Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter thanked Canada Monday for allowing him to play in the country on Christmas Day despite Turkey’s attempts to arrest him for his criticisms of the government.
Kanter, a Swiss-born, Turkish player, claimed in early 2019 that the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government sought an Interpol Red Notice against him that accused him of being a member of a terrorist group.
The 27-year-old player, who has limited his international travel in fear of being arrested, said in the Globe and Mail Monday that the Canadian government has allowed him safe entry into the country to play against the Toronto Raptors.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
“It is a spectacular display of solidarity with people who need help, a demonstration of Canada’s welcome attitudes and core values,” Kanter wrote in an op-ed. “I can’t thank the Canadian government enough for letting refugees from my home country survive here and continue practicing their professions.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
Kanter has been an outspoken critic of Erdoğan and openly supported Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish president accused of plotting a coup against him in 2016. In the years since, Kanter has said that policies set forth by Erdoğan’s government to silence political opposition has made it difficult for him to even speak to his family for fear they will be arrested.
The basketball center described how he had to escape Indonesia in 2017 after the Turkish government issued a warrant for his arrest for an article in The Player’s Tribune. Kanter, who was attending a basketball clinic for kids at the time, wrote that he was woken to the news on the weekend of his 25th birthday by his manager.
In the Globe and Mail Monday, Kanter said that he understood his determination to speak out against human rights issues in Turkey would come at a cost. But the Celtics player claimed that the cost of his political views have taken an “enormous toll” on everyone around him.
But Kanter was determined to continue to speak out against what he sees as injustice.
“As they tighten the noose, I feel liberated,” he wrote. “I will use every opportunity to stand up for oppressed people everywhere, be their voice and champion.”
The Embassy for the Republic of Turkey in Washington D.C., did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.