Enes Kanter, a professional basketball player for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and an outspoken critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, received AHEPA’s inaugural Human Rights Award on April 30, 2021.
Supreme President George G. Horiates and Past Supreme Counselor Gregory Stamos presented the award, a first for AHEPA, to Kanter, who is of Turkish descent.
“It’s an honor to accept the first Human Rights award from @OrderOfAHEPA,” Kanter wrote in a tweet. “This is a huge step forward for building strong bridges between Turkey and Greece. Huge thanks to the Greek-American community.”
Kanter, who has been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has shone a light on human rights abuses and violations in Turkey.
As a result, Kanter and his family have become targets of the Turkish government. Kanter’s father, a political opponent of Erdogan’s, was imprisoned for seven years.
Kanter is persona non grata in Turkey
Kanter was born in Switzerland to Turkish parents and raised in Turkey, but his outspokenness has now transformed him into persona non grata in the country.
The Turkish government revoked his passport in 2017 and has accused him and his family members of “terrorism.” Kanter hasn’t been back to Turkey in years, or spoken to many of his family still living there.
His NBA games have been censored in Turkey and he’s had to forego international team trips because of the threat of arrest abroad.
“Enes Kanter’s activism and outspoken criticism of authoritarianism in Turkey, to the point where he is essentially an enemy of his own country, makes him one of the most important and credible voices for justice and human rights — not just in sports — but in the global community,” Horiates said.
“He speaks for the millions who cannot speak out and advocates for a more just Turkey, and in essence, a more just world. We are proud to present him with our inaugural Human Rights Award.”
Human rights in Turkey
Horiates added his appreciation for the length of time Kanter spent with him to discuss human rights issues and abuses in Turkey.
According to Horiates, Kanter discussed the imprisonment of political adversaries, journalists, and others who have been targeted, harassed — and even tortured — simply because of their ethnicity or opposition to Erdogan.
Horiates also thanked Kanter for the ease with which Kanter accommodated AHEPA to reschedule the award presentation, which was originally scheduled last year but postponed due to the pandemic.
The Utah Jazz selected Kanter, a center, as the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
Founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principles that undergirded its fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe.
AHEPA’s mission is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism.