A man named Mehmet Kanter has been detained by the Turkish government. The name may sound familiar because Mehmet is the father of Enes Kanter, a center for the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.
Enes Kanter has long been a critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He has referred to him as the "Hitler of this century" on multiple occasions. Erdoğan recently expanded his powers in an unprecedented way following an alleged coup.
The Wall Street Journal writes that since the failed coup, the nation has been in a "state of emergency" during which time "authorities have arrested more than 40,000 people, including dozens of opposition lawmakers and local elected officials, dismissed more than 120,000 civil servants and other government employees and closed roughly 140 media outlets."
The current system of a parliamentary government headed by a prime minister will be abolished as soon as the country holds its next national election, now set for 2019. After that, expanded executive powers would rest with the president, who would be able to impose decrees, appoint vice presidents and cabinet members without legislative oversight and wield significant influence over judicial appointments.
Meanwhile, the state of emergency remains in effect and parliament has no power to challenge any of the decrees passed by Mr. Erdogan and his National Security Council. The most recent extension of emergency powers expires this month, and Mr. Erdogan has indicated he would extend them again.
In short, Erdoğan is a despot, and Enes Kanter — free because he resides in the United States — is one is his most vocal opponents. Enes Kanter is a follower of self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government blames for last year's alleged coup. Gülen currently resides in Pennsylvania.
In August 2016, Mehmet Kanter disowned his son, Enes, writing: "I apologize to the Turkish people and the president for having such a son."
The Daily Sabah, a pro-Erdoğan news outlet, added that Mehmet Kanter is disappointed in his son for being "hypnotized by the Gülenist Terror Organization."
... Daily Sabah reached out to Mehmet Kanter, who told Daily Sabah that he has been quite disturbed by his son's behavior and insulting tweets directed at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Stressing that he has been educating students for almost 30 years, Kanter said: "His statements and behavior trouble our family. I told Enes that we would disown him should he not change his course. He did not care."
Sabah also spoke with Mehmet Kanter's cousin, Bilal Kanter, who said: "We had warned him previously about his ties with the FETÖ. We have not been able to reach out to Enes for a long time."
Enes replied to his father's letter via social media, writing (via Reuters):
"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," Kanter said. "May God take every second of my life and give it to my brave Teacher. ... From now on my mother, father and siblings are (the) ... devoted members of Hizmet," he said, signing his statement Enes (Kanter) GULEN.
Fast-forward to Saturday, May 20, 2017. At an airport in Bucharest, Romania, Enes Kanter was briefly detained after his Turkish passport was revoked.
I'm being held at Romanian airport by Police!! pic.twitter.com/uYZMBqKx54— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 20, 2017
The New York Times writes that the NBA asked the State Department for help in getting Enes Kanter home. The State Department complied, and Kanter was allowed to travel to London, then on to the United States:
... in an interview with The Oklahoman, Hadis Fetic, an executive assistant for Kanter, said that the Turkish government has been known to report citizens’ passports as stolen or missing in order to have them confiscated in foreign countries and that Fetic believes that is what happened with Kanter’s passport.
Kanter had been traveling around the world promoting the Enes Kanter Light Foundation, a soon-to-be-launched charitable organization dedicated to "foster[ing] awareness and provid[ing] assistance for children’s development; in areas of education, poverty alleviation and social harmony," according to Kanter's official website.
On May 23, 2017, Kanter wrote in The Players' Tribune:
You guys need to know what is going on in Turkey right now. I hope people around the world will open their eyes to the human rights abuses. Things have gotten very bad over the last year. This is not my opinion. We don’t know everything that is happening inside Turkey, but we do know some facts. Newspapers and media have been restricted. Academics have been fired. Peaceful protesting is not allowed. Many people have been imprisoned without any real charges. There are reports of torture and rape and worse.
Just think about it. If the Erdoğan government will treat an NBA player this way, how do you think it is for everyone else?
Shortly thereafter, AFP reported that Turkey had issued an arrest warrant for Enes Kanter:
A judge issued the arrest warrant after an Istanbul prosecutor opened an investigation into Kanter’s alleged “membership of an armed terrorist organization,” Sabah Daily reported. ... The arrest warrant refers to Kanter’s alleged use of an encrypted messaging application called Bylock, Sabah said, which Turkey claims was especially created for Gulen supporters.
Kanter replied on twitter (AFP translation): "You cannot catch me. Hahaha. Don’t waste your energy. ... I am already going to come to [Turkey] to spit on all of your ugly, hate-filled faces."
Yakalayamazsıııın!!!— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 26, 2017
Hepinizin o çirkin, nefret dolu suratlarınıza tükürmeye zaten kendim geleceğim. pic.twitter.com/hw0LUp4MNo
Now we've caught up to the present.
Friday, news broke that Enes Kanter's father, Mehmet, had been arrested in Turkey.
CNN reports that according to the Anadolu Agency, "Mehmet Kanter, the father of the Oklahoma City Thunder center, has been detained by security forces in Istanbul's Kadikoy district. He will be taken to the Tekirdag province after he is processed."
Enes Kanter sent out a tweet regarding the arrest:
HEY WORLD— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) June 2, 2017
MY DAD HAS BEEN ARRESTED
by Turkish government and the Hitler of our century
He is potentially to get tortured as thousand others
The basketball player also released a statement on his official website decrying the arrest, calling out the Turkish government's sins, and adding he must use his fame to be a voice for the oppressed people of Turkey:
I woke this morning to the news of my father being arrested by the Turkish government. The police raided our home in Istanbul, something that is happening to many innocent families across Turkey just because they are members of Hizmet, inspired by Scholar Fethullah Gulen. Hizmet today is a transnational social initiative that advocates for the ideals of human rights, equal opportunity, democracy, non-violence and the emphatic acceptance of religious and cultural diversity.
The AKP (Current regime) has suppressed Free Media, blocked opposition parties in countless ways, changed the constitution granting unprecedented powers, and altered democracy so that they may consolidate power.
My father is arrested because of my outspoken criticism of the ruling party. He may get tortured for simply being my family member. There are countless stories that Amnesty International has published about rape, torture, and sodomy in the Turkish prisons following the alleged failed Military Coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that is blamed on innocent individuals of Hizmet. You may clearly see that benefactor of this failed coup was the Turkish Government.
According to Amnesty International & TurkeyPurge.com the AKP Government has detained 104,000 peaceful individuals, which consist of 17,000 women, many of whom are pregnant, or imprisoned with their children. They have shut down nearly 150 media outlets, arrested 234 journalists, which is more than any other country since July 15, 2016. In fact, they have dismissed 4,424 judges & prosecutors further eliminating checks and balances. These acts have assisted in Erdogan’s attempt to consolidate power even further.
For a second please think and imagine, if something like this is happening to an NBA player, what is happening to the people with no voice or podium to speak on? There could be hundreds of thousands of people that are detained, tortured, or murdered that we are not hearing about. Freedom of expression is a basic human right, and I ask the WORLD to join me in seeking justice and equality for all and to reject oppressive regimes and dictatorships.
Kanter's twitter account has allegedly been blocked in Turkey. Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's powers expand and consolidate.