WASHINGTON D.C. — Boston Celtics’ Center Enes Kanter has launched an online petition to create awareness around the world over Turkey’s dismal human rights record, hoping to send a wake-up call to relevant international organizations, rights groups, governments, including the White House and the U.S. Congress.
A Change.org petition “You Are My Hope!” is urging fans to sign the petition to stop human rights violations, unlawful arrests and imprisonments in Turkey.
Kanter announced the online campaign at the Congress Forum, which aims to collect one million signatures. During a panel discussion at the Hill on Tuesday, hosted by Congressman Seth Moultoun, Kanter urged people to sign the petition to call on the Turkish government to stop cracking down on the opposition. Dozens of Senators and Representatives, as well as Congressional staffers, attended the event.
“Thousands of teachers, activists, journalists, academics, including my father, were either dismissed or arrested. My sister can’t find a job because she shares the same last name as me. I can’t communicate with my mother because my messages will be used as evidence of “terrorist activity.” As if this is not enough, last month Turkish government ministers encouraged their goons to intimidate and harass me on the street in Boston. They think they can silence me by death threats and intimidation. The more they ramp up the pressure, the louder I will speak,” Kanter said at the Congress Forum.
Before the Forum, Kanter stood by Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Ed Markey in a press briefing to announce a human rights legislation that condemns the Turkish government’s abuse of counterterrorism authorities to target political rivals. The legislation urges the release of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners, promotes freedom of the press, internet, and the rule of law.
The campaign started by Kanter comes just ahead of President Erdogan’s visit to Washington to meet with President Trump.
“My goal is to highlight human rights abuses. A lot of families are suffering in jails and they’re being tortured. I would ask President Trump to press Erdogan to stop violating rights and freedoms of Turkish people,” Kanter said.
“I only have one regret: Am I doing enough?” Kanter said, adding that basketball is his escape and that as soon as he is out of the court, he is always thinking about rights issues. “This is bigger than me. This is bigger than basketball.”
Kanter, who is an eight-year veteran of the NBA is one of the Turkey’s most favorite athletes. His political views resulted in his being left off the Turkish national team since 2015. This is not the only problem related to his outspoken opposition to human rights violations and criticism of the President of Turkey. He was charged with insulting the president Erdogan in a series of tweets. The Turkish government issued an arrest warrant and prosecutors sought a four-year prison term for him.
Enes is an NBA player without a country. His Turkish passport has been revoked in 2017 and he was not able to travel to Toronto last February for the Raptors game. He also missed a trip to London last Christmas with the Knicks, his former team, fearing he could be killed. He said he has received “hundreds and hundreds of death threats” after announcing his intent not to travel to London in January 2019.
“I am incredibly blessed to be in America. Other than playing basketball in the highest league in the world, I enjoy the unwavering support of the American people, support of my fans and fine politicians just like you,” Kanter said before the Forum.
Kanter aims to create awareness to the campaign and turn this public support into sustainable policy solutions in order to protect human rights of those oppressed in his homeland.
The campaign aims to mobilize all human rights advocacy mechanisms to protect and promote human rights of those who are silenced in Turkey and to get authorities to take firm actions against these violations.