Yesterday, the Turkish government issued an arrest warrant for Enes Kanter of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Erdoğan’s government allege that Kanter’s support for exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen constitutes “membership of an armed terrorist organization”.
This is not entirely unexpected, Kanter was detained in Romania last weekend after being informed that his Turkish passport had been cancelled. The 6’11” center was eventually rerouted to London and then back to New York. During this incident, Kanter released several short videos in which he called Erdoğan “a bad, bad man”, “a dictator”, and “the Hitler of our century”.
Since the arrest warrant was announced, Kanter responded on Twitter writing, among other things [translated
]: “You can’t catch me. Don’t waste your breath. I will come on my own will anyway, to spit on your ugly, hateful faces.”
The conflict between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and The Gülen Movement has been going on for several years. The Erdoğan administration first began publicly targeting Hizmet members, an organization affiliated with Gülen, back in 2013. Over the following three years there were several mass protests which eventually led up to an failed military coup in July of 2016. In response, Erdoğan consolidated power, purge the government of opposition and imprisoning over 100 journalists
Kanter is not the first professional athlete to be targeted by the Turkish government. Since the coup, they’ve also issued arrest warrants for several football players
from their successful 2000 UEFA Cup team.
Gülen has denied any involvement in the coup, but the Turkish government disagrees and has issued arrest warrants for anyone who supports them. According to The Guardian
, as of March, “41,000 people in Turkey have been arrested over suspected links to Gülen’s movement, and 100,000 fired or suspended from their jobs”.
has described the conflict as “a Sectarian War”. While Erdoğan and Gülen followers are both predominantly Muslim, in the simplest terms, Erdoğan’s AKP party are more dogmatic and less progressive. According to Vox
, Gülen’s movment is known to preach “an inclusive brand of Sunni Islam that emphasizes cooperation and tolerance, views modernity as broadly compatible with Islam, and, above all, stresses the importance of education outside of narrow religious schools”. Because Gülen’s followers owned and operated several private schools in Turkey, many people have viewed them as a potential threat to the nation’s fundamentalist tradition.
Fethullah Gülen currently lives in Pennsylvania and the US government has denied several extradition requests from the Turkish government. This has been a point of contention between the two countries and it was discussed when Erdoğan sat down to talk to President Trump last week.
Though Erdoğan heaped praise on the current Commander and Chief, the two men differ on a number of policy issues. Among other things, Erdoğan made it clear that he’s growing increasingly uncomfortable with the U.S. arming Kurdish forces in the region to combat ISIS. Of course, the most spectacular part of the meeting actually happened outside the White House, when Erdoğan’s security forces assaulted several protesters. Sources say nine people were injured
and two arrests were made.
The U.S. State Department and the Secret Service have said they’re working to identify and obtain arrest warrants
for everyone involved, whether they are members of Erdoğan’s security entourage or not. California Rep. Brad Sherman
went so far as to call the incident “an attack on American sovereignty”.
[Photo via YouTube.com]