Portland Trail Blazer’s new center Enes Kanter fears a Turkish assassination plot over his ongoing critique of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kanter recently spoke with The Daily Show‘s Trevor Noah on his long history of speaking out against the oppressive regime, which is notorious for crushing dissidents and lashing back against critical journalists and academics:
I have a platform, and I’m trying to use this platform [for] all those innocent people who don’t have a voice. So if people know my story but there are thousands of people out there whose stories are worse than mine … People who are against the regime, the government or Erdogan, they will think you’re a terrorist. That’s why they’ve claimed [labeled] me as a terrorist. I actually tweet that and say the only thing I terrorize is the basketball rim.”
Enes Kanter is Being Hunted by Erdogan
Kanter has called Erdogan a lunatic, a maniac dictator and “the Hitler of our century.” These simple acts of freedom of speech have shifted Kanter’s life from being a basketball star into an international fugitive:
- Kanter had to skip a basketball game in London for fear of assassination plots at the hands of Turkish regime spies
- Kanter cannot travel outside the U.S. or Canada for fear of attacks
- In 2017, Kanter realized he was being hunted by Erdogan.
- The same year, Turkish authorities revoked Kanter’s Turkish passport
- Turkey issued an international warrant for his arrest
- Kanter’s father is a former professor who, like many other intellectuals in Turkey, was forced out of work after Turkey’s failed military coup
- Back in Turkey, Kanter’s family home has been raided and his father arrested
- Kanter’s father was forced into publicly rejecting his son; he was still indicted in 2018 for belonging to a terror group according to the Turkish government
- Kanter cannot go to Turkey nor can he bring his family to the U.S. The Turkish government won’t allow his family to leave
Speaking with Sean Gregory in Time Magazine on January 18, 2019, Kanter shared another aspect of his life: He will likely be tortured if caught by the Turkish government. Asked what kind of torture, Kanter replied, “I have no idea. But I know that after that torture, I will not be able to play basketball again.”
Thousands of miles away from the boot of the Turkish regime, Kanter knows that even in America with a surrogate family and a career, safety is not guaranteed because “the [U.S.] government cannot control a lone wolf,” whether that’s an assassin or a crazed Erdogan supporter.
In all this, Kanter is a still a son, a brother and a young man who (despite his success and celebrity) is forcibly separated from his family. Answering Gregory’s question of what message he had for his family back home in Turkey, Kanter replied he would tell them that he loved them and that, “Mom, I miss your food.”