WASHINGTON — NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom has opened up about the consequences of his human rights advocacy and the impacts it has had on family members in his native Turkey who struggle to find jobs and face social ostracism for their criticism of Erdogan’s regime.
Kanter Freedom, a Turkish NBA player who has become a vocal critic of his industry’s trade relationship with China, was one of many speakers from various religions and backgrounds who spoke at the 2022 International Religious Freedom Summit. in Washington, DC, at the end of June.
He was traded to the Houston Rockets earlier this year before the NBA team removed him from their roster. Now a free agent, some reviews wonder if his advocacy of human rights and unfavorable remarks about the Chinese Communist Party get him kicked out of the NBA.
The athlete discussed his exile from Turkey, his concerns about the state of religious freedom around the world and his activism against the NBA’s relationship with China in an interview with The Christian Post.
Born Enes Kanter, the 30-year-old athlete officially changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom when he became American citizen Last year. While Kanter Freedom has been playing in the NBA for more than a decade, his activism has had an impact on his family back in Turkey.
“It all started in 2013,” he recalls. Kanter Freedom referred to a corruption scandal involving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a post on Twitter. He wanted to use his platform to serve as a “voice for all those innocent people who have no voice”, referring to the innocent Turks imprisoned by Erdogan. “Anyway, I’m just going to tell the truth,” he swore.
Kanter Freedom told CP that his social media comment and resulting activism “obviously affected me and my family.”
“My father was a scientist; he was fired from his job,” he said. “My sister studied medicine for six years, but she still can’t find a job. My little brother played basketball in Turkey [and] just because of the same last name, he was kicked out of all the teams.
While his family “issued a statement” insisting that “we deny Ener”, Kanter Freedom said “the Turkish government does not believe it”.
“They came to my house in Turkey and they looted the whole house and took all [electronic device] away: telephones, computers, laptops, [and] iPads because they wanted to see if I’m still in touch with my family or not,” he said.
“They didn’t find much evidence but they still took my father to jail for a while.”
Pressure from American churches and US lawmakers prompted the Turkish government to release Kanter Freedom’s father. His father’s arrest has left many wondering, “Is it worth it?” The athlete insisted that “people misunderstand”.
“My family is just one person. There are so many families, so many innocent people in prison right now who are being tortured and possibly raped every day, so I have to stand up for those people,” he said. Kanter Freedom.
This activism is what led to his exile from Turkey.
” I tell the truth. All the things I talk about [are] do. It’s out there on every human rights report out there. It’s not like I’m lying,” he said. “And what I’m asking is that I want freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, religion and expression, and I want democracy in my country. I want human rights in my country. I want all political prisoners to be freed and all journalists to be freed in my country.
The athlete claimed that “if these things are going to get me in trouble,” the consequences he faces are a form of “good trouble.”
“It is what it is but someone has to do it because unfortunately like China a lot of people in Turkey are afraid to talk about it because if you say a word the next day you are going to be in prison,” Kanter Freedom pointed out.
“The hardest thing right now is not being able to see my family,” he added.
Kanter Freedom says he hasn’t seen his family since 2015.
“They are getting old and unfortunately there is no communication at the moment,” he said. “So I couldn’t even invite them to one of my NBA games.”
Kanter Freedom, a Muslim, also called Erodgan’s crackdown on religious minorities “unacceptable”.
He strongly criticized Erdogan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque. The Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox church that previously served as a museum “bringing together people of different religions and different cultures”. He called Erdogan’s action an attempt “to get more votes in 2023”, referring to Turkey’s upcoming presidential election.
” This is unacceptable. I grew up in this neighborhood and there are so many mosques and they are not even half full so why would you want to change [the Hagia Sophia] in another mosque? He asked.
He also lamented that young people in Turkey are “growing up anti-Western, anti-Christian and anti-Semitic because every time Erdogan holds a rally in Turkey, he attacks Christians and he attacks Israel to gain more votes.”
Kanter Freedom sees its mission as “bringing all of these groups together” and educating “the young Turks of America so that we can have a better and brighter future.” He believes that “all athletes have a job” to “educate our youth” about the injustices and threats to democracy that extend beyond Turkey.
“Athletes have enormous reach,” he added. “There are so many now because of social media, all these apps and smartphones, there are millions of kids idolizing these athletes.”
Kanter Freedom stressed the importance for athletes to “educate themselves more so that they can educate others around them and their audience”, especially on international issues.
“It’s always very sad for me to see how people can call themselves social justice warriors and human rights activists, but when the things they talk about affect their money and their business, they don’t don’t say a word about it, and that’s hypocrisy, and we need to expose them.
The athlete discussed his previous comments about NBA star LeBron James, noting that “every time I talk about LeBron, it wasn’t just about LeBron, it was about all the athletes who call themselves warriors of social justice but sign [with] a company where they literally do slave labor in China.
Nike, the multinational that Kanter Freedom was referring to, is the NBA’s biggest sponsor. He lamented that “Nike is with Black Lives Matter, No Asian Hate, [the] latin community, [the] LGBTQ community but when it comes to China they remain silent.
Kanter Freedom listed other countries where he considered the state of religious freedom to be troubling, including Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea and Iran: “They are not able to freely express their religion. So I think we have to do something about it.
The athlete concluded the interview by assessing the Biden administration’s handling of religious freedom. He noted that “before taking office, they promised the whole world that they would do everything they could to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in the world.”
“Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of that” from the Biden administration so far, he said.
Kanter Freedom said ‘you can’t play bodyball with dictatorships’, suggesting the Biden administration needs to ‘do something’ about Turkey’s involvement in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Israel. Ukraine.
“[Erdogan] plays this Russian-Ukrainian game so well. He sells drones to Ukraine but at the same time he leaves oligarchs in Turkey.
Kanter Freedom proclaimed that while Turkey is a NATO ally, it is “not acting like a NATO ally”, but rather “acting more like a friend of Russia”.
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be contacted at: [email protected]