Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter and his family are another example of how using your voice can create a change.
The Turkish NBA player tweeted on Friday that his father was released from a prison in Turkey after terrorism charges were dropped. Dr. Mehmet Kanter, a genetics professor, was arrested seven years ago and sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2018 for his alleged ties to an exiled Muslim cleric named Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in exile in the United States. Turkey believes Gulen is responsible for coordinating a failed coup in 2016.
“MY DAD HAS BEEN RELEASED!” Enes said in a series of Tweets. “This is due to the pressure we have put on the Turkish regime. They no longer could keep him from his freedom because of the spotlight that we all put on this case!”
The NBA journeyman was also indicted on similar terrorism charges in 2018 by his home country. Over the years, Kanter has been extremely critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the country’s authoritarian government.
Erdogan has been accused of numerous human rights violations and has arrested thousands of other critics who spoke out against his leadership style. He also fired over 100,000 individuals from civil service jobs in an attempt to limit potential threats to his power. Kanter has called the Turkish leader the “Hitler of our century” in the past. President Trump congratulated Erdogan in 2017 after sweeping reforms were passed giving him broad executive powers, changing the country from a parliamentary system.
Kanter has had concerns in the past about leaving the United States to play internationally because of the possibility of being arrested by the Turkish government. In 2017, Turkey canceled his passport and was detained for several hours at a Romanian airport.
In 2016, the Kanter family, bowing to political pressure, publicly disowned him in a Turkish media outlet and have restricted contact with the nine-year NBA veteran.
Despite attempts to silence his voice, Kanter has been an advocate for equality and human rights throughout his time in the league.
In addition to fighting for a better way of life in Turkey, he has been outspoken on social justice issues here in the United States as well. Recently, he joined a Black Lives Matter rally in Boston and helped lead “I Can’t Breathe” chants in front of a massive crowd.
Perhaps Kanter’s one controversial decision in the fight for civil rights would be his support to re-elect U.S. representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). Engel is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and has been vocal about the problems in Turkey. However, the congressman has been under fire lately for his stance on the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd.
“If I didn’t have a primary, I wouldn’t care,” Engel said on a hot mic at a Bronx news conference.
While his support of Engel can be questioned, Kanter’s’ resume on social justice shows that he is about changing the world for the better. He is focused on not only helping his father but helping thousands of other people still unfairly criminalized by Turkish rule.
“There are still tens of thousands of people wrongfully in jail in Turkey,” said Kanter. “I will not forget you, we will not forget you!”
He has never been scared to use his platform to speak against oppressive forces no matter the consequences. Kanter, like many other athletes today, understands the power of his voice and won’t rest until justice is brought to his people.