarian rule of the state. Kanter also pointed out this in a recent interview with Arab News. Kanter claims that Erdoğan perfectly embodies the definition of a dictator. Among other things, he limits media freedom, freedom of expression, destroys and prevents opposition, and demonizes critics.
From 2017 Kanter lives without valid documents, because Turkey canceled his passport. Since then, he says that he lives without citizenship, and only in 2021, he will fulfill all the conditions to obtain American citizenship. Because of document problems (and death threats), Kanter has missed two regular-season games this year. As a member of the New York Knicks, he missed the January match in London, which was played as part of the NBA’s Europe games. In March, he also missed the game Toronto with Portland. This, of course, are not all the problems that Kanter has faced this year, the Turkish media systematically censored his performances this year.
Turkish NBA fans could not watch any of the playoff games where Kanter played. Portland reached Western Conference finals this season. All of the 16 games the Blazers played were not broadcasted in Turkey, all of them were darkened in Turkey just because Enes Kanter played in those games. However, that’s not all, the official Twitter account of the NBA in Turkish has made Kanter’s achievements under the baskets censored, they completely erased his performances. The NBA players association fully supported their member and his freedom of expression towards Erdoğan’s regime. Then the league came into action, they immediately terminated the cooperation with a Turkish company that managed the axcount. The error was quickly corrected, and among the best scorers we could also finally find Kanter’s name.
Kanter claims that pressure in his private life does not affect his basketball performances. But he can not be completely relaxed, he receives threatening letters daily, Erdoğan’s supporters send him death treaths. Kanter is being monitored all the time by security guards. Despite apparent freedom, Kanter lives in prison, just like many of his compatriots, whom the Erdogan regime controls, tortures and undermines their fundamental human rights.
Kanter played most of the playoffs with a dislocsted shoulder, including a memorable game with four overtimes versus Denver ehere he played 57 minutes. After the end of the season, he announced that he is preparing 30 summer basketball camps for children throughout the US. Participation in the camps will be free for children, thus making it possible for everyone to attend the camp, regardless of their material status. In Cincinnati, OH, he will hold a basketball camp with his brother, Kerem Kanter, who now plays in Lithuania after playing in the NCAA for a few seasons.