NBA star Yance Cantor to fight injustice: 'Our future is in our hands'



Kareem Zidan

The Boston Celtics Center did not support their fight against the Erdo-regime: the Turkish government calls me a terrorist because I speak of democracy, human rights, and liberty. '


Enes Kanter is no stranger to fighting for human rights.

On May 31, the Boston Celtics center joined the Black Lives Matter protest, where he joined protesters protesting the death of George Floyd. Floyd was killed after a white Minneapolis police officer's neck was stretched for about eight minutes.

Cantor, about 7 feet tall, wearing his 11th jersey, said, "I can't suck!" - Floyd's last words - Protesters gathered in Boston Common near Massachusetts State House.

The NBA star later posted a video of his appearance, titled "On the Right Side of History," which is also the mantra of how Cantor lives his life: at the expense of his own well-being.

Over the years, Cantor has used his ample platform as an international star athlete, denying Turkey's axis of power under President Recep Tayyip Erdo under n. Cantor is openly critical of Erdo and his regime has a serious human rights crisis.

"There is no freedom to speak in that country," Cantor told the Guardian in a phone interview. "It's heartbreaking."

Cantor's interest in political activism began in 2013 when Erdo's Justice and Development Party (AKP) was involved in a corruption scandal that resulted in 52 people involved in fraud, bribery, money laundering, corruption, and smuggling of gold. He was taken into custody on charges. The then Prime Minister Erdogan accused the faction of conspiring against the Islamic community and Fetullah Galen, a Pennsylvania preacher.

"When I was 20, my whole life was about basketball," Cantor said. "But (after the corruption scandal), my colleagues go out, eat, go to clubs, I study abroad, I go home to find out what's happening between Turkish politics, American politics, and America. And Turkey."

The 28-year-old NBA star has been critical of Erdogan, especially after the unsuccessful 2016 coup in Turkey. More than 300 people were killed in the clash, which has since left at least 40,000 people, including soldiers, judges, teachers and government employees. The widespread purification of Turkey's civil service was seen as an attempt to quell dissent and strengthen Erdo's power.

As one of Erdo's most outspoken critics, Cantor faced the wrath of the Turkish government. Authorities targeted his entire family, invaded the family's home in 2016 and prevented him from participating in civil society in an attempt to silence the basketball player.

"The last time I saw my family was back in 2015," Cantor said. "My father was a genetics professor and he was fired. My sister went to medical school for six years and couldn't find a job yet because of her last name. The sad thing is that my younger brother wanted to be an NBA player, but he was literally fired from every Turkish team."

Cantor revealed that his family had publicly pressured him to cancel, which eventually led him to change his family name, which he refused. He hasn't talked to his parents or siblings in years. "I still don't remember when I last spoke to my family," he said.

Despite intense pressure on himself and his family, Cantor refused to remain silent. The Turkish government withdrew his passport in 2017, claiming it was stateless, and prosecutors sought an international arrest warrant from Interpol, claiming he was a member of a terrorist organization. Prosecutors cite Cantor's relationship with Galen, who blamed the Turkish government for the failed coup in 2016. Gellen denied any involvement in the coup attempt.

"In 2017, the Turkish government withdrew my passport. It was very difficult, because when people asked me where I was from, I didn't know what to say to them.

Cantor found out about his invalid passport after being detained at a Romanian airport on his 25th birthday. Erdo media is a dictator and he used his social media presence to post a video called "Hitler of our Century", resulting in a trend hashtag #FreeEnes.

When Cantor returned to the United States, he was steadfast in Erdo's criticism, citing the countless atrocities that were taking place in his homeland. He acknowledged in the Guardian that, over the years, many of his colleagues questioned his decision to take up his role as a top political activist, saying, "Shut his mouth and make your million."

"They do not understand that my family is one of the many people who are doing this [in Turkey]. Because of the coronavirus, the Turkish government has decided to release all child rapists, murderers, smugglers and thieves. … There are a lot of political prisoners and journalists [in jail], and there are currently 17,000 women in prison and 800 more children growing up in prison. These women are being raped and tortured every day.

"I'm trying to help all those suffering in Turkey."

Despite the deteriorating political situation in Turkey, Cantor has received the support he has received from leaders, politicians and NBA fans around the world. Cantor cited the pressure and public attention of the Turkish court last week to give his father a doctor. Mehmet Cantor acquitted from terror charges "Wow! I can cry ... today after my father was arrested 7 years later, he was taken to the kangaroo court and accused of being the only criminal because he was my father. My father was released.

Like former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the first player to take a knee during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality in 2016, Cantor believes that athletes should use their platform for good and inspire young people to look to them for the next generation.

“Our future is in our hands,” said Cantor. "The little ones that look at us right now will be our future. If you're going to talk about things like democracy, freedom of speech or religion, as they grow older, they'll be alone."

Cantor's activism is not limited to Turkish politics. He draws parallels between the ongoing unrest in the United States and the human rights situation in Turkey - "everyone is living in fear" - and his thoughts were revealed in Boston's appearance last month against the Black Lives Matter on global oppression beyond borders. As he told the Guardian, "I know what it means to fight injustice. It's not black against white. It's all against racism. We have to use our platforms for good publicity, and spread the truth."

Despite less than a year to become a U.S. citizen, Cantor had no intention of leaving Turkey. Instead, he planned to continue the struggle for democracy in his hometown and in his chosen home.


Like former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the first player to take a knee during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality in 2016, Cantor believes that athletes should use their platform for good and inspire young people to look to them for the next generation.

“Our future is in our hands,” said Cantor. "The little ones that look at us right now will be our future. If you're going to talk about things like democracy, freedom of speech or religion, as they grow older, they'll be alone."

Cantor's activism is not limited to Turkish politics. He draws parallels between the ongoing unrest in the United States and the human rights situation in Turkey - "everyone is living in fear" - and his thoughts were revealed in Boston's appearance last month against the Black Lives Matter on global oppression beyond borders. As he told the Guardian, "I know what it means to fight injustice. It's not black against white. It's all against racism. We have to use our platforms for good publicity, and spread the truth."

Despite less than a year to become a U.S. citizen, Cantor had no intention of leaving Turkey. Instead, he planned to continue the struggle for democracy in his hometown and in his chosen home.

"Turkey may be the bridge between Islam and the West, but what is happening now is almost impossible. I love my country and I love my people. Silly stuff.

"The only thing that scares me is the basketball ring."

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