Washington (AFP) – Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter on Tuesday strongly condemned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the operation he launched against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
“(Erdogan) has no respect for human rights,” the Boston Celtics center said in an interview with CNN.
“There is no democracy. There is no freedom of speech, religion or expression in Turkey.
“He’s definitely a very bad man,” Kanter said of Erdogan. “I called him the Hitler of our century for a reason.”
“I have a lot of Kurd friends and they’re amazing people,” he said. “What’s happening is a human tragedy because lots of innocent men, women, kids and babies are dying.
“And I think Turkey should stop its invasion in Syria.”
The 27-year-old Kanter said he would continue to speak out despite the threat of reprisals to himself and his family in Turkey.
“I’m trying to create awareness of what’s going on because I have a platform,” he said. “I’m trying to be the voice of all those innocent people who don’t have one.
“It’s very sad because in the end, it’s my country. I love my country,” he said.
In basketball-mad Turkey, Kanter is regarded by Erdogan’s government as a criminal because of his support for US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating a coup in 2016.
Kanter’s support for Gulen has prompted Turkish authorities to seek an Interpol “red notice” or arrest warrant for him, meaning he could in theory be detained if he leaves the United States.
Turkish television has refused to broadcast NBA games involving Kanter.