September 22, 2015

Samanyolu graduate NBA star Enes Kanter says police raid ‘shameful’ for Turkey

Enes Kanter, a successful basketball player for the Oklahoma City Thunder and a graduate of a private Samanyolu school, has said Monday's police raids on the branches of the school in Ankara are a source of national shame.

In yet another government-orchestrated operation targeting the faith-based Gülen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement, counter-terrorism police units accompanied officers from the Anti-smuggling and Organized Crime Bureau (KOM), raiding and searching Samanyolu schools on Monday. Officers involved in a raid on one branch asked the administrators to deactivate all of the school's security cameras while they searched for drugs.

"Let alone using drugs, I never witnessed bad habits or even rudeness at these schools. It is really shameful to raid such a school with counter-terrorism police," Kanter tweeted on Monday. "The accusation of supporting terrorism befits those who carry out these raids, not the schools," he added.

Kanter joined the Oklahoma City Thunder in February after almost four years with the Utah Jazz. The center holds career averages of 10.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game on 51.1 percent shooting, 35.4 percent from the three-point arc. He was also voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the 2009 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, as he led Turkey's junior national team to a bronze medal.

The coach of Turkey's national basketball team, Ergin Ataman, surprisingly excluded the NBA star from the team ahead of the recent 2015 European Basketball Championship.

Kanter has made no secret of his sympathy for the Gülen movement, a civil society group inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government launched a battle against the movement in late 2013 following the exposure of a graft and bribery investigation in which senior members of the government were implicated.

Accusing the movement of having orchestrated the investigation, the government has since targeted affiliated schools, banks, media organizations and individuals. The movement strongly rejects the allegations and no indictment or evidence has been brought against it.

Kanter is thought to have become another victim of the AK Party's battle, having expressed his support for the movement, which preaches tolerance and interfaith dialogue.

Releasing a written statement late on June 24, Kanter said: “Although I have been repeating my desire to wear the Turkish national team's jersey over the past two years, the fact that I was not called up is very upsetting. The justifications for this decision are not convincing at all. There is only one reason: I was excluded due to my beliefs and political views,” he noted.

Published on Today's Zaman, 21 September 2015, Monday