Enes Kanter, a professional basketball player for the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, received the 2021 AHEPA Human Rights Award last Friday, according to an announcement from Supreme President George G. Horiates.
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.”
During the past five years, Kanter has been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has shined a light on human rights abuses and violations in his ancestral country.
But this had made Kanter and his family targets of the Turkish government and his father — a political opponent of Erdogan’s — was imprisoned for seven years.
In May 2017, Kanter was detained at the airport in Bucharest, Romania, while on a worldwide tour for the Enes Kanter Foundation, which provides meals and clothing to the needy worldwide.
In a video he posted on Twitter from the airport, Kanter said the Turkish embassy had cancelled his passport, which he said is a common tactic used by the Turkish government to get critics deported back to Turkey for punishment.
Kanter was able to return to the United States with help from the Oklahoma City Thunder, his then-NBA team, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and two Oklahoma senators.
“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.
During his meeting with AHEPA, Kanter discussed the imprisonment of political adversaries, journalists and others targeted, harassed and tortured in Turkey based on their ethnicity or opposition to Erdogan.
“He speaks for the millions who cannot speak out and advocates for a more just Turkey, and in essence, a more just world,” Horiates said. “We are proud to present him with our inaugural Human Rights Award.”
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