The very public dispute between New York Knicks center Enes Kanter and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to focus public attention on some important issues that many people might otherwise miss. The basketball player Kanter has been outspoken in his criticism of Erdogan as an authoritarian that is shredding Turkey’s democracy. Erdogan has a habit of labeling as a “terrorist” anyone who criticizes him. And while he has led the charge against the Saudi crown prince for his complicity in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Erdogan’s efforts often seem more than anything else his attempt to use Saudi misdeeds to achieve a geopolitical realignment of the Middle East. The fact is, Erdogan has in fact thrown more journalists in jail than has any other country. Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey #157 out of 180 nations on their World Press Freedom Index.
But aside from Erdogan’s dismal record on human rights and press freedom, the situation with Enes Kanter has focused another big issue. Turkey’s President Erdogan and Russia’s President Putin, both notable authoritarians with little respect for human rights, have been allowed to use the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, as their personal political weapon. While Interpol’s charter prohibits its intervention in political disputes, Turkey, Russia and China have regularly used it to capture and silence their critics and others they consider political enemies. In fact, it was reported that in July 2017, Turkey tried to upload into Interpol’s database 60,000 names of political opponents, seeking their arrests internationally.
Now, Erdogan is seeking an arrest warrant through Interpol for his outspoken critic, Enes Kanter, claiming that the basketball player is a “terrorist.’ The New York Knicks center clarifies, saying that “The only thing I terrorize is the rim.”